How to write the perfect CV for a CIO job. Virtually every CIO has a CV that needs improvement (even you). Here we explain how to improve any CIO CV.

CIO UK spoke with Iain McKeand, director of the UK CIO practice at Harvey Nash, to get some tips on how CIOs might improve their CVs. Iain says he advises the CIOs he works with to remember the three Ps when they're applying for a position: Preparation, Presentation, and Punctuality. (For more on this subject, see: How to become a CIO: 17 essential IT career tips for getting a CIO job.)

How to improve your CV: CIO CV mistakes

Pat Brans: What are the biggest mistakes you see on the CVs of IT directors?

Iain McKeand: There's no such thing as a perfect CV; and there's no one template that suits all candidates and all recruiters. However, even at the dizzy heights of the CIO level, you'd be surprised at some of the mistakes you see.

The biggest mistake has to do with volume of information. My first advice is to bring the CV down to two pages—three pages maximum. About fifty per cent of the CIO résumés I see are four to six pages, which is too much information.

Another problem CIOs have is the way they describe what they've done. The tendency is to write a job description. But that's not what board-level people want to see. They want to see achievements and unique selling points. Facts and figures are important.

There's also a tendency for CIOs to put things in their CVs they did ten or fifteen years ago. The board is interested in what they're doing now, and maybe what they did at the job just before their current job. It's only what you've done in the last five years that's relevant, because technology changes all the time.

Another mistake is to not indicate what the companies you worked for do. Sometimes the board doesn't know the company. Or even if they do, they might have an inaccurate perception of what the company does. To avoid any misunderstanding, just put a little description to make it clear. (Read next: CIO jobs: How to use a recruitment consultant to get your next CIO job | 13 tips for using executive search firms.)

How to improve your CV: What to include on a CIO CV

PB: What are some of the important things to include on a CV?

IM: List your achievements. HR directors are looking for tangible benefits or savings. "By introducing a piece of technology or by offshoring to Vietnam, I've saved my company $27.5 million." Linking technology that you applied to increases in market share is also a good thing to mention.

Other achievements that might be mentioned are those resulting from some kind of transformation or digitisation program. If you've led or directly managed a major change, put that on your CV. Sometimes the transformation has nothing to do with technology. It might be people changes, structure changes, culture changes or brand changes.

Other transformations are related to digitisation. A CIOs ideas, strategy, or technology may have provided a much more pleasant experience for customers or partners. People no longer have to queue on the phone. Instead, they get what they want digitally through their mobile device.

When you list an achievement, remember that it has to be attention grabbing and honest. And of course, it has to be something you were directly responsible for.

Budget responsibility is important to mention. If the budget is not on the CV, it's usually that they haven't done much in terms of budget, or it's really low and they're a bit shy. If it's 25 million, 75 million, 300 million, that needs to go on the CV.

Remember to include any awards you may have received. It's not being vain if you have an OBE [Officer of the Order of the British Empire] or a CBE [Commander the Order of the British Empire] to include it in your CV.

How to improve your CV: CIO cover letters

PB: Is it important to write a cover letter?

IM: Yes, that usually makes a difference. The Sunday Times used to have a long list of job offers and Harvey Nash always had five or six adverts in that section. If I had a CIO role on the front page, I might get four or five hundred responses I had to weed out. The really clever candidates wrote a cover note to reflect the experience they had against the pre-requisites and areas of experience listed in the ad.

When I find a cover note that was well written like that, I would consider the candidate very strong without even looking at the CV.

These days everything is digital, and we no longer advertise in the Sunday Times. If I get an Internet response from a candidate who has given me a good CV, but who has also taken the time and the energy to write me an email that relates to what I'm asking for, I find that candidate really interesting. That's because they've thought about the role and researched the company. They've really read what I want and they've put it in the email.

The email should be four or five paragraphs – something I can read in two to five minutes.

How to improve your CV: What recruiters look for in a CIO

PB: What are the key elements recruiters and HR directors look for in an CIO's background?

IM: I like to call them the "magnificent seven". The magnificent seven skills that I like to see in a CIO's background are:

  • Board level experience
  • Leadership
  • Strategy formulation and implementation
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Financial management
  • Vendor management
  • Team management and team building

These seven skills should be in the résumé—and if you can put them at the top in the profile, that's even better.

How to improve your CV: Getting help with your CV

PB: Do you think it's a good idea for IT directors to get professional help on their CVs?

IM: CIOs who haven't put a résumé together for three years or more might benefit from professional help. But you have to find a company who's really good at it – there are a lot of cowboys out there who won't do such a good job.

Sometimes you can tell when a CIO has had professional advice on putting together their CV. The format looks great; everything seems to fit in the right place; and there are no spelling errors. (For more on this subject, see: How to become a CIO: 17 essential IT career tips for getting a CIO job.)