Recruiters give tips on finding high-level IT jobs

Do's and don'ts revealed by conference speakers

What steps do IT executives need to take to get on the "A" list for a high-profile job opening?

That was one of several questions that were posed yesterday to three executive recruiters during a session at the 2008 CIO Executive Leadership Summit held in Stamford, Connecticut. The recruiters who fielded the questions were Rhona Kannon, a partner in the IT practice at The Cambridge Group; Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates and Phil Schneidermeyer, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles.

How does someone get on an 'A' list for an IT executive search?

Executive job searches are somewhat subjective but do include defined criteria, Lieberman said. Critical qualities include a job candidate's personality, such as whether they're affable. Strong communications skills are also a must, she said. Recruiters and employers look to see how job candidates "package themselves" in their CVs, she added.

Job candidates who lack a bachelor's degree face an uphill battle, Lieberman said. "If you don't have a bachelor's degree, God bless you," she said, and "if you're applying for a senior role, you'd better be enroled" in a bachelor's degree program.

Another "A" list factor is the candidate's current or previous employers. "We get to know companies in different verticals that are known for developing strong talent," Schneidermeyer said.

One thing Schneidermeyer warns against is too much citing of industry awards that an IT executive has received. "I had one recent job candidate who filled the back side of his resume with awards, and it got me to wondering when the hell he found the time to do his job," she said.

Lieberman recommends that IT executives who have developed a relationship with a recruiter shouldn't let their guard down during the interviewing process. For example, it's bad form to dress informally for an interview with a recruiter, she said. Also, don't use slang language during the discussion or talk freely about personal issues.

How long should your resume be?

If a resume is more than three pages long, "forget about it," Lieberman said. "Crystallise" your achievements into three pages or less, she advises. "Most CEOs want to see two pages".

Still, it's important to cite individual project, cost-cutting and other achievements in a short paragraph for each, Schneidermeyer added.

It's critical for job seekers to cite their objectives on their resumes, Kannon said. "No one wants to read through a resume and try to figure out who you are," Kannon said. If reading through a resume is a chore, she added, "no one's going to want to read it".

Instead, she advises IT leaders to think about resumes they've read from IT job applicants they've screened that have appealed to them.

What's the typical career progression to CIO? Is this changing?

Seventy percent of the CIOs who have a background in IT typically have some experience or roots in application development, Lieberman said.

But an increasing number of organizations are bringing in executives from outside of IT to serve as CIO, she said. For instance, Lieberman pointed to Harriet Edelman, CIO at Avon Products, who was brought into the role seven years ago after running the company's global supply chain.

A third pathway to the CIO office is working for a major consulting firm, such as McKinsey & Co., PriceWaterhouseCoopers or Accenture, Lieberman said. Those types of consultants "are highly regarded by CEOs", she said.

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