How to Read Ads for CIO Jobs

By paying attention to the language hiring managers use in job ads and the emphasis they place on certain skills and requirements, you can determine more quickly and easily what the job is really about, and thus, what to highlight on your resume to get noticed.

If you've ever devoted hours to polishing your résumé and to crafting a compelling cover letter only to realize during a job interview that the position wasn't so perfect after all, you've probably wished that you'd had some way to tell from the job description that the job wasn't right for you.

Well, you can get a good sense of what a job is really about from the description in an advertisement. You just have to learn—partly through experience and partly by being attuned to the language hiring managers use in job ads and the emphasis they place on certain skills and requirements—to become a critical reader of job ads.

By carefully reading job descriptions and looking for certain red flags, such as information about budget and management responsibilities that may be left out, you can better determine the work environment you may be getting yourself into, whether the job is worth applying for, and what skills and experiences are most important to highlight on your résumé and cover letter to be considered for the job.

To help you read between the lines of ads for CIO jobs, enlisted Sam Gordon and Phil Rosenberg for their expertise. Gordon, who has worked as an executive recruiter for 11 years, directs Harvey Nash Executive Search's CIO practice. In this position, Gordon is constantly reading, writing and evaluating descriptions for CIO positions—as well as candidates' résumés. Rosenberg worked as a recruiter for 25 years before starting his own firm, ReCareered, which provides coaching and résumé writing services to job seekers. (Gordon and Rosenberg offer their advice on the questions to ask hiring managers during initial phone screenings in this story, Questions to Ask to Learn More about IT Leadership Positions.)

Gordon and Rosenberg analyzed an advertisement for a vice president of IT/CIO position that picked at random from CIO Wanted earlier this year. ( replaced the company's name with a generic one, Household Products Manufacturer, to protect the company's identity.) We copied the ad below, and Gordon and Rosenberg share what they think is unusual or notable about the job to give you a sense of what to look for and how to read job descriptions for IT leadership positions. They reveal that the requirements that aren't stated in an ad often say as much about the role as the requirements that are included.


VP of Information Technology/CIO

Household Products Manufacturer

Midwestern United States


Household Products Manufacturer is a leading manufacturer and distributor of household products and has been ranked by local and national media as one of the best places to work. Household Products Manufacturer is looking for a vice president of information technology/CIO to be located at our corporate headquarters.

This person must direct and manage computing and information technology, strategic planning, policies, programs and schedules for business and finance data processing. Responsible for computer servers, network communications, and management information services to accomplish corporate goals and objectives. Must have PeopleSoft implementation experience—9.0 preferred.

This isn't a very compelling job description, says Gordon, especially in a competitive market for talent. It makes the role appear perfunctory and doesn't give the applicant a compelling reason to apply for the job, he adds.

NEXT: Is this a real CIO position, or just a glorified project manager? Read on to find out.

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