How I landed a new CIO job

How I landed a new CIO job

At the end of last year, I moved on from my role as CIO of a large construction company. It was the first time in my career that I ever stepped away from a good job without having a new role to move to. The attitude I adopted was that I would turn this transition into a learning opportunity, both personally and professionally. And, boy, did I ever learn!

I have been in a new CIO job since July. Looking back, here is what I learned, and some of the mistakes I made as I went about finding my new role. Hopefully, it will help you in your job search, whenever that time comes.

Job Search Techniques and Practices

I hadn’t conducted this sort of job search in many years. A lot about hunting for jobs may seem like common sense but I found that it helped me to review the latest thinking on what makes an effective job search. Martha Heller’s e-book, Landing Your Next Great CIO Job was extremely helpful, as was a paper I found on another executive recruiting firm’s web site. As you would expect, the internet is loaded with job search advice written by recruiters, job transition specialists and others experts.


If you have time between jobs, use it to reconnect with mentors and friends. This gets more people listening around for new opportunities on your behalf, and will help form the support system you need for the ups and downs of the job search. I offered to help friends and past colleagues with their presentations and industry talks, and I sought their advice on my job search strategy and my resume.

I would advise you to be careful not to put friends in the odd position of ‘finding work’ for you. They will keep their ears open for new opportunities for you, but remember, they have a day job. It can be difficult to keep your job search from disrupting the balance of a relationship, especially if your search is taking longer than you expected and you could really use some outside help.

“ It is often difficult to maintain a positive outlook. Take the time to reconnect with family; when you are not actively working on your job search, keep your mind busy and off the search.”

Preparing for Job Interviews

Before each of your interviews, whether it is a preliminary phone screen or in-person, take a good deal of time to understand just what the business and leadership are looking for. I found that there are usually just one or two key themes; you have to find out what they are and incorporate them into your marketing strategy.

Obviously, you want to review their websites and annual report to learn about the business strategy.

If you are working with a recruiter, internal or contracted, take the time to interview them and get at what the decision makers are looking for – the qualifications that may not be in the job description document they sent you.

As you make your way through the list of interviewers at a company, ask good questions that shed light on this critical question, and refine your messaging as you go. By the time you make it through to the CEO or other key decisionmaker, usually the last interview, you should know a great deal more about the business strategy than you did before your first interview — what they are really seeking in this role, and how your background connects to that.

If you feel their need is not a fit for you, use the interview to help them develop a clearer picture of what they are looking for, and move on with confidence. I interviewed for at least three jobs that I did not get because the hiring committee’s key theme was experience in a very specific industry sector. Even though I had exposure to that industry and credibility, the specific theme overcame my broader experience. Knowing that these situations will undoubtedly arise, and being able to recognize them when they do, will help keep you from getting discouraged during your search.

Working with Executive Recruiters
Take their advice; understand they make money from placement. Try to find ways to engage them, help them find candidates for other search projects they have going, and never jeopardize your relationship with a recruiter over a lost role. Recruiters usually present a list of qualified candidates, but the final decision is up to a person or a hiring committee at the client company. I also found that once you lose a role it could be hard to get back in the recruiter’s queue for new roles for a little while. This could be because, as they get to know you and what you bring to the table, you can become a bit stereotyped (remember, its impression based). Don’t make a big deal out of it. Keep up the relationship and let them know you are still in the hunt (just not too often). In short, with recruiters, make it a relationship, not a transaction.

Take Good Care of Yourself
I can tell you from experience that having patience while you are looking for your next job can be extremely challenging. It is often difficult to maintain a positive outlook. Take the time to reconnect with family; when you are not actively working on your job search, keep your mind busy and off the search; do some projects around the house. I found that when I kept busy, it reduced stress and kept me feeling good, which was important as I headed into interviews.

Patience… A positive attitude … Help others succeed… When you are not looking hard the right ones usually come along…

Rich Richardson is CIO at Spirit AeroSystems. This blog was originally published on The CIO Paradox blog.