Top 15 Interview Questions for CIO Positions

15 Exceptional CIO Interview Questions

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofit organizations and social enterprises find exceptional leaders – including CIO’s. When we’re interviewing potential candidates for a CIO position, the recruiters here at Y Scouts try to understand a number of things – their purpose, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements a CIO has had in their career – and a lot more. (Note: if you’re looking to hire a Chief Information Officer, contact us and we’d be happy to share our recruiting process with you)

But what other CIO interview questions do leaders ask their candidates? We decided to ask the Y Scouts Leadership Community what their favorite question to ask a potential new hire looking for a chief information officer was, and why? Here’s what they told us.

1. What brought you here?
Knowing how their career path put them in the position to apply for my company is important to me. How has their career prepared them for this role, and why do they think working for me is the next logical step?

2. What are your goals?
This question lets me see what motivates a candidate. It helps me see if they would be a good fit for my company and if our values are similar. Knowing what motivates someone makes it easier for us to relate to each other.

3. Can you please tell me in your own words what we do?
Right away, this question shows how much research the candidate put into our company. The best people we’ve hired have been able to give us a really thoughtful answer about our company’s purpose and impact.

4. How do you keep up with new technology news and trends?
Technology is constantly evolving, and I need to know that whomever I hire as my CIO is going to be able to keep up. How closely the candidate follows industry news shows me how they might use new ideas in the workplace.

5. How do you predict the company will be different in two years, and how do you see yourself shaping that change?
A leader at the executive level should be thinking about how to help the company evolve. They shouldn’t be complacent with things as they are. So we ask them to tell us what changes they foresee, and how they plan on getting us there.

6. Explain the rationale behind each of your career moves.
I ask candidates to explain why they made each of their career choices, from their college graduation until now. Their answer shows me how they’ve used strategy in their own career, and lets me see how they plan for the long-term.

7. Who has been your biggest influence, and how have they affected you?
This question is very enlightening. Do their influences come from their personal lives, or are they more professional? It’s also interesting to see how they have looked up to people in the past, and how they think other people have helped them in their life.

8. What books and blogs are you currently reading?
You learn a lot about someone’s personality and aspirations from what they chose to read.

9. Ask questions that determine cultural fit.
Think about your company’s message and culture, and ask the candidate a few questions about it. We’re big believers in having employees that convey our personal brand.

10. Can you tell me about a project you worked on that didn’t succeed?
This question tells me a lot about a person’s attitude in the workplace. Do they shift blame, or do they jump at the chance to own up to a mistake and show me what they learned?

11. What project are you the most proud of?
I like asking this question because it tells me what kind of work the candidate takes pride in. The project they are the most proud of does not necessarily mean the project that was most successful. It could be something they struggled with and eventually learned a lot from.

12. Teach me something I don’t already know.
A good friend told me the heads at Google ask this question when hiring somebody new. It puts the candidate on the spot and makes them use their creativity and personality to teach me something special.

13. What do you think I could do better as the CEO of my company?
This question lets me see how gusty and genuine the candidate can be. If they don’t have an answer, I don’t take them seriously. But if they have the courage to look me in the eye and give me constructive criticism in an interview setting, it leaves a lasting impression.

14. What do you look for when you’re building a team?
This question lets me see what the candidate values in other employees. Since teamwork is necessary for a CIO, it gives me a glimpse of how the candidate would work with the people in my office to solve problems and work on new projects.

15. How would you describe your communication skills?
I like to ask people about how they communicate. Someone in an executive role at my company needs to know how to communicate effectively in reports, with their colleagues, and with me. It’s a critical skill that my CIO has to have.

You might be interested in these other posts about hiring a CIO:
When to Hire a CIO
What to Look For in a CIO
How to Hire a CIO
What to Pay a CIO

What CIO interview questions have you been asked? Tell us in the comments below!

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.