Recruiting, Technology

What to Consider When Hiring a Chief Technology Officer

Executive positions are often the most challenging to recruit for. As an HR professional, you know just how important it is to find the right match for the business. A wrong executive hire can lead the company in a negative direction that can be difficult to recover from, which puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

When you’re hiring a new chief technology officer (CTO), there’s often added complexity. This is a highly specialized position involving a professional who can direct and guide operations in a rapidly changing technological landscape. A candidate has the potential to positively impact your business growth or leave you lagging behind your competitors.

So, what are some key considerations when hiring a CTO? Let’s dive a little further into this position.

Understand the Role

If this is the first time your company is hiring a CTO, you must take time to understand the finer points of the role. This will help you pinpoint the aspects of applicants’ skills that are not just right for the position but also most important for your company.

The core responsibility of a CTO is to direct and oversee all technological processes for an organization. But this person’s duties go beyond just choosing what hardware and software should be implemented in operations. The CTO is responsible for identifying and assessing any risks and opportunities associated with technological tools and ascertaining how trends can be leveraged to impact the bottom line, not to mention ensuring staff and stakeholders alike are educated on technology protocols within the business. The skills your CTO should possess must reflect this. Technical expertise in areas like coding, networking, and even software development can be beneficial. While leadership ability is essential for any executive, CTOs need to apply active authority over the direction of all tech projects. Therefore, you’re looking for a candidate to effectively guide and empower employees during major technological shifts.

You should also determine what skills your CTO will need now and in the future. Talk to executives and department heads in other areas of the business to better understand what tech challenges are coming down the track. If your industry is expected to be impacted by the switch to 5G, you’ll likely need a CTO with additional skills related to change management. If you work in online commerce, your CTO will need to demonstrate strategic thinking to develop user experience (UX). Think about the general skills needed, as well as those tailored to your organization.

Review Experience and Achievement

When hiring for any executive role, you’re benefiting from not just candidates’ skills but also their professional experiences. You’ll likely find many candidates share skill sets that would be advantageous to the role, but each will be distinguished by his or her own achievements.

Though experience can be relayed through recommendations from colleagues, the best first summary will likely be on candidates’ résumés. One of the hallmarks of a quality executive résumé is it tends to go beyond just listing employment history, education, and duties. Rather, candidates will utilize experiences and achievements as tools to explain how they bring value to an organization. You should look at how they frame the context of an achievement concerning how aspects of their personality and skill set had a direct impact on the success of a project. Compare this with your list of needs for a CTO; what does their approach to previous experiences tell you about how they can help your business thrive?

A key part of the candidate experience includes education to some extent. For a CTO, this might be a bachelor’s degree in a tech field or certifications in ethical hacking and networking. But it’s also important to bear in mind that a traditional education does not always mean the candidate is right. Indeed, you could be missing out on quality executives from marginalized racial, socioeconomic, or neurodivergent backgrounds who may not have had access to tertiary-level education. Make sure your recruitment is also open to self-taught candidates. Particularly in tech fields, this has become a sign of a valuable, committed, and creative mindset.

Consider the Personality

When you’re hiring a CTO, it can be tempting to focus primarily on the technological impact this employee can have on your organization. This is obviously important, but it can be just as vital to make sure the executive you choose will have a positive influence on the overall culture of the business as it grows. This means considering your potential CTO’s personality.

It’s difficult to determine personality traits from a résumé or employment history, but a candidate’s experiences can help highlight whether he or she has a certain level of tenacity in overcoming obstacles. Additionally, the time the person has spent with previous companies can point to his or her commitment to engaging fully with a business and its goals. For the most part, your opportunity to gain important information here will be during interviews.

One of the most helpful cultural aspects to talk to potential CTOs about is their values. Their approach to elements such as business ethics, diversity and inclusion, and integrity must be consistent with that of the company. After all, they’ll be tasked with overseeing systems that impact the entire business, as well as influencing and interacting with stakeholders of all levels. While it is important to have employees of all backgrounds and varying opinions, it is vital to the positive trajectory of the business that your values still mesh.

Conclusion

A CTO is an essential component of large businesses in our digital age. To find the right one, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of what type of executive influencer your business needs. Remember, you’re not just looking for a skill set with a solid history; how candidates applied their abilities and the personality that drives their actions are just as vital. With some attention to the whole candidate, you can identify a valuable contributor to your company’s trajectory.