Does your executive search firm know its MIS managers from its elbow? Does it even know the difference between an MIS manager and a CIO, and if it does, can it explain that difference to its corporate clients?
Is it more interested in meeting quotas than meeting your needs? Does its tick-the-box mentality see you excluded from roles you should be entirely qualified for without you even getting a chance to tout those qualifications, while being sent to interview with organizations that claim to want a CIO, but really just want someone to keep the network running, the printers from jamming and the data centre lights on?
The majority of true CIO positions are handled by search firms, not recruitment agencies
There are some real cowboys out there in recruiter-land, and if you're currently a CIO-at-large, you'll likely have a host of war stories about the sheer frustration of interviewing for positions today. We've certainly heard a few: Told you have the job in the morning and then finding you no longer have it by mid-afternoon. Sent for five separate interviews before discovering the organization has changed its mind or has the job specs all wrong. Being told an organization wants a CIO for a highly strategic role, then finding in reality the organization has no respect for IT and would rather put a call centre manager on its board than what they laughingly choose to call their "CIO". Being told the organization wants a highly strategic turnaround CIO, then finding its strongest instinct is for no change whatsoever. Getting the job, then finding out the cultural match is disastrous. And so the list goes on.
In fact in a nation where the vast majority of so-called executive search firms have little or no IT experience, even some executive recruiters are complaining about the cowboys out there playing in the IT recruiting space, and there are plenty of CIOs whose job hunting experiences can only be described as exasperating in the extreme.
"I think a lot of people have had bad experiences with recruiters," says one CIO who has had a few bad experiences himself. "There's often a failure to understand what their clients are looking for. Quite often an organization will go to some consultant who will write a really super-duper job description - I have seen a couple of those and they are extremely well written. You think: 'Well this is great position; they've got a really good idea of what they need.' Then you discover that in truth 99 per cent of the job is keeping the lights on, and they don't really want to do anything else."
"There's generally a difference between what companies say they want and what they actually want," says another CIO who knows first-hand the frustrations of being a 'CIO-at-large'. "Quite often they say they want someone dynamic who can lead change, and then you find out that they actually don't want any change at all."
"A while back there was a position with a finance company that I was interested in. One search firm basically bolted the door on me, saying I was not qualified to talk to anyone in that particular company. I worked with another group and not only did I get through the door, I went the distance and was offered the role. Ultimately I decided it wasn't for me, but obviously it all comes down to how the recruiter positions you, what they're looking for as they tick the box as opposed to considering your cultural match."
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