To lead the IT or technology department and ensure that your business is at the peak of performance when it comes to technology, you'll need a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Working as part of the executive level of the business, reporting either to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the CEO, the CTO will be the person who is in charge of all technological needs of the business.
Recruiting for a CTO can be a challenge. For a candidate to have the right qualifications and the right amount of experience, salaries tend to be high - and your next CTO might not actually be actively searching for a role.
Finding the right person who has what it takes to be a successful addition to your executive team can be easier when you know more about the role - and the right type of person to fill it - the better prepared the recruitment team will be to find that perfect candidate.
In this article, we will look at the general duties and responsibilities of a CTO, where the best place to look for one might be, and how to write a job description that will appeal to the right candidate. We will also discuss the process of recruitment that will be most useful for finding the applicants with the right qualifications, skills, experiences, and traits to be successful in the long run.
What are the responsibilities of a CTO?
The CTO is usually the highest technical position in the business, and they oversee everything remotely technical in nature. They might be the head of IT, technology, or engineering (or all of them), and they will be the ones that decide on what technology is worth investing in to meet the long-term and short-term goals of the business.
While the daily tasks and responsibilities of the CTO will vary depending on the type of business and the industry, typical duties and responsibilities might include:
- Creating a technology strategy aimed at meeting objectives: This includes a focus on things like budget planning, setting out individual and team responsibilities, and creating KPIs to monitor performance
- Developing a detailed roadmap: used for the implementation of recommended changes, including a step-by-step guide with timeline and tasks.
- Managing people: usually the IT department or other technology team, including things like recruitment and interviewing, onboarding, and training as well as creating a supportive and collaborative environment to build towards a common purpose.
- Research: is an important part of the role and this includes not only knowing the business and the product or service inside out, but also staying up to date with market trends, knowing which tech products are to become obsolete and which need to be invested in for future-proofing.
- Regular reporting: to the CIO/CEO as well as stakeholders, department heads, and staff about proposed changes and developments in the business, and those in the wider industry and globally that might affect the use of technology.
In essence, a CTO needs to be proficient in technology use and application, ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation, able to create and deliver reports to the highest level of management, and ready to take on the challenge of motivating, supporting, and delegating to a whole team of professionals.
Technical skills and abilities to look for when recruiting a CTO
When it comes to considering the technical skills that a CTO needs, the type of business and the type of product or service that the business provides will point towards a particular technical skill set.
As an example, if the business is creating websites, then the CTO will need to have full-stack development experience as well as the relevant qualifications and technical skills in different programming languages like Java, Ruby, and/or Python.
Other roles might need a CTO that has extensive experience in creating and developing network architecture for use within the business, rather than for development for customers.
From providing an IT helpdesk system to creating a safe and secure network that can stand up to hackers and other data protection problems, the CTO is the person with the oversight to ensure that efficient and useful technology is being employed.
It is worth remembering that while a CTO should have some technical skills, they do not need to have complete knowledge of every type of technology - whether or not it is being used in the business. Part of the role of the CTO is to manage others and delegate tasks, which means that they can defer to another member of staff who has more knowledge or experience if they are lacking.
Soft skills to look for when recruiting a CTO
The best C-suite members tend to be the ones who have a long list of soft skills, especially things like leadership.
The CTO might only have a handful of people reporting to them, or they might have several departments to oversee, but either way, they need to be able to lead in a way that works for the business. Communication, delegation, teamwork, and adaptability are all crucial soft skills at the executive level, and this remains true in the CTO as well.
The CTO needs to be able to use logical thinking skills and good situational judgment to be able to make strategic decisions, demonstrating that they have excellent commercial knowledge and business acumen.
Other important soft skills to look for when hiring a CTO include organization, time management, and a good eye for detail. They will have to manage the time of their staff members as well as themselves to ensure that projects are completed on time and the business can move forward smoothly when it comes to technical aspects.
How to find a CTO
Your business has established that they need a leader for technical development - and now the next stage is to look for one. First, it is best to try and work out where the best place to find a CTO (or some qualified and experienced applicants, at least).
Some of the places you could look are below.
Ask employees for referrals
You might already have a connection to the perfect CTO candidate through the people that are working in the department. They might know someone from a competitor, or from a different industry entirely, who would suit the role.
Employee referrals are a strong choice of applicant sourcing because they are in some ways pre-screened - by being recommended by someone already at the company.
Other sources of referrals might be suppliers, customers, or even other people in your professional network.
Consider internal promotions
Don't forget to look internally, even when it comes to hiring for executive-level positions. Managers already in charge of a team might be able to step up if given a bit of training, and this can help save money in the long run.
Hiring internally for senior positions is also great for motivation and company morale, showing employees that learning and development in the role can mean that upward mobility and promotions are available.
Good succession planning is a useful tool for HR and recruiters, and from the current employees and managers, it should be relatively easy to decide which internal candidate could be successful in an executive position so that they can receive any extra training, certifications, or qualifications that they need for the role.
Attend industry events
The problem with finding the right CTO is that your ideal candidate might not be actively looking for a new role - passive candidates might be the best fit, but you'll never know unless you can get the opportunity in front of them.
One of the best ways to do this is to get involved in industry events. Whether these are technology conferences, hackathons, or just awards ceremonies, you can learn a lot about potential CTO candidates by talking to people at events.
If the job description and total offer is something that piques their interest, you can change a passive candidate into an active applicant and take advantage of the skills, experience, and knowledge that you know they already have.
Use your professional network
No company is an island, and whether you want to use your professional network in terms of other recruitment teams, or the wider business network, the people you know will know other people - and they might know of someone that fits the bill.
Leveraging your professional network doesn't mean poaching candidates from other job opportunities or companies. Instead, you are looking for introductions to people that you might not have a connection in other ways.
Post your job on tech recruitment platforms
While the general job boards might be quite well known and good for broader types of recruitment, you may struggle to find the right applicants when it comes to executive roles on a non-specific recruitment platform.
Some good places to recruit a CTO (or other senior technical position) include:
- Founders Nation
- Indie Hackers
You might also have some luck in online spaces like Slack, Reddit, and even Discord - chat boards like this can be a gold mine of qualified and experienced passive candidates.
That doesnt mean to say that you shouldn't use LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, or any of the other global brands, however. Just bear in mind that you tend to only get active job hunters on those platforms.
How to recruit a CTO
Step 1: Understand the role of a CTO
As previously mentioned, the type of CTO that an organization will need will depend on the type of business and the industry - and there are different types of CTO that can be hired. These can include:
- Infrastructure Overseer: This is the type of CTO that focuses on internal architecture and things like networks, maintenance, and data. They construct the technical strategy and roadmaps needed for goal achievement.
- Strategic Planner: A CTO that is all about strategy will be in charge of creating the technical strategy based on what the business will need in the future, using different research methodologies for success.
- Thinker: This type of CTO focuses on analysis, creating business models, and looking at the entire corporate strategy with a close working relationship with the other executive team members and the CEO.
- Consumer Liaison: Working as the conduit between the customer and the business, this type of CTO bears responsibility for customer relationships on the technical side.
Of course, there will be some overlap in these job descriptions; some CTOs might have other responsibilities too.
Understanding the job function and what the role should look like will help to inform the business and recruitment team about what the next steps should be.
Step 2: Write an efficient CTO job description
The job description is what will initially invite applications, so it needs to be detailed and informative. The ideal job description will not only cover the requirements of the role (in terms of skills, experience, and qualifications), but it will also describe the daily tasks and responsibilities.
Jobseekers also want to know about the salary for the role, other benefits and perks of the job, and what their working hours and location will be.
Sample CTO Job Description
ABC Company is looking for a Chief Technical Officer to oversee the IT and technology departments. ABC Company is a leader in the documentation space with a global reach.
- Degree/Masters in Business Management, Computer Science, Information Systems or equivalent.
- Certification from recognized bodies, such as Google Developer, CompTIA, ScrumMaster
- Preferred: MBA with a specialism in Information Technology
- At least 15 years of relevant experience in technology
- Identifying the technologies that can be used to improve documentation services currently used
- Assisting in recruitment, onboarding, and training of new staff in the IT department, including management.
- Developing and overseeing targets and KPIs for the technology department and IT professionals
- Ensuring processes and technologies follow relevant laws and regulations.
- Maintaining current knowledge of tech, innovation, and updates
- Conducting reviews of current systems to look for potential improvements
- Presenting reports to the CIO and CEO as well as the rest of the executive suite.
- Cybersecurity and data management
- Network architecture
- Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
- Business management skills and commercial acumen
- Logical and strategic thinking skills
- Technical abilities
The salary for this role is in the range of £85,000 - £115,000 annually, depending on experience. This is a hybrid role, with attendance in the office at least 40% of the working week.
Step 3: Source candidates
Once the job description has been crafted and you are satisfied that it has enough detail to be informative, you can start to source your candidates.
Post on the relevant tech job sites, but don't forget about the mainstream sites - and look within the organization too to see if there are any current employees who could step up.
Step 4: Assess candidates
Once the applicants have applied for the role, the job of screening and assessing candidates can begin. According to Indeed, back in 2021 there were an average of 44 applicants for each CTO role posted - which means that screening is essential to find candidates who are qualified, skillful, and experienced.
The screening process begins with a paper sift, where CVs and/or application forms can be judged on whether the candidate possesses the basic qualifications and amount of experience mentioned.
Following this, recruiters may choose to use pre-employment screening tests to look for particular aptitudes, competencies, and traits that are not typically found in initial applications. For the CTO role, this will include things like leadership, communication, logical reasoning, and any relevant software knowledge. Other useful tests include situational judgment and personality.
Step 5: Interview the best candidates
In the interview, the candidate has the opportunity to provide more information about their previous experience and why they would be a good fit for the role. The CEO or HR teams conducting the interview might want to ask a combination of technical questions relating to experience and education, as well as motivational and behavioral questions.
Some example questions are below:
- What experience do you have working with in-house developers?
- How do you start a project that requires a clear strategy?
- What is a key thing that you check for when you are assessing data security?
- How would you reduce the operating costs of our business using technology?
- What made you want to be a CTO?
- Describe a time when you had to deal with competing requests for your time.
- Tell us about a time when you had to lead others in a difficult task.
- Describe a situation when a strategy that you created was not successful, and how you dealt with it.
- How could you improve our big data capabilities within the next six months?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
As with many roles in the C-suite, finding the right CTO is not a simple task - especially if you have not recruited for one before. There are several different duties and responsibilities that a CTO might have, depending on the nature of the business, and deciding on those will help when it comes to sourcing candidates.
A strong strategy is needed when hiring for a role that attracts top performers - and pays a top salary - so recruiters need to understand the role and what type of person that they are looking for.
With a good plan in place, the roadblocks that can come up when hiring for the CTO role can be avoided.