CXO

Point to specific successes in interviews

If you go into an interview prepared only to discuss your technical skills and experience, you may be disappointed. CIOs want managers who can show how they've provided positive results.


You’re gearing up to interview for that IT manager position. You know you’ve got the technical skills, the experience, and the credentials that will bring you to the forefront of the CIO’s mind. But is that enough to separate you from the crowd? Just what do CIOs look for in IT managers?

I was a CIO for many years, and I can tell you what I looked for. I looked for someone who could join the management team and achieve results. Technical expertise is important, but senior managers also want someone with the ability to lead others and deliver initiatives on time and within budget.

If you go into an interview prepared only to discuss your technical skills and experience, you’re missing the most important selling point you have—the difference you can make for the company and your ability to achieve positive results through others.

Features, benefits, response
In its marketing education classes, IBM teaches the principle of FBR: Features, Benefits, Response. Marketing and sales trainees are taught the value of identifying key features of products or services, tying the feature to benefits that the prospect will receive, and then getting a client response to determine where the “hot points” are that will lead to a sale.

This concept can apply indirectly when you’re marketing yourself in a job interview, only we’ll do a little reversing here and substitute “Result” for “Response.” Start by listing accomplishments you’ve achieved in previous jobs. Be sure to focus on results that show you can accomplish things through others as well as adapt to different situations and handle issues as a manager.

Then you can develop your list of benefits and features. It’s sort of like developing a software application by defining the output you want first and working backward to the data elements and process you need to produce the results.

Tie results to the position you’re interviewing for
In the interview, be prepared to discuss your list of achievements (results) in prior roles. Here are some specific examples:
  • “I managed a programming support organization that improved client satisfaction and reduced Client Accounts Receivables by 50 percent.”
  • “My team and I turned three unhappy clients into positive references for the company, and here’s how we did it….“
  • “I instituted a process within our Help Desk team that cut the average response time in half and eliminated 25 percent of the problem calls we were getting by….“
  • “My programming team and I improved the quality of software change implementations by 33 percent in 90 days.”
  • “I increased the productivity of my IT Support organization while reducing the cost by 1 percent of revenue.”
  • “We implemented change management processes that increased the number of desktop PCs supported by our Help Desk by 20 percent.”

Don’t limit your examples to those you’ve achieved in a similar management position. For example, client satisfaction is a key measurement in any management position. I have often used client satisfaction improvement examples that took place when I was an IBM Systems Engineer 20 years ago. The point is to identify specific examples that illustrate that you know what’s relevant to the role you are interviewing for.

When you have your “personal examples” identified, tie them to tangible benefits that the company received from each of your results. For example, how did that change management process you implemented affect the company’s bottom line?

Finally, tie both the result and the benefit to a key feature you have, such as a skill, a credential, or an experience that gave you insight on how to handle the situation and to achieve the positive result.

Here are a few things to think about for several types of IT management positions:

A Help Desk manager needs to be able to:
  • Be responsive.
  • Communicate proactively with clients/users.
  • Have excellent follow-up skills.
  • Implement escalation and follow-up procedures.
  • Implement preventive initiatives that reduce user problems.

A programming development manager needs to:
  • Hit the target with business applications solutions.
  • Develop business applications that are in sync with company/user needs.
  • Accomplish projects on time and within budget.
  • Complete software projects without creating business disruption.

A programming support manager needs to:
  • Identify user problems and define changes that address their true needs.
  • Deliver software changes with high quality and reliability.
  • Deliver software changes on time and within budget.

An infrastructure manager needs to:
  • Create a stable systems environment that has maximum uptime.
  • Develop an architecture approach that is scalable and cost effective.
  • Implement changes with minimal business disruption.
  • Provide backup, security, and disaster recovery processes that are tested and reliable.

Every manager needs to be able to hit budget, contribute to high levels of client satisfaction, and enable the company to achieve its business objectives. Likewise, every manager is expected to add value in motivating and developing employees who work toward improving the results you can achieve through your IT organization.

Look for your opportunities
When you’re in an interview, look for opportunities within the discussion to use as many of the results-oriented examples as you can. For example, the manager may ask you about your experience in managing a Help Desk organization and why you would be a good fit for the company. If you have worked through the exercise we just discussed, you’ll be able to concretely show how you created positive results.

You’ll have a leg up if you can go into an interview with a solid understanding of what the senior manager needs and you’re able to relate those needs to your credentials, your experience, and the results you’ve achieved. Managers hire people who are confident and can show that they not only look good on paper but that they know what’s important in the job they’re applying for.

Mike Sisco is the CEO of MDE Enterprises, an IT Manager development and consulting company. For more of Mike's management insight, take a look at his IT Manager Development Series.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox