How to Evaluate Candidates When Hiring a CTO

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 23 March 2023

There are now many more people with the title Chief Technology Officer than ten years ago. The trend is for the number of CTO positions to increase faster than the number of people available with experience. It’s competitive to hire the best and challenging because it involves investment in technology, which is still something that’s difficult for most on the C team to agree. I suggest that the CTO is the person responsible for implementing and driving the technology that will enable the enterprise to achieve its goals, which means taking a holistic approach to all products, services, processes and functions.


So, how do you hire the best person available? Read on to find out more and explore the 5 key attributes a CTO needs to have to help you hire for success.


Vision and Plan

The CTO needs to understand where the organisation wants to go, and for that to happen, there needs to be a clear and easily articulated vision for the future to plan around. This is easier said than done, but it requires openness and honesty by those in leadership and ownership roles. It might be an event where investments are returned with interest, it could be a position in a market, or it could be survival or some shorter-term challenge, or a combination. Whatever the plan, if it’s not agreed upon and clear, the new CTO will quickly see the difference between reality and rhetoric. I often hear that company X or Y realises that their business has become a technology-driven platform that sells its products or services; that is the realisation that they have moved from a technology user to a technology business. That puts the CTO at the centre of how the company will develop, so they need to be at the centre of planning and investment. Start with an unbiased view of the state of technology and how the business is faring and develop the conversation over what might be possible and what the investment could be.


Communication and Relationship Building

CTOs are fundamental to how a business will develop. They manage relationships with internal and external stakeholders, including peers, team members and colleagues, clients, investors or the press. Successful communication is more than style and content; it is also routine and discipline. The best CTOs will have a plan to communicate based on who needs to know what, when and how often, and they stick to it. CTOs will change colleagues’ business processes, or it could be that they develop new products and services. They may be vital to altering how relationships with clients function, and they will need to spend money on doing those things. All of these are best achieved with partners who have bought into what is happening, understand the implications and are kept up to date with progress. When you interview a prospective CTO, ask them how they manage communication.


Revenue and Efficiency

The output of a successful CTO is an increase in revenue for the business while achieving optimal efficiency from the investment in technology and a contribution to a strategy based on a perspective of where we are now and what we will have to do to achieve our goals. Of course, the job is never done because technology will keep evolving, and markets will change. That may mean that a different person is needed for the next stage, but CTOs need to understand and be able to articulate their impact on the top line, bottom line and direction. It is not good enough to consider spending on technology just to keep up with the competition or to replace legacy systems. It is essential to work with colleagues and the CFO to understand how sales will increase, how costs will be saved and what opportunities and threats may result from that journey. So, ask the prospective CTO how they contributed to financial results and what state they are leaving their last employer in.


Staying Current

In most searches, CTOs come from an IT, Engineering or maybe Physics/Maths background. That does influence what they did after they achieved their qualifications and how they have evolved. If your formative years were spent coding, you might have a different perspective from someone who spent the same time analysing systems or in research. There is no right or wrong here, but I would ask questions about how a prospective CTO hire stays current, what forums they are part of, whom they network with, and where they get their perspective from. Given the rate of change in technology, it is vital to know how the CTO keeps learning.


It is an excellent time to be a CTO, as there is a lot of opportunity out there. How will the role develop as technology becomes more and more the foundation for all businesses? What will be the implication of AI? How will society and social media develop? How will privacy and security change the landscape? 

If I can help, do let me know:


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