How to Identify Bad CIOs in Their Natural Habitat

How to Identify Bad CIOs in Their Natural Habitat

Bad CIOs are a blight on the IT profession and on the organizations that employ them. The following list of behaviours common among bad CIOs will prevent you from hiring them into your organizations. If they're already there, it will give you good reason to eliminate them

Selective amnesia
If the CIO appears disoriented and can't remember to whom he reported in previous positions, that may mean the candidate doesn't want you to ever get in touch with his boss, says Banerji. The CIO may not have actually accomplished what he says he accomplished, or he might have locked horns with his previous boss, adds the recruiter. Regardless, the CIO doesn't want you to know about it. Again, dig for references who can validate or refute what the CIO says during the interview.

Excessive preening
Overexposure in the media and at industry events may be another sign of a bad CIO, say some observers, but admittedly, it's not the clearest indicator. Plenty of well-respected CIOs are well-represented in trade publications and at conferences and trade shows. If you do find a candidate for a CIO position whose face is always in magazines, you should wonder when he has time to do his day job and whether he's more a creation of a marketing communications machine rather than their own hard work and success. Solid reference checking will uncover the truth.

A pugilistic stance
A bad CIO has a tendency to lock horns with whoever is interviewing him because he perceives the interviewer as the adversary. The bad CIO may also take extreme measures to convince the hiring manager that he's the right candidate. Rick Ness, president of Embanet, a company that develops online education and enrolment programs, has experienced both behaviours.

A candidate for a CIO job with his company went directly to Ness after the search firm Ness had retained to fill the CIO spot eliminated this candidate as a finalist for the position. "He thought he had been eliminated for political reasons, and he tried to use political influence to get me to consider him," says Ness of the disgruntled candidate. "He tried to undermine the credibility of the search firm without knowing that I'd worked with this firm for years."

Worse, says Ness, the candidate began insinuating that he could put Embanet in touch with people who would help the business and that not hiring him would be detrimental to the company. "That was a rather naive, unsophisticated mistake he made, and it was the wrong tack to take," says Ness.

They're only concerned with the size of their domain.
Another red flag is if, during the interview, the CIO carries on about the size of the budgets and IT departments he's managed at the expense of discussing results, says Banerji. It may mean that the CIO didn't actually do anything.

If a candidate does talk up the $40 million budget and 300-person IT department he led, Banerji says you need to find out how much of that responsibility was direct, indirect or contract. You don't want to hire someone who says he was responsible for a 300-person IT shop but find out two-thirds of that includes outsourced staff managed by the outsourcing firm, he adds. If your company's IT department consists of 300 full-time employees, the candidate on hand may not be able to manage the shop.

Sketchy evolution.
Good CIOs can easily share the details of their accomplishments. Bad CIOs can't. If a CIO can't provide specific examples of the work he's done, either he hasn't really done the work, or the role that the candidate is describing is not as substantive as he's trying to portray, says Banerji.

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