Ten traits CIOs look for in hiring a manager

A former CIO outlines the nontechnical skills that CIOs want when hiring their next manager. Demonstrating just a few during a job interview process can put you a few steps ahead of the job hunting pack.

A job hunter’s chances of snaring a new role is tied to a simple correlation—that the candidate’s skills and experiences are what a CIO is looking for in a certain position. But by going one step further—and identifying personal and professional traits you have—you can give yourself an added advantage in the job hunt.

To help in that endeavor, I’ve put together a list of 10 traits that extend beyond the required skills and experience; as you know, there’ll be at least 20 other applicants with similar resumes on the CIO’s desk. These traits can set you apart from the dozens of other candidates.

As you review the list below, pull out your resume and try to correlate work and project examples that tie in to these traits so that you can introduce these added skills in cover letters and during interviews.

1. A self-starter attitude
I’ll take 10 thoroughbreds over 15 average runners every time. CIOs want employees that take initiative and want to do a good job. Being proactive is an excellent trait as long as it is consistent with the mission.

2. Adaptability to change
Our IT world is constantly changing and those that are adaptable tend to achieve more. Managers need employees that can adapt to change and can maintain high levels of productivity even in uncertain times.

3. Appreciation for good customer service
People who understand the importance of client service know that clients, or users, are the reason we have an IT career. They also know how to take precautions when working on issues that can cause systems downtime and loss of productivity for their "clients".

4. Team players
Managers need staff members that can work well in teams and that the team can rely on. Too many excellent technicians lose their value to an organization when they can't work effectively in a team environment. Demonstrating an ability to work successfully with mixed teams of IT staff and users, or clients, is a positive indicator of teamwork skills and a tangible asset.

5. Proven commitment
CIOs want people that they know will go the extra mile when called on to take care of a situation and that do what it takes to succeed individually and for the team. True performers come through under pressure.

6. A strong desire to achieve
It's hard to teach people to want to succeed if they don't already have the desire. Having such a desire puts an emphasis on getting important issues resolved, and CIOs need people that know when a situation calls for "all hands on deck.”

7. Problem-solving skills
Putting out fires is a big part of any IT manager’s role, and competence doesn't necessarily mean a manager has to have all the answers. But good managers are those who are willing to work hard to find answers and enjoy the challenges that land on their desks.

8. Solid communication skills
Having the ability to communicate effectively with others is no longer just a desirable trait; it's necessary in most IT management roles. IT managers communicate with everyone these days—from the CIO to the internal user to the external client. Strong verbal and written communication skills can set you apart from many of your peers.

9. Strong follow-up skills
Nothing is more frustrating for a CIO than to have a manager drop the ball by not following up on a commitment or issue. It can probably do more harm to the credibility of the IT organization than anything else. The ability to follow-up is a trait that shows commitment and an understanding of client service.

10. Low maintenance
CIOs want managers who can operate individually, solve problems, and not create unneeded personnel or workplace issues. No CIO wants a manager tapping them on the shoulder all day, double-checking things and seeking help. The manager who requires minimal direction and who can deal with issues while validating that the appropriate steps are being taken is a valuable asset to an organization.

Just a few can go a long way
If in looking at this list, you see just a few traits that you can connect to your own experiences, don’t despair; that's pretty much the norm. Very few IT managers have every trait listed. The goal, though, is also to identify those areas in which you consider yourself weakest and work to improve them.

Regardless of what you might think, the bottom line is that CIOs hire people they can relate to and that they think will make a positive contribution to the team. It's not always about the technical skills. In fact these "soft skills" can make the difference between you getting the job vs. a competitor.

Mike Sisco is the CEO of MDE Enterprises, an IT management training and consulting company. He has been an IT Manager and CIO for more than twenty years. For more of Mike's practical management insight, take a look at his IT Manager Development Series.

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