Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 8/19/2013 | 69 comments

Sara Peters
(Part VI of E2's two-week How to Become a CIO series.) You have a story to tell. Kim Batson, the CIO Coach, is sure of it. Telling that story could well mean the difference between your getting the CIO job and never making it through the first cut of resumés.

There may be some recruiters and hiring managers who are counting up the number of collegiate degrees, professional certifications, and all other abbreviations that come after your name, like "PhD, CISSP, E-I-E-I-O." These recruiters and hiring managers might even be impressed by the number of programming languages that you know, or the size of the budgets you've managed at previous companies. But, those aren't the things that are going to get you the job.

At least, such lists of qualifications won't get you the job all on their own, out of context. Let's put aside the question of whether you come from the business side of the house or the IT side of the house. Put aside the question of whether you're looking for a promotion from within your organization or applying from without. Put aside your fancy titles and bulleted lists of skills. You're more than a sum of your parts…

Who are you? If you're not sure, follow Batson's guidance, and you might find yourself during the process.

Regardless of who you are and what you've got, there are certain things that all employers are going to be looking for on your resumé. Here are three things that every resumé must have, according to Batson, who shared these tips with via an email interview:

  • An executive brand. Today’s CIO resumé should consist of more than a list of skills, competencies, responsibilities, experience, and education. Your competition would most likely have a similar list. You need to state what differentiates you from other CIOs in your space, and why a company, organization, or hiring CEO should care. That message should carry a promise of value, highlighted and backed up by your accomplishments. It should be powerfully articulated and concisely written, and aimed at your next career goal.
  • Quantified business impacts and accomplishments. A CIO may be very talented and have many excellent achievements, but may fail to define how implemented technologies have affected the bottom-line, top-line, and everything in between. Quantifying is essential to show business impact.
  • Answering the "So what?" question. Too many CIO resumés never reach CEOs because they cause the reader to ask "So what?" This is how you qualify your achievements, not just quantify them.

Your resumé should tell a coherent story that includes quantity, quality, context, and personality. That's a tall order, and it might be an intimidating endeavor to take on all your own -- which is why people like Batson exist.

"As a coach, I always brainstorm this ["So what?"] question with my clients as we discuss their achievements, so that we can transform them from a litany of projects, processes, IT jargon, and system implementations to powerful business value-creation stories," Batson told "You have a story to tell. This is key to getting the attention of CEOs and other C-level hiring executives and [it] helps you uncover your executive brand."

What if your brand isn't very strong?

During the process of writing your professional story, you might decide that it's got some holes in it. Instead of allowing your spirit to be crushed by your inadequacies (as I might), find ways to fill those holes.

To do that, Batson told EnterpriseEfficiency, it's best to get outside your comfort zone. For example, she suggested:

  • Consider a lateral move within your company to gain experience with other business functions.
  • Volunteer to take on more responsibilities.
  • Offer to help with special projects, such as pre-acquisition due diligence or global expansion.

Batson also recommended that you champion new initiatives and solutions.

Consistent with what we've heard from other sources during's How to Become a CIO series, Batson told us that most CIOs are hired from outside a company, not promoted from within. If you want to move up the ladder, you may need to move to another company, perhaps a smaller one, to gain the executive experience you're looking for.

However, if you're hoping to not just move up the corporate ladder but also move from one industry to another -- from finance to manufacturing, for example -- you have another challenge.

"Executive recruiters generally look for same or similar experience, so if you want to change industries -- especially if you have been entrenched in one particular industry for a long time -- you will most likely need to network in," Batson told us. "In other words, be introduced or hired by someone who has seen you in action before and has confidence that you can translate your considerable experience to their industry."

Once you graduate from the resumé stack and make it to the interview stage, Batson gave us further advice that will serve you well during the interview process and, later, while performing the duties of the CIO job you will of course receive. She recommended that you have a strong handshake and "a clean mouth." (By "clean mouth" she means that you abstain from using obscenities, not that you just visited the dentist -- although a thorough swish of Listerine couldn't hurt.) She advised that you toss the know-it-all arrogance, folks. It's best to temper your self-confidence with a splash of humility. Batson also told us that stellar listening skills and "emotional intelligence" are essential, and even recommended hiring a certified emotional intelligence coach.

Finally, although Batson told us that most CIOs still come to their position from the IT side rather than the business side, keep in mind that the person who's going to hire a CIO is probably not an IT person. No matter how valuable your tech savvy will be when you're managing your technical staff members, you need be able to put the tech jargon aside when you're trying to get the job in the first place.

