How to Ace Your Interview With the CIO

You sailed through your job interview with the IT manager, and you established a great rapport with members of the development team. Now one last thing stands between you and the job offer: the interview with the CIO.

Fortunately, there are some winning strategies and techniques for impressing a CIO when there’s a lot on the line:

Do Your Homework

Some candidates admit that they have no idea what the prospective employer does when they sit down with Cheryl Correll, who recently launched her own consulting firm after a decade as CIO at Watco Companies. A lack of preparation signals disinterest and a lackadaisical attitude.

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“If you didn’t have time to research the company, be honest about it,” Correll said. “But it makes me think that all you want is a paycheck—not a career.”

Anticipate and Prepare

Fear of the unknown leads to nervousness and fright. Anticipate what the CIO is likely to ask, and be ready to provide examples in response to behavioral interview questions or probes about salary and career goals.

“If you’re asked about salary, never give a range,” Correll advised. “If I hear $80,000 to $90,000, I am thinking $80,000 and the applicant is thinking $90,000.”

Salary expectations can be tricky, so try to find out what the company is thinking first. Also, CIOs put a lot of stock in the questions that candidates ask; insightful probes not only demonstrate interest but the ability to connect technology and daily tasks to business outcomes. Showcase your critical thinking skills by preparing three to five intelligent questions before every interview. 

Clean Up Your Act

Cleaning up your online image is a vital part of the pre-interview process. Many CIOs check out a candidate’s online profile, portfolio and code samples before an interview. A bad tweet (“I want a job that pays a lot of money for not doing much”) or an inappropriate blog posting can doom your job chances.

Be Transparent and Honest

Admitting that you’re nervous makes you seem genuine, according to Correll. If you don’t know the answer to a question, indicate that you’re interested in learning the answer and describe your favorite sleuthing techniques. CIOs don’t expect you to know everything, but they do expect IT professionals to be curious problem-solvers who are passionate about continuous learning.

Show Passion

Speaking of passion, it’s the number-one trait that CIOs look for in a candidate. “I look for people who love what they do and who like change, because that’s the nature of technology,” Correll said.

Passion can even trump qualifications, according to Correll, because passionate professionals are more willing to tackle challenging assignments. Passion is an intangible trait that is conveyed through body language, tone, positive phrasing and attitude: Don’t worry about being too reserved, let your passion show, and see if it isn’t contagious.

“I do ask candidates where they wants to be in three to five years,” Correll admitted. “What you should say is that you have no idea because the roles won’t be the same. However, no matter where you end up, you plan to stick with IT and enjoy the ride.”

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