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4 powerful tips for writing a CIO resume

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Aiming for a CIO or Director role leading an enterprise IT organization?

You’ve probably wondered how to transform your resume from a list of technical skills in order to reach the corner office.

How can you craft a brand message strong enough to get attention for a CIO, IT Director, or CTO role?

Working with CIO.com on an IT Director resume makeover, I spent time with Richard Hein, Managing Director, answering this very question. Surprisingly, it’s often business acumen (more so than tech skills) that attracts hiring authorities… and with CIO.com’s candidate, business alignment was clearly the focus of his career.

To obtain these results, I recommend taking a step back from the typical list of projects, protocols, and programs usually featured on an IT resume, using a fresh eye to show how your achievements met business needs.

These 4 powerful tips for how to write a CIO resume (or IT Director resume) will help you shape a brand-driven, compelling document that elicits action from employers:

1 – Show business alignment with IT.

Nearly all of the successful technology leaders I’ve worked with on resume projects have pointed out the same fact: they’re attuned to the needs of the business, at times more so than the immediate needs of the IT department.

To make this point in your own IT leadership resume, take stock of times you’ve worked with business units or cross-functional teams to gather requirements and build workflow strategies.

Write simple, but potent, stories of these projects in C-A-R format (Challenge, Action, Result) format, taking a close look at the Challenge or Situation, Action you took, and Results in business terms. Then, condense these stories into succinct sentences (3 lines or less), as shown in this example:

Increased systems stability 65% (critical to trading system users), resolving extended wait times with Microsoft Direct Access virtualization solution – while reducing deployment costs nearly 40%.

Using this method, you’ll find it easier to list your achievements from the perspective of a business leader.

2 – Apply a strategic lens to your work.

Spent time defining IT roadmaps? Assessed and measured growth capacity for your employer? Planned technology strategy for a business unit or division?

These strategically focused activities need to take center stage on your IT leadership resume.

Here is where a CIO adds specific value to the organization, taking long-range business plans into account when developing the IT roadmap for the corporation. If your career has already included a seat at the executive table, you’ll want to provide detail on the contributions that you’ve added as a CIO, with special emphasis on the role of technical upgrades that support future growth.

If you have yet to hold the title of CIO (such as this IT Director pursuing a CIO role), leverage your strategic charter in roles such as IT Director or VP of Information Technology. For example, you may have been asked to determine the viability of infrastructure upgrades at the enterprise level, or planned applications migrations to reduce the company’s dependence on legacy systems.

If this is the case, add these examples to a CIO-level resume as proof of your ability to strategize at the leadership level, with supporting detail that shows potential cost savings to the business and the nature of your executive relationships with major stakeholders during the process.

The following excerpt from a CIO resume shows how to flesh out and reframe the context of an executive-level activity with long-term implications:

Before:

Created risk management profile on aging infrastructures for presentation to executives.

After:

Spearheaded creation of 5-year strategic roadmaps instrumental in executive team planning for IT; clearly conveyed replacement risks for end-of-life infrastructures.

3 – Show how technology has been used as a driver for the business.

As a measure of effectiveness, many CIOs can point to new initiatives that added value in the form of increased revenue, higher levels of efficiency, or improved staff productivity. The key to showing this type of detail on a CIO resume is to focus on the end result, while speaking to the technologies involved as a means to achieving it.

In these situations, the CIO (as well as the CTO) often partners with business leaders to identify potential improvements that can be achieved with technology changes. The relevance to the business need is key; the actual application, vendor solution, or platform used is only PART of the story.

Consider this conversion of an ERP initiative description within a CIO resume:

Before:

Implemented SAP ERP system (the second version at the company) in order to promote 100% traceability from raw materials.

After:

Facilitated new business by adding SAP ERP capabilities (including 100% raw material-to-finished part traceability) improving the company’s ability to obtain key industry credentials.

4 – Provide strong examples of cost-cutting moves.

As most CIOs can relate, their charter is to bring in cutting-edge solutions, but at the lowest possible cost. This is especially true for situations where the CIO reports directly to the CFO.

Therefore, your CIO resume should highlight strategies that have provided a technical edge for your employer and strengthened the company’s market response – while negotiating a substantial savings through solutions such as virtualization or long-term, enterprise-level contracts.

In addition, IT initiatives often have an impact on the bottom line, either through automation solutions or new capabilities that add the potential for more revenue. In these cases, it’s important to add the metrics associated with the improvement to your CIO resume as a measure of effectiveness.

As an example, this CIO resume was altered to show specific costs and expected benefits of a change to use virtual servers:

Before:

Upgraded data centers, engineering labs, and service labs to utilize virtual server technology.

After:

Added virtualization solutions projected to secure 135% ROI over 3 years, with 88% better recovery performance plus decreased facilities and cooling costs; upgraded data centers with no additional staff or space — eliminating $1.2M in potential costs.

In summary, a solid IT leadership resume (such as this sample CIO resume) can generate results by telling a story that includes specific cost-benefit to technology changes, a business-minded focus, and examples of strategic contributions that improve the company’s position.

Now that you know how to write a CIO resume by reframing your achievements and leveraging the business context in each success story, you’ll demonstrate an obvious advantage to employers in need of a CIO.

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