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Hiring a CTO? Key considerations for attracting and retaining the right candidate

With so many different technology solutions to choose from, the CTO needs to be decisive and quick if they’re to make the right investments and add real value to the business.

By James Nunns

Technology is touching every industry, with businesses across all sectors becoming increasingly digitally-led.

From the rise in new technologies such as automation, robotics and AI to embracing new and more flexible working practices, business models are being disrupted and organisations must adapt now to keep pace with the change. As a result, the CTO role is growing ever more integral to organisations’ future progress, with individuals being brought in to help navigate the business through these times.

Martin Ewings, Director: Regional Sales and Specialist Markets, Experis UK & Ireland

That said, hiring this type of person – with a unique blend of management and technical skills – might be a totally new concept for a small business leader who up until now hasn’t had any requirements for a CTO. Traditionally, bringing in a dedicated technical strategist to a lean small business would have been seen as more of a luxury “nice-to-have”.

Today however, technology sits at the heart of every organisation and hiring a CTO could enable the core team to focus on what they do best – whether that’s scaling the business, focusing on R&D, bringing a new product to market or reaching new audiences. With this is mind, it’s incredibly important that for any small business who is looking to bring a CTO in, they can get this senior hire right. Here are my top tips to make sure this process goes as smoothly as possible.


Identify individuals who have ambition to grow with the business

When hiring a CTO, SMEs need to look for individuals who are both comfortable setting the technology strategy and managing small teams today, but also capable of leading an upscaled function at the heart of the business in five to ten years’ time. CTOs aren’t brought in to simply keep the lights on, but to make a genuine difference to the business and take a lead on which technologies will help them get there.


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Look for decisiveness and leadership qualities

Top executives often cite intuition as the reason for their success, and seasoned leaders are not only confident in their own instincts but also capable of making others feel confident in their judgement. With so many different technology solutions to choose from, the CTO needs to be decisive and quick if they’re to make the right investments and add real value to the business.


Hire on aptitude not skills

Remember, not all CTO candidates will have the core credentials on their CV, and this is becoming more apparent as the rate of technological advance continues to gather pace. Skill cycles are growing ever shorter, and as a result, specific qualifications are growing quickly out of date – 65% of Gen Z will perform jobs that don’t even exist yet. To counter this, SMEs should look for individuals that demonstrate an aptitude and genuine passion to learn new skills, an appetite for continuous learning and a curiosity to develop the business further; as well as the right cultural fit to support the wider business vision.


Emphasise the career acceleration opportunities

With strong CTOs in short supply, the market is highly competitive and SME employers must be prepared to sell themselves if they’re to attract the best talent. To do this, they should talk about the speed of change, career acceleration and a focus on developing resilient careers during the interview process to get the potential candidate excited about the role in question and challenges that lie ahead. CTOs will often want to understand the business’ vision and what they can put in place to transform the organisation well before they accept the job offer and sign any paperwork.


Sell the unique proposition you’ll be able to offer

As the business expands, the CTO’s role will evolve too. The individual will effectively hold 10 different jobs within the company over the next 10 years as their remit, responsibilities and focus continuously shift. Having this level of variation within the role is unique to small businesses and should be used as a key selling point during the interview stage to attract an individual who is up to the challenge.

Technology is transforming the way we do business and as a result, we are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution, whereby finding the right balance of technology, talent and human relationships will be critical to success. CTOs with the right skills and experience will be in high demand. By following these steps and ensuring as nimble an approach as possible, small businesses can ensure they have the right people, processes and tools in place to address today’s talent shortages and anticipate the demands of tomorrow.

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