4 CIO Resume Fails and How to Strike the Right Balance


CIO resumes need to cater to the non-technical side of the hiring team - often HR professionals - while still clearly demonstrating technical depth.

All IT resumes have one overarching challenge that simply isn’t an issue in resumes for non-technical executives and professionals: The need to write a resume that can be read easily by the non-technical side of the hiring team – often HR professionals – while still clearly demonstrating technical depth.

And that’s where – literally – more than 90 percent of the CIO resumes that cross my desk fail.

The need to create this absolutely critical balance is the reason why I write IT resumes exclusively. Professional resume writers who do a couple of CIO resumes in a quarter just don’t have the chops to create a document that speaks to both audiences.

Looking for a job as a CIO? Here are the top three issues that can quickly derail a CIO job search.

Getting Too Technical

This is by far the most common issue I see in the initial resumes that cross my desk. Laundry lists of technical skills do not paint the picture of a strategic business leader. Technical skills are important; after all, you’re a CIO/CTO, not a CMO or VP of sales. But those technical skills must be woven strategically into the body of the resume to demonstrate that you’re not just a glorified IT manager. You need to show that technology should be used not for it’s own sake, not because it’s cool, but because you possess an absolutely unique ability to leverage tech to solve real-world business problems – and to produce clear, quantifiable results.

Failing to Emphasized Business Alignment

Far too many CIO resumes give the impression that the candidate lives in an IT silo, and has little contact – and even less interest – in working with other members of the C-suite to contribute to enterprise growth. That’s generally because the resume gives the impression of being lost in the weeds – even if you are, in fact, very much a big-picture thinker.


Underestimating the Importance of Leadership

Great CIOs and CTOs don’t rise to the top of their professions – and organizations – because they’re better at architecting code; they rise to the C-suite because they can lead, because they build teams and motivate technical professionals to go above and beyond, because they can convey their own enthusiasm and commitment to their direct and indirect reports. Unfortunately, too many CIO resumes barely mention team leadership. I’ve worked with clients who’ve lead teams of more that 200 and don’t even mention that fact in their initial document.

So What’s the Right Mix for a CIO Resume?

One area of balance that’s critical in all strong CIO resumes is the balance between technology and business value. Too much much technology, and you’ll look like an IT manager. Too little, and you’ll look like an executive who dabbles in technology without really understanding IT. Because this is such a crucial issue, let’s look at how to best balance the discussion of your early career, directly technical roles – and how to leverage your early career experience to demonstrate that you’ve got the technical credentials required to run a major IT organization.

Find the Balance
Some IT resume writers are going to ignore early career – as a developer or network engineer, for example. Others massively over-stress their technical chops. I don’t think that either are effective strategies for a winning CIO resume.

I think it’s critical to demonstrate that you began your career in the trenches, because that demonstrates clearly that you know the realities that developers or network engineers face.
But I certainly don’t believe that that early, technical experience should dominate your CIO resume.

Here are my top tips for striking the right balance on your CIO resume:

  • Keep Early Career Details Succinct
    I rarely use more than a couple of lines. And, as in every aspect of every CIO resume I write, I focus on real value, on the critical achievements that differentiate you from your competition.
  • Avoid Laundry Lists of Technical Tools
    Long laundry lists of technical tools are a poor strategy. I will, however, judiciously mention the tools you used early in your career – especially if those tools continue to be relevant.
  • Ensure that Early Experience Is Presented as Foundational
    I ensure that your foundational experience is shown to be just that – one of the core reasons that you moved out of hands-on technology and ultimately into your current role as an IT leader.

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Adapted and republished with permission from JM Auron. Original articles can be found here: http://quantumtechresumes.com/2013/09/the-3-most-common-strategic-missteps-that-derail-cio-resumes/ and here: http://quantumtechresumes.com/2013/04/cio-resumes-3-strategies-to-leverage-your-early-it-career-achievements/.


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J.M. Auron

J.M. Auron is the founder and owner of Quantumtechresumes.com. As one the career industry's leading IT resume writers and career coaches, he leverages his many years as a professional recruiter to  help clients hone their personal brand and clarify career achievements. J.M.'s unique,highly personalized approach to the development of job search strategies has helped U.S. and global IT leaders take the next step in their careers. His insights on job search strategies for IT executives have been featured on CIO.com and CRN.com