Don't you love the idiocy of some CIO job descriptions? They're the ones that demand skills in configuring servers, designing the website, creating a long-term \n\nstrategy, 20 years of experience plus a deep track record in a subbranch of financial services. Or that specify knowledge of \n\nan arcane, perhaps obsolete technology. In my perusal of ads on CareerBuilder.com recently, I even saw one for a bank that \nrequired the ability to lift at least 15 pounds.\n\nDoes experience with a specific technology category or product matter? Not so much. Let's think about both the technology \n\nrequirements of most CIO jobs and what are (or should be) the drivers \n\nbehind an enterprise intent on recruiting those requirements. Most of the time, companies that require a CIO candidate to \n\npossess specific technical skills are shooting themselves in the foot. Here's why, even if you meet the criteria and get the \n\njob, you shouldn't define your role based only on those qualifications.\n\nA Screening Mechanism\n\nCIOs make good money. Their compensation averages $237,000, according to CIO's "State of the CIO 2008" survey. At that pay level, the job will certainly involve managing (or hiring and then managing) a \n\nstaff. Unless we're talking about a startup company, the person who is hired will inherit existing technologies along with a \n\nposse of eager tech and services vendors. Most CIO openings specify a minimum of 10-plus years of experience\u2014and more in the \n\nlarger firms. And with that experience, most enterprises expect to see a long and successful track record of implementing \n\napplication projects.\n\nFirms are also increasingly intent on using technology to change processes, get new products up and running quickly, compete \n\nmore effectively for customers and provide better service. They want CIOs they can understand (no techno-speak, please) and \n\nwho \n\nunderstand business. So even if a CIO enters with a laundry list of technical experience that matches what the company \n\nasked for in the job description, chances are she's going to spend virtually no time in the new job using those skills.\n\nIn reality, technology requirements in CIO job descriptions are there to discourage candidates from other industries that use \n\ndifferent products or from other departments of the same enterprise who are familiar with existing processes but not with the \n\nspecific products that support them. Detailed technology requirements give the HR recruiter a checklist for eliminating \n\ncandidates, not a way to find innovative thinkers who can bring a fresh perspective on compelling business changes.\n\nInstead, CIO job postings should be less specific. Biotech companies shouldn't mandate biotech company experience. Hospitals \n\nshouldn't look only at candidates who have implemented a specific healthcare package. In some geographical locations, that \n\ncould narrow the field to fewer than five people, four of whom have jobs they like and won't leave.\n\nCompanies should identify thorny enterprise pain areas (weak change management, cumbersome sales processes, lack of standard \n\ncustomer service processes) or other problems and should look at individuals with a track record for solving such problems. \n\nMost firms will benefit from talking with candidates from industries other than their own and with professional backgrounds \n\nother than IT.\n\nAsking such candidates how they would tackle the organization's thorniest problems could reveal refreshing insights and new \n\npossibilities, even if the candidate isn't selected. Enterprise execs generally look at candidates with backgrounds other \n\nthan IT or outside their industries only when they are extremely frustrated by current IT performance. But that doesn't have \n\nto be the only time to seek a variety of experiences.\n\nEven recruiters for large companies make this mistake. They're often looking to poach a name-brand CIO from \n\nanother company of the same size and industry. They look for someone who has done a transformational project exactly matching \n\nthe proposed project of the search client'sa broad-based SAP implementation, a global CRM system.\n\nWhat they should want is someone from another industry who has demonstrated process or innovation mastery, regardless of \n\nwhich package he implemented and perhaps regardless of whether he was a CIO or a business project champion.\n\nWhen Technical Knowledge Is Necessary\n\nSometimes a firm needs a CIO with deep technical knowledge. Several factors come into play here, including: \n\nCompany size and growth potential. The smaller the firm and the greater the likelihood it will remain small, the greater its \n\nneed for a hands-on CIO. A small shop needs someone who understands how networks are configured, who can debug PC problems \n\nand sync up cell phones and e-mail servers with one hand while advising the CEO on new app purchases and device trends with \n\nthe other.\n\nStartup companies especially need a startup IT leader who can do as well as lead. An ex-consultant with years of hands-on \n\nexperience can be ideal as a CIO.\n\nStaff size and ability to hire. If there are fewer than 15 people in IT, the CIO is really a manager. No matter how you \n\nsubdivide the organization, you can't make a technology decision without becoming heavily involved in reviewing the choices \n\nand clearly understanding the differences between vendors and products. This CIO must have strong familiarity with all of \n\nIT's technical span of control, even as he has to bond with other business execs and grasp business strategy.\n\nAs the organization grows, the CIO can develop a team of leaders and individual contributors who have the experience in a \n\nspecific category or topic and can stand in the CIO's stead when negotiating with vendors and service providers. These CIOs \n\nare best cultivated from the ranks of the current apps or infrastructure managers regardless of industry.\n\nWhen to Leave Tech Details Behind\n\nSome CIOs with tech backgrounds just love fiddling and are constantly tempted to gravitate to their tech roots. They become \n\nCIO hobbyists: playing with new tools and websites, helping the CEO with laptop or cell phone problems, meddling in and \n\nsecond-guessing the assignments of their staff.\n\nThese CIOs hide behind these distractions as a way to avoid investing time and energy into learning about their peers, the \n\nbusinesses they run and their top challenges. If you're one of these CIOs, you risk leaving business execs with a strong \n\nimpression that you're a sandbox CIO with lots of toys and time to spend on tasks that should be delegated.\n\nOverly techie CIOs who ignore their business relationships will eventually be fired by frustrated execs, who may be doomed to \n\nrepeat history, getting the same kind of CIO the next time based on a techie job description and screened candidates whose \n\nskills exactly match it.