A smart CIO will accomplish much during their time in a post – but explaining those achievements to a potential employer can be tough when working with technology that many CEOs find inscrutable.
When pitching for a new job it can be tricky for IT leaders to judge which of their career successes will mean most to their prospective boss, just how much should they talk about the technology and how to convincingly stand-up their claim that they are the right person for the job.
Drawing on more than decade of headhunting experience Alan Mumby, global CIO/CTO group leader for executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson, shared the following tips on how CIOs should sell themselves to their future employers.
If a CIO is going to prove their value, both to their current and soon-to-be boss, then they need to get measuring.
Mumby said that the most successful CIO he knew had a matrix of “some 200 measures” – covering everything from server response times to staffing levels – that he was able to condense down to a single number telling him the price of IT per box.
That price could not rise, it either stayed flat or went down, and every day he and his team would focus on how they could shrink that number to add value to the company.
The take-away here is that the CIO was able to measure the business value that IT added to the organisation – which is the key stat that any employer wants to know.
Don’t get hung up on lists
Too often CIOs and IT directors confuse activity with achievement when compiling their CVs and covering letters.
Telling your future bosses that you put in an SAP ERP system or migrated to Exchange Server 2007 means nothing to them without tangible evidence of how it benefited the business.
“Most CIOs and IT directors focus on what they’ve done – tasks and activities – they don’t focus on the right things,” Mumby said, speaking at the recent CIO Event in Wales.
If you cannot quantify the business benefits that a project brought to your organisation then those doing the hiring will not be interested.
It’s about the business, not the tech
The metrics that employers care about are not technical. Talk of increases in CPU utilisation or additional network throughput will make eyes glaze over.
Employers are interested in: “What did you do, how well did you do and what was the consequence for the business.”
Quantify the cost and business benefits of your achievements, taking care to spell out how they helped deliver the key performance indicators of the organisation.
Aim for a statements along the lines of: “Put SAP in on time to a $50m budget. It had the effect of identifying $20m surplus inventory and reducing supplying chain costs by $10m per annum”.
Mumby said such statements speak for themselves: “Lots of data, and a quick calculation shows it probably paid for itself in about 18 months. That’s a good project, people are going to be impressed”.
More than anything else focus on how you delivered value to the organisation.
“In 100 per cent of cases today we will be asked to find someone who can add some value. We never got someone saying ‘We just want someone to help keep things ticking over’,” he said.
Avoid the flannel
Stock management rhetoric is not only clichéd, it is so overused that such phrases will just wash over the recruiter.
“More than 98 per cent of CVs have sentence like ‘I am a great strategic thinker’, ‘I’m fabulous with my team’ or ‘I am a boardroom communicator’, so focus on what you have delivered [instead],”said Mumby.
Clearly define yourself
It’s easy to come up with a list of attributes you’d like to have or you know would appeal to an employer – but can you stand them up?
To produce a credible list of personal and professional attributes, begin by drawing up a list of your key achievements – the descriptions of how you met your organisation’s KPIs – mentioned earlier.
Detail each achievement and then the personal attribute you relied upon to make that achievement happen.
The result should be a representative list of the attributes that you exhibit in your job, which are tied to tangible professional achievements.
Glance at this list 20 minutes before going into interview and it will put the reasons that you are a good CIO fresh in your mind, and allow you to confidently answer typical HR questions such as “Give me an example of your great leadership ability?”.
“You’ll be able to use the examples – you’ll be together, complete and have an altogether better outcome,” said Mumby.