Guide: How to prepare for a CIO job interview

Leadership, technology, strategy, finance and operations - here are 49 tough interview questions for CIOs

By Tina Nunno
June 24, 2016


  • Give an example of when you had to cut the IT budget. How did you go about it, and how much did you save?
  • Give an example of when you helped reduce costs for the rest of the enterprise by using IT. How did you go about it and how much did you save?
  • What percentage of enterprise revenue is your current IT budget? How does this compare with your industry peers?
  • How do you determine whether an ­enterprise is spending enough on IT, an appropriate level or too much?
  • What percentage of your current IT spending is for maintenance versus growth and transformation activities? Is that the appropriate mix and why?
  • What percentage of your IT budget is for outsourced activities? How do you ­determine what to outsource?
  • By what percentage did you overrun or ­under-run your IT budget last year? Why?
  • Describe any experience you have with chargeback models. How did it work, what were the benefits of the systems, and what problems did chargeback create? How did you manage the challenges? 

CIO Interview Questions-Operational Excellence

Leadership without execution is a formula for failure. This question set focuses on the candidate's ability to adjust and course-correct as needed to ensure success.

Interviewers should look for strong examples of success, where the candidate has ­delivered clear business outcomes, and evidence of his or her adaptability.


  • What is the largest IT-related initiative for which you were responsible, in terms of cost, elapsed time, scope or team size? How did you evaluate its success?
  • What is the largest non-IT-related initiative for which you were responsible? How did you evaluate its success?
  • How did this initiative deliver in terms of cost, schedule and quality?
  • What percentage of the business case bene­fits were actually achieved?
  • What impact did the initiative have on business performance metrics?
  • How have you prioritised when there was not enough budget to meet demand?
  • Provide an example of when the execution of an initiative did not go as planned and what you did.
  • Provide an example of how you led, ­motivated and organised a team to achieve during a difficult situation.

While no candidate will display each of the above qualities and capabilities in equal measure, hiring executives can use this interview list to decide which are most important to their enterprises now.

While all candidates should have some strength in each of these focus areas, the enterprise's situation will determine whether leadership, execution or other capabilities are most important to acquire in a new CIO.

Use this list as a starting point for your ­interviews, and then customise it to find a CIO who will not only be able to succeed in contributing to the enterprise's goals, but also be a strong executive team member and fit for the enterprise's culture.

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