Recruiters offer tips for finding jobs in IT management

They field questions on how to get on the 'A' list for a job opening and whether it's OK to reach out to recruiters

STAMFORD, Conn. -- What steps do IT executives need to take to get on the "A" list for a high-profile job opening? Is it bad form for IT managers to reach out to an executive search firm?

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

Is it a mistake to reach out to a search firm?

No, absolutely not, Lieberman said, but cold calls are tough for recruiters to respond to. Instead, she recommends that IT executives contact her and other recruiters through a source that both parties know and trust. "It's similar to how we get to know you," Lieberman added.

Another way to get on a recruiter's radar screen is by acting as a referral for a friend or colleague, Schneidermeyer said.

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

Executive job searches are somewhat subjective, but they do include defined criteria, Lieberman said. Critical qualities include job candidates' personalities, 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 résumés, 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 enrolled" 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 résumé 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 résumé be?

If a résumé is more than three pages long, "forget about it," Lieberman said. "Crystallize" your achievements into three pages or less, she advises, since "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 résumés, Kannon said. "No one wants to read through a résumé and try to figure out who you are," Kannon said. If reading through a résumé is a chore, she added, "no one's going to want to read it."

Instead, she advises IT leaders to think about résumés 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 there's an increasing number of organizations that 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 Inc., 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."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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