Executives who are hiring a CIO have limited opportunities to assess candidates to find the best fit for their organisation. The interview is a critical step in understanding the capabilities of each CIO candidate and in assessing their individual strengths.
The following sets include questions intended to help hiring executives assess the capabilities of CIO candidates in the critical categories of leadership, strategy and planning, technical expertise, financial management, and operational excellence. Use them as a starting point to plan your interview process.
Leadership is about understanding how to move people and the business forward. The most effective CIOs view themselves as business leaders first and IT leaders second. These questions focus on helping the interviewer assess a candidate’s leadership views, accomplishments, and likelihood of leadership success from then onward. Interviewers should focus on the candidate’s ability to communicate in business terms, articulate measurable business outcomes, motivate people and handle leadership challenges.
- Can you explain how you saw a business problem and applied technology to solve it? What was the outcome?
- What significant contribution did you make at your last company? How did you achieve it?
- What is your understanding of return on investment and how it applies to IT?
- Can you articulate your understanding of risk and how it applies to IT? Provide an example of how you applied this knowledge to mitigate risk.
- Can you give an example of when you improved a business process? What was the outcome? What role did you play?
- What is your view of your leadership style? Give an example that illustrates it.
- What is the most difficult decision you had to make as a leader? Why was it difficult? What was the outcome?
- How would you define the role of CIO?
- What determines whether a CIO succeeds or fails?
- Describe a situation in which you succeeded. What did you do specifically to make it successful?
- Describe a situation in which you failed. What did you do specifically that had an impact on failure, and what did you learn or do as a result?
- How do you lead your direct reports? Give an example of when you resolved a conflict among team members or improved their performance as a team.
Strategy and planning
A core challenge for any executive is balancing long-term versus short-term planning and execution. Many executives are strong in strategic vision but have difficulty gaining support in accomplishing that vision. These questions focus on the CIO candidate’s experience and ability to set long-term goals, while managing the complex task of gaining cooperation to actually accomplish those goals.
- What would you do in the first 90 days?
- Describe your own approach to governance and how you would determine the best framework for our organisation.
- Provide an example of when you explained and sold the concept of IT architecture and standards to business leaders.
- How do you gain agreement and cooperation from a diverse set of stakeholders? Provide an example of when you did this successfully.
- How do you deal with stakeholders who want to break away from a shared service or a standardised or centralised process?
- How do you decide what to outsource and what to keep in house?
- Provide an example of when you identified an opportunity to be innovative. How did you find the opportunity and what was the outcome?
- Provide an example of when you drove top-line growth or delivered competitive advantage to the enterprise. How did you do it?
- Provide an example of what you did when there was more demand for IT than resources to fulfil the requests.