For companies looking to take their businesses to the next step, hiring a CTO may be a good call to make. However, this decision should not be taken lightly — it is a C-suite title that can make or break companies. Hiring the wrong person can result in losing a competitive edge and stalling innovation.
We want to help you come to an informed decision with a guide explaining how to hire a CTO and interview them.
The Role of CTO
CTO stands for “Chief Technology Officer.” The responsibility of CTOs is to develop innovative products and oversee internal business operations.
Thus, CTOs are very well paid. Salaries for CTOs exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the median income being $165,000. However, it’s not uncommon for bigger companies like IBM to pay their Chief Technology Officers more than $200,000.
Let’s look at the common functions CTO performs.
Platform Selection and Technical Design
In one way or another, a CTO will get heavily involved in all technical projects. Depending on the company, the CTO might be put in charge or take a more observing role.
CTOs are commonly tasked with leading and managing several technical teams at once. Their primary functions include selecting development platforms, planning technical design, and creating architecture layouts.
MVP and DevOps Issues
The development of a minimum viable product also lies in the CTO’s scope of responsibility. When it comes to overseeing MVP-related tasks in big companies and smaller ones, the CTO can be more or less active in daily engineering.
When working for big companies, CTOs don’t have to be as actively involved in the actual development as there will be engineers doing that. But in smaller companies, the CTO gets more involved in daily technical tasks. Moreover, in most companies, DevOps also lies in the scope of the CTO’s responsibilities.
The roles and responsibilities of CTOs aren’t only tied to the development cycle. One of the main roles of Chief Technology Officers is to make sure the company is protected against cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity is a real problem nowadays. In July 2021, up to 1,500 businesses were hit by hacker attacks in the US in a single day. The victims were both large corporations and small companies.
That’s why the right candidate should have a proper understanding of cybersecurity. A CTO must enhance cybersecurity by securing databases, implementing security tools, and conducting emergency evaluations.
A CTO plays an important role in product testing. Since the CTO sets the technical directions of product development, they are familiar with the architecture of the product. Thus, it is their job to come up with the correct and most effective testing system. Not only will a CTO oversee the testing of the product, but they will also recommend the appropriate course of action.
How to Interview a CTO and What Questions to Ask?
Asking the right questions will help you understand how to hire a CTO. Here’s a list of questions to ask to make sure you are hiring the right person.
What Kind of Experience Do You Have With Developers?
It is one of the most important questions to ask. We keep going back to the fact that CTOs manage development teams and monitor the development cycle of a product. Thus, the right candidate has to be able to manage developers.
The answer to this question will demonstrate the candidate’s ability to motivate, coordinate, and evaluate developers. An experienced CTO will know how to manage dev teams and ensure smooth operating. It is commonly accepted that candidates who apply for a job as CTO in a company need to have between five and ten years of experience in managing developers.
Do You Have Software Development or Programming Languages Experience?
In most cases, certain development knowledge is important for the role. Thus, asking whether or not the candidate is experienced in a programming language and has developed software before would be helpful.
However, some CTOs have very little technical skills in terms of software development. That’s because not every CTO has coding responsibilities. Some CTOs have gotten the role due to being excellent visionaries. They had ideas for company development, and they were tasked with making sure the company reached expectations. When that’s the case, outsourcing development might prove to be a better alternative.
You have to determine what your specific company values and needs more: technical background or unique ideas.
What Is Your Management Manner?
Candidates may come from different backgrounds and companies that used certain management principles that might not always align with your needs. Make sure you find out the management style of the candidate and whether they can adjust it to the policies and culture of your company if needed.
How Will you Handle a Situation When the Technical Manager Disagrees With Your Strategy?
Companies need to understand how good of a problem solver the candidate is and evaluate their communicative skills. Misunderstandings and conflicts of opinion will happen, and it is important that the CTO can compromise, convince, and concede.
A CTO is an instrumental role in the success of the project. The right person not only has to be a leader, but they also have to take on multiple technical responsibilities. Depending on the company, these responsibilities will vary. The best way to find the right candidate is to ask the questions that matter to you before hiring.