What Executive Recruiters and CEO's Look for in CIO Senior Executives


I recently came across a great interview by Computer Weekly with Cathy Holley, a partner at AESC member retained executive search firm, Boyden. In this video interview, Holley outlines what clients are looking for when recruiting top senior executives for CIO positions. In a comparative way to my recent article “Technology Becomes Strategic: The Impact on C-Suite Executive Functions”, Holley confirmed that hiring managers and CEO’s are looking for CIO’s to take a general management and leadership role, requiring CIO executives to demonstrate these skills during the interview process.

See below for a ‘past-present-future’ approach to the CIO executive function, and use Cathy Holley's advice to assist your own executive job search:

The Past
In the past, hiring CEO’s did not recognise interpersonal skills as a key skill for CIO's, instead focusing upon two key areas:

  • Technical Experience
    In the past, a strong technical knowledge-base used to be the key deciding factor when hiring for a CIO executive position. Senior executives will always be required to bring a strong technical background to the CIO executive function, however this is now perceived as essential criteria, rather than a stand out factor that would place you above other candidates.

The Present
Holley explained that executive search consultants are now focusing more on interpersonal and leadership skills when hiring for the CIO executive position, saying “There is now good recognition that CIOs are general managers and leaders”. As part of their ability to play a key leadership role in the organisation, three key skill requirements emerged during the interview:

  • Stakeholder Management
    If the CIO is unable to explain how the deliverables of every new project will positively affect stakeholders, funding will soon fall short. This suggests a greater reporting responsibility amongst c-suite executives, and a closer involvement of stakeholders in specific business processes. CIO’s must be able to stay up-to-date with this evolution.
  • Influencing skills
    The ability to influence extends to every facet of the evolving CIO executive function. Influencing skills enable CIO’s and other senior executives to win the support of both external and internal clients and colleagues. These skills are essential to the developing CIO role considering this role will be introducing potentially radical changes.
  • Ability to deliver change
    Aside from excellent communication skills and the ability to switch from technical to end-user jargon, CIO’s must be able to spot the latest trends in technology and information management, and apply them to the specifics of the organization.

The Future - Your CIO Executive Career
Cathy Holley genuinely believes that many CIO executives have the skills needed to excel, but that they have a lot to catch up on to prepare for the broadening executive function. The central problem is that CIO executives are failing to display their skills and abilities during the hiring process, particularly in the most important areas such as influencing and leadership. Holley recommends using specific examples during conversations with executive search consultants and hiring managers, to explain exactly how you have influenced stakeholders or other leaders in the organization.

More generally, CIO’s in today’s competitive environment must become more savvy about their personal brand, and be fully aware of how they are perceived within this exciting new environment. After all, this is a great time to be a CIO and successfully branch into a more general management role; potentially leading to being considered for CEO positions.

Boyden is a member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), and has access to BlueSteps, the career management service for senior executives operated by the AESC. Find out more about how BlueSteps exposes your career profile to 6,000 executive search consultants in 70 countries worldwide.

Over 9,000 CIO / CTO and Information Technology senior executives are members of BlueSteps - learn more.


This article was written by Christian Pielow, Marketing Manager for the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). Find out more about the CIO Executive Function by visiting 'Executive Search and the CIO Executive Function'.



About the author

BlueSteps's picture

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps empowers executives to reach their career goals with strategic career planning.


At BlueSteps, we thoughtfully create career management solutions that are designed to help leaders advance their careers, stay on track to build a long-term career playbook, and become a strong leader. Our tools and resources will help you:
  • Advance your career with tools to keep you on track. 
  • Access insider job market intelligence from the experts.
  • Identify and network with the right recruiters.
  • Discover executive jobs and board positions not found elsewhere.
  • Connect with world class career advisors for support when you need it.

Start Owning Your Career Journey >>

Other posts by this author

Share your thoughts

Stay Connected