How To Hire a CIO

CIO thiking looking out a window

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) Is the executive in charge of creating, managing, and using information and computer technologies.  Due to the nature of the CIO, the many roles they can play in a business, and their unique roles in different industries, it’s important to establish what you need from your next or first CIO hire in your CIO Executive Search.  Let’s first understand in depth what a CIO is, their responsibilities, who they report to, and the responsibilities they can have.  Then we will look at how they should be compensated and the best practices when hiring a CIO.

What Does A CIO Do?

The CIO determines the strategy involving the information and technology of the business.  Both in driving innovation and mitigating security threats.  They plan and strategize the information capture proliferation and usage in a secure manner, which drives company growth in a sustainable and scalable manner.

In a tech driven business the CEO and the C-suite rely heavily on the strategic input of the CIO, to find ways that they can enable all parts of their business to succeed. By the tech and tools they use and how they effectively utilize their data. We explore this further in the three types of CIO below.

What is a CIO responsible for?

It is essential to highlight that hiring a CIO does not allow your leaders to abdicate involvement in technology issues.  Having a CIO is not a replacement for your leadership’s participation in the decisions that need to be made related to the use and deployment of technology across your company.

When hiring a CIO, it’s important to consider the primary responsibilities of the CIO and what unique aspects may apply to your business, given its structure.  Some examples include:

  • Managing IT staff
  • Department KPIs and goals
  • Developing and overseeing the IT budget
  • Planning, deploying, and maintaining IT systems
  • Staying up to date on emerging technology
  • Developing IT protocols and ensuring they are followed
  • Creating IT systems that enable the business needs
  • Managing the companies development needs
  • Explain to the board of directors and executives the risks of new IT projects
  • overseeing relationships with vendors, contractors, and service providers

Who does a CIO report to?

Given the critical aspects of the CIO’s role within the corporation, the position often reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer.  In a very large organization where the CEO needs to focus more on the strategy of the business, you may see the CIO report to the COO or to a C-suite finance executive such as the CFO.  Most CIO candidates I have interviewed would prefer a direct reporting line to the CEO.   They appreciate an environment where the CEO is well-aligned in real-time around security risks.

The CIO also works frequently with executive team members, such as the CMO, CFO, CSO, and CHRO.  This helps ensure that the technology used in day-to-day operations is effectively used and explores optimizations to workflows, information dissemination, and usage.

Three types of CIO

The type of CIO you may need to hire depends greatly on your business and the role you require them to fill in your executive team. The most common roles are:

Trusted operator – They focus on operational excellence and discipline, ensuring the IT systems in place are cost-effective and used effectively.  They spend most of their time running the business efficiently, reducing costs, and ensuring the IT systems are robust.  Choosing and developing tools that enable the execution of the vision of the business leadership.

Digital transformationist – They lead digital transformation projects and are aware of emerging technologies, the competition, and the ongoing business strategy.  They try to give the company a commercially competitive advantage through their IT leadership.

Business co-creator  -The business oo-creator wears a lot more hats, often doing their best to lead in maintaining and optimizing systems while ensuring the company is leading in technology.  They are heavily involved in determining the business strategy and then use the majority of their time ensuring its implemented effectively.

How to Compensate a CIO

The salary, bonuses, and benefits of a CIO vary greatly by the company size, industry, and country of operations.  Also, compensation is impacted if the company is publicly traded or not.

In 2022, US salaries have jumped for CIOs a massive 21% in public companies as on average as digital leadership becomes more important in every business. In the US, the average salary is around $223,993 base and an average short-term incentive (bonus) of $67,198. In the UK the average CIO salary is around £121,070/yr, excluding bonuses.

In large multinationals, the CIO compensation can get even more extreme, in 2018 it was reported Tyler Best, CIO of Hertz, compensation package was:
Salary: $553,846
Bonus: $2,780,000
Stock and options: $3,143,627
Other: $78,648
Total: $6,556,121

And Tim Theriault, CIO of Walgreens Boots compensation package was:

Salary: $525,000
Bonus: $948,336
Stock and options: $3,149,930
Perks and other compensation: $8,965,046
Total: $13,588,312

CIO laptop screen

Best Practises on How to Hire a CIO

Hiring a world-class CIO is complicated, and you need to make many unique considerations in your CIO Executive Search.  Given your specific business needs, corporate structure, and company culture.  When trying to attract top talent, you need to consider what makes your business stand out and accommodations you can make your offer their number one priority.  Here are my top best practices on how to hire a CIO.

