The work of a CIO can be a good grounding for the skillsneeded to become a chief executive officer (CEO). After all, their work can touch and re\u00adjuvenate all areas of the organisation and keep the business ahead of the competition, says Helen Pitcher, chairman at leadership consultancy IDDAS.\nBut, she warns, they will always have a tough job convincing the board of their leadership qualities. There is a perception problem which hands rival candidates, such as CFOs or divisional CEOs, an advantage. Conventional wisdom has it that a CIO is a specialist who lacks the vision, leadership skills and the all-encompassing view of the organisation that is required.\nAny CIO who aspires to be CEO needs to avoid saying anything that confirms those prejudices. Ditch the jargon and practice explaining everything in layman\u2019s terms, she advises.\nCommercial nous\u201cA CEO has a commercial perspective,\u201d says Pitcher. In any interview, your interrogators will want to be reassured of your grasp of the commercial realities. Never express anything in IT terms.\nEmotional intelligence is another must-have among recruiters these days. Think how your statements will demonstrate your empathy with people.\nThe overwhelming desire for any employer is for someone with the capabilities to drive the business. Don\u2019t tell people how you will do this: you need to show you have already achieved it.\n\u201cA really good CIO with business acumen is worth their weight in gold,\u201d says Pitcher. A good CIO is sometimes better than someone who has been divisional CEO. But they need to convince people that they have a global mindset and influence across the entire business.\nIn an interview, the interviewer\u2019s notepad will have certain character headings they want to tick off, such as Strategic thinking; Leadership; Commerciality; Cor\u00adp\u00adorate Governance.\nEach of your interview answers has to earn a tick in each box. Think how each of your actions will exemplify one or more of these assets.\n\nPeople skillsThe common perception of the CIO\u2019s role as technology-centric means that people will wrongly suspect you lack the vital people skills needed to identify and encourage talent. Can you prove you have done this? Can you prove that you have developed competencies, and taken people with you on your journey? \u201cA good CIO is like a good conductor who can bring together all the elements,\u201d says Pitcher.\nSo think about journeys and conductors \u2013 just don\u2019t mention bus architectures.\nIn its search for a CEO a board will \u00adinstruct headhunters like Simon North at Position Ignition to find the six best candidates. These are then put in front of a panel,\u00ad typically comprising the chairman, senior directors and often the departing CEO.\nIf you get through this stage of the \u00adinterview process, you will have to repeat the process with the nominations committee. Be aware that the committee sometimes takes a dim view of the previous panel\u2019s recommendations \u2014 politics abounds, and being a CIO, you might have to fight twice as hard in the next round, so be prepared for that.\nCFOs are considered the natural heirs to the throne, says North, who is a veteran of boardrooms at Shell, Rolls-Royce, Price Waterhouse and KPMG. That said, your biggest attribute as CIO is your potential for creating cost efficiency.\nA good CIO can cut costs more effectively than a CFO and can, in theory, create new business directions. CFOs aren\u2019t known for their vision.\nBusiness visionOf course, vision only becomes reality\u00ad if you can get people to go with you, so you need to demonstrate that you are good at influencing people. Your interview \u00adanswers need to convince the board you have the right psychological make-up.\n\u201cThey need to be confident in you as a leader, as it\u2019s a damn difficult job,\u201d North explains. \u201cChief executives are extroverts. The inter\u00adviewers are looking for someone who will lead meetings and constantly project ideas.\u201d\nIn some businesses, an introvert might be acceptable, says North, but that\u2019s rarely the case. So you need to find some evidence that you can deal with people and bring them on.\nIf you haven\u2019t got any evidence of this in your career, now might be a good time to start connecting with people more.\nFrom a business perspective, there are four areas where you need to demonstrate your complete understanding, says North. These are:\n- external customers- internal customers- suppliers- financials\nCustomer awareSince a CIO is typically associated with the support systems, your empathy with customers will be suspect. Your sales and marketing rivals will be perceived as the people who talk to customers and get feedback from them. But you do have the best tools for analysing customers.\nYou need to remind people of your knowledge of product lines and demand. Come up with some people-oriented customer insights.\nBy the same token, you must show that you understand the dynamics of internal customers and the relationships between the different departments of your organisation. Although your technology underpins these relationships, you need to concentrate on how people and processes are harmonised. Avoid using words like \u2018integ\u00adrate\u2019, which might confirm prejudices that you\u2019re a \u00adtechie at heart.\nSupplier managerWhen you are asked to talk about suppliers, the interviewers are investigating how much you actually know about the way the business works. Here you need to convince the audience that your knowledge goes deeper than the systems you put in place.\nA CIO in a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) business, for instance, might not have needed to know about the actual products the company sells, but you will need to sound convincing on FMCG. What went wrong with Product X, and how should we learn from that? The same goes for CIOs in a service industry.\n\u201cYou need to demonstrate your understanding of the propensity for the company\u2019s learning from past experiences and future growth,\u201d says North.\nUp on financeAlthough CFOs are not as venerated as they once were, you will still need to demonstrate your mastery of the financials, and your use of language is central to this. Talk about profit and loss, shareholder \u00adexpectations and shareholder values, cor\u00adp\u00adorate governance and strategies for tax and social responsibility. Even when talking about your technology triumphs, make sure you tell the story of funding in terms of tax avoidance or measure success by shareholder value.\nA CEO reports to the chairman and shareholders, so you will need to convince\u00ad people that you understand the legal framework and sensitivities around that. Appearing na\u00efve on a question like this is interview death.\nYou need to convince the company you have the vision to take it forward. Don\u2019t talk about your projects in terms of tweaking the machinery and support systems, that relegates you to the IT department and confirms the panel\u2019s prejudices. Instead, express your achievements in terms of leading the business or reshaping it.\nCompetitive edgeAccording to the Ros Taylor Group, one of the alpha male characteristics venerated by boards is being a good competitor, and not in a TV Apprentice-style bad-mouthing-rivals way. \u201cOur psychometric tests show very high dominant and high interpersonal strains in CEOs,\u201d says the group\u2019s founder and CEO Ros Taylor.\nTaylor offers free leadership skills to any CIO that is interested in doing voluntary work in return. Perhaps her most important piece of advice is this: don\u2019t fake it. A CEO\u2019s life is short and brutal. If the shares are down on Wednesday, they can be out by Friday. If you push yourself into a job, and it goes wrong, your career can be left mortally wounded.