CIO job ads would probably work better if they just added one extra paragraph

I understand that it makes sense on social media to re-broadcast the same content occasionally, but over the last week or so I saw a recruiter tweeting the same Canadian CIO job opportunity with a frequency that bordered on panic.

That said, the tactic must have worked, because the vacancy in question is now closed. Posted on (I’m not linking to it as I assume it may soon expire), it was for a transportation company based in Winnipeg, and the salary looked decent at $200K plus a substantial bonus. Even better, the position summary sounded far less like what you might have read even a few years ago, where the emphasis was all on data centre operations and trying to get help desks to be more responsive:

The position requires an individual with a high level of experience in managing complex business issues who, in concert with employees of the organization, will need to develop a clear vision of the future state of systems and technology solutions.  The CIO is accountable for the development and management of all resources and business processes required in Information Services necessary to meet company business objectives.  The purpose of this position is to manage the company’s IT functions on a day-to-day basis as well as to define the long-term technology strategy to support the achievement of our strategic goals. 

Sounds good to me — except for one thing. This could be boilerplate for almost any IT leadership position, regardless of the organization. What this describes is not an opportunity to innovate or to reposition the way IT brings value to a company. It’s the table stakes for what the average organization should expect from a CIO. Beyond the fact that the job is open it meets the basic criteria, what’s really in it for prospective candidates?

I realize, of course, that recruiting firms and their clients are often limited in the degree of information they can give out about a specific organization and the jobs they advertise publicly. There is no doubt a lot more detail that can come up when someone is interviewed, and has the opportunity to ask good questions of their own. On the other hand, there should still be ways to capture some of the aspirations or challenges in a business that could motivate CIOs to not only apply for the job, but do whatever it takes to get it. If it’s a transportation company, for example, think about a paragraph like this:

What Our Next CIO Could Do:

  • Boost productivity and efficiency across our organization through the innovative use of mobile devices and enterprise apps
  • Facilitate measurable advances in collaboration and teamwork for a distributed workforce through the dynamic adoption of unified communications tools.
  • Drive opportunities for increased investment in core business areas by reducing IT operational expenditures through cloud computing or other strategic changes.

There’s lots you could criticize about those bullet points, of course — the average company may not want to get specific about the products and services that a CIO would choose, and the goals outlined here would only be a starting point for whoever gets the job — but there has to be a way of articulating what the critical business needs are in help wanted ads. The best CIOs aren’t just looking for another CIO job. They’re looking for opportunities that allow them to do something important, and recruiting them should include a sense of the mission that awaits them.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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