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CXO

How do you prepare yourself for a CIO position?

The hiring outlook is bleak, but for the top IT position--CIO--things may not be too bad. Here's what you can do to put yourself in position for the top spot.

The hiring outlook is bleak, but for the top IT position—CIO—things may not be too bad. Here's what you can do to put yourself in position for the top spot.

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Although many in the IT profession are seeing lay-offs, the CIO position does not appear to be in as much a state of flux. Middle management and other senior IT management is, however. Danny Castleman, President of Ebit Information Systems, an IT staffing and recruiting company servicing Midwest markets, says the he's not seeing a lot of movement for the top IT job.

"IT senior executive position openings are relatively unchanged," said Castleman. "There are still some open orders for CIOs."

So how do you land the top IT job? In many cases, it's back to the basics; in others, it's a good time to change your way of thinking about IT. "These companies are not looking for the cool website you did or the VoIP system you implemented or the latest tech that you installed," said Castleman. "Those days are gone.. It's all about how you're going to impact the business."

To the interviewer that means telling them how technology is going to make them money. It is a waste of time to have the CEO learn tech-speak. You have to learn business-speak.

"There are two types that companies are looking for in the SMB," said Castleman. "Either the senior executive or a player/coach." The player/coach is more of a hands-on leadership position. The companies look for someone with hands-on skills and leadership abilities. More and more, however, what these companies really need is the senior executive, according to Castleman.

There is constant back and forth about this subject. Even the comments in some of these blog posts feel that the business needs to talk technology if they want IT to be successful. But the trend is the other way around. IT leaders need to understand how they can apply technology to grow the business. That's the only way for IT to get a seat at the management table. To that end, promising candidates that are interviewing for these top IT jobs are forgetting the basics.

"I am amazed at the lack of professional image," says Castleman. "If you want the seat at the table, you have to project an image that says you belong there. You need to show up as a C-level player. Not IBM'ed up, but not shorts and flip-flops either. Understand the game that you're in. You wouldn't show up for a baseball game in a football uniform."

Another element is how the candidate portrays self-confidence. As a CEO interviewing a CIO candidate, "I need to feel comfortable that you can stand up in front of 20 people and talk about anything," said Castleman. "You're not a senior developer anymore, you're a senior manager; dress, act and talk like you belong there."

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