Hiring a CTO: What are the 6 Must-Haves?

We hire more CIOs, CTOs and IT Directors than any other organisation in the UK, and we are often asked about our approach.

Our recruitment process is sophisticated and detailed, and our screening and selection has been developed and improved over several years.

We have an infographic which highlights the six must-have talents that we think makes the best CTO for your business. View the infographic.

So what do we look for?

We specifically look for six things. All are equally important and all are absolutely essential.

    1. Technical Expertise. Custom software and digital technologies are complicated and involve deep and specialist knowledge. CTOs need an extensive understanding of technology, security and engineering built up over years in the industry. They need to understand infrastructure, business systems and online technology and, in addition, they need up to date and detailed experience of products, vendors and evolving practices. No field changes as rapidly! The best CTOs don’t just follow the field, they are leaders—active at events and in online discussions.
    2. People-focussed. Of course, all of business is about people. Even the most complex software needs to be built by people, and for people, and team working is at the heart of any successful venture. The CTO needs to be a coach and mentor to his team, respected by all those around him. Communication needs to flow easily upwards, downwards and across.A CTO needs to engage with all the stakeholders, be a source of energy and good-humour, and needs to fit in.
    3. Creative Entrepreneurship. The CTO needs to be passionate about driving growth and fully committed to the ambitions of the business. That means understanding funding and valuation mechanisms, business plans, and the full range of disciplines like marketing and legal.Of course, any complex project has issues and the CTO needs to be creative, agile and proactive to rapidly recognise when changes are necessary to stay on track with the vision.
    4. Commercial Management Expertise. Running the team and suppliers requires good planning, good communication and careful attention to detail. CTOs are often responsible for a range of compliance issues and need to be aware of the implications of contractual and regulatory frameworks.Budgets need to be carefully monitored and managed and contracts and prices negotiated. Managing suppliers is a careful balance to maintain good relationships and long-term commitments whilst ensuring that costs are kept under control.
    5. Strategic Thinking. Technical discussions are often extremely (painfully!) detailed. Bespoke digital technology is complex and intricate but a good CTO sees the bigger picture and how the technology will be part of the business strategy. Often discussions around the Board table are vague; opportunities are ambiguous; the key questions are about the art of the possible and good CTOs need to be comfortable with this. A technology strategy must be creative but also sensible, useful and flexible.
    6. Compelling Leadership. The CTO forms part of the senior team and needs to lead from the front. The CTO contributes to decisions, is bold and visionary and holds others to account. As the business grows the stakes become higher and the CTO needs to be confident despite the pressure. Where there are external investors, partners or other stakeholders the CTO needs to represent the business to them. External investors, in particular, need to draw confidence from the CTO as his or her role is so critical to the success of the venture.

We devote a huge part of our management effort to recruitment, screening and selection of CTOs, CIOs and IT Directors. And, because we work in the mid-market, we only select CTOs who can fit in with dynamic businesses rather than needing the comfort of the corporate environment!

It is rare to find all of these talents in one person—which is why a good CTO is so valuable.

Over the coming weeks we are creating a series of content pieces about CTOs, their role, how to find and recruit  them and the invaluable benefits they provide to a business. All of which can be found on our CTO Knowledge Centre page here.