Does your resumé meet Batson's requirements? Do you need to hit the gym to work on your handshake? How does her advice align with your own experiences, and what other questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below.

Come back tomorrow to hear how Anne Agee, the recently retired CIO of the University of Massachusetts Boston, became a CIO after spending 20 years as an English professor. Take the current E2 Poll to let us know what qualities you think are most essential in a CIO. And check out the first five segments of E2's How to Become a CIO series:

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vnewman   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/26/2013 3:51:12 PM
Re: real world advise
@Broadway, @ProgMan

As someone who used to teach others how to write resumes, I agree with you that it certainly isn't easy to fit all the pertinent information that someone has accumulated over the span of a career into one page.  One page!  That's just cray cray :)  Seemingly..........

Mine is currently two pages but I'm in the process of trying out a new type of infographic resume to see what kind of response I get. After all, part of me feels that when I say "IT Trainer" or "Help Desk Manager" - do I really need to explain to someone what that means?  Or what I do every day in that position?  Because I do 50 million different things actually.  I do things I should never be doing quite frankly because they are wayyyyy removed from the scope of my job description and they should hire a second person for them.  

I'd love to send out a resume that has a just a list of my job titles, my education, my certificates, related IT skills and a disclaimer.  Google me for further information...

But that seems too drastic therefore, I'm thinking of something like this:  Me as an infographic
sherly_mendoza   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/26/2013 1:11:22 PM
Re: real world advise
Agree with you, @Broadway. Although there are now companies that prefer short and brief resumes, there are still traditional ones that prefer the comprehensive version. For them, the resume is like an introduction to the person they are hoping to hire. So it is important to get a complete backgrounder on him or her. A comprehensive resume doesn't have to be as long as a novel, but it  does need to include more than just a person's personal, education, and professional background. It should be able to describe the person who wants to be a part of the company or project.
adil   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/26/2013 5:46:56 AM
Re: Ahhh so....or so what?
@Sara: some of the keywords that applicant needs to considered are usually shared by the employer with their job advertisement. Normally people make a perfect CV (as per their knowledge) and us it for every job they apply. In my opinion that is where they can do better by modifying their CV with each job and highlighting their skills as per the advertisement. Let me put a simplest example to support my point that programmer and developer is a same thing but for Ctrl+F it is not. If we further check different words for same technology or skill we will find many. So it is always better to apply those words which are used by the employer. Also the HR will prefer to use those words as their knowledge on specific domain will be limited which would restrict them to use their own choice of keywords.
Technocrat   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 3:42:26 PM
Great point Rashmik !

It is understandable and somewhat ironic that is takes years to be able to gain the experience to add weight to the question of what kind of value did you bring to your last company ?     And some might never get lucky enough to be able to answer that one proudly.  
Technocrat   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 3:38:46 PM
With all this talk about resumes, it reminds me I have to revise and update mine !  Thanks Guys !
Technocrat   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 3:37:07 PM
Re: real world advise
@ProgMan   Good call.   I think 2 pages is considered acceptable for a lengthy career.
adil   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 7:04:44 AM
Re: real world advise
@Broadway: I agree, if now I Google to get a best template for a resume, I am sure I will find dozens of different options. Some of them would be thorough and some of them would be revealing just the precise information. So I will choose the one I like the best but I am not sure if the interviewer will have the similar choice. In case he differs, the first impression will not be a perfect one.
RashmiK   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 1:52:54 AM
After reading this I have realized that there are some few details that I really need to update in my resume so that I am still able to compete with the others out there. Being the person that I am with dreams of making it to become a CEO I definitely need to work on what my resume has to say about me. Answering the 'so what' question should be a wake up call to most young people out there. You should be in a position to defend whatever you have on paper orally as well.
RashmiK   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/25/2013 12:27:44 AM
Re: need to update my resume.
This kind of information should be incorporated in the schooling system; the resumes that people are writing are such that saying they are pathetic it would be a compliment. All kinds of careers require a resume before hiring thus the education will go along way.
Broadway   Resumé Secrets of Top CIOs   8/24/2013 11:08:05 PM
Re: real world advise
@ProgMan, I agree. The one pager is impossibly short. Ultimately the resume is just to get you in the door, but there are still some very traditional people in the business world who expect your resume to be a thorough description of you.
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