Develop a search team

The biggest mistake you can make is searching for your CIO alone.  You will not be fully aware of your business needs and will lean heavily on your biases.  So I recommend that when you hire a CIO, you create a team with the various key team members with whom the CIO will interact most.  At the minimum, the CEO and CHRO would lead the search with the help of an external search partner.

Once the search begins, the core team you have put together will work closely with the search firm in evaluating interested candidates.  As you get closer to identifying a final candidate, other executive team members can be asked for input. 

Each member will not need to be involved in every step. But will need to take part in an interview or two to assess each candidate.

Executive search can be very time-consuming, distracting leadership from their day-to-day activities.  Most large companies use external executive search firms to aid in their search for a CIO.  They can offload the recruitment and help it progress faster, sourcing more qualified candidates.  The search firm will be providing up-to-date knowledge of what is happening in the job market, compensation trends, and utilizing best practices in hiring.  The first will help you establish your needs and wants and help clarify the things you don’t want to see in your next CIO.

Establish your needs, wants, and do not wants

The prime goal before you begin your search is to establish your needs.  What role does your CIO need to play?  What will their specific responsibilities be?  Who will they report to, and what will their team look like?  Have you evaluated the current org chart for accuracy?  Understanding where your CIO will sit on your executive team will help you and your search partner look for the right people.

You need to consider the It would be best to consider the qualifications your CIO needs to bring to the table.  Given the countless CIO Boyden has placed, here are some essential skills you should focus on:

  • Leadership and communication skills
  • Business acumen
  • Leveraging technology for the benefit of the company
  • Knowledge of your industry
  • Change management skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Laying out a comprehensive list of competencies you want the search firm to focus on will aid immensely in helping identify the best candidates in an expedited manner.

Please don’t forget to consider what you don’t want to see in your next CIO.  If the current or previous CIO had shortcomings that negatively impacted the business, what were they?  Clarity on this subject will help ensure that new candidates can bring experience that addresses your previous pain points.

Again, this just helps align your company’s expectations when searching for your next CIO.

Create a compelling job description

World-class CIOs are in high demand.  To attract great candidates, you need to write a compelling job description.  Talk to your search partner if you don’t have a draft job description for the CIO role.  Your search partner is an excellent resource to help you flush out the critical elements needed in a CIO.  An open dialogue with you will help speed up the process and ensure you quickly get down to the essence of the role. 

  • Sell the business and the role, explaining the general goal you hope the CIO to achieve for your company
  • Represent your business culture, showcasing the communication style of your business
  • Highlight the personal characteristics you want to see in a candidate
  • List the key duties and responsibilities
  • make sure your job description will stand out to the people considering the position.

Making sure you have a detailed and compelling job description will help you stay focused on the right things being sought by internal and external individuals helping with the search.  Also, including a recent marketing document of the business will help those recruiting know how to represent your business most favorably.  Helping to get more top-quality candidates.

Work with Executive Search Firms

You may be able to find a great candidate through your network but to ensure you don’t make a bad decision because it’s potentially less expensive than retaining a search firm.  You need the best range of candidates possible from across your industry and possibly other compatible industries.

Executive search firms can proactively reach out to top-level talent on your behalf.  By using their established network, experience, and knowledge in recruiting CIOs, you will benefit from having better candidates to choose from.   Let the search firm do the heavy lifting while you and your team focus on your core duties. 

Please get in touch with me if you would like help in your CIO executive search.  I have over 25 years of experience in global executive recruitment.  I am currently a Managing Partner at Boyden, a global search firm, and I have partners in 45 countries worldwide.  If needed,  I can help you identify an executive search expert in your country or lead a specialized team to help you find your next CIO.

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