Looking to hire a CIO? Here's an example of how not to do it.
Several years ago, I was among 10 candidates chosen for the first round of on-campus interviews at a community college. When I entered the room, I found 18 people there. In academic settings, an on-campus interview can include a meeting that's open to the public. That is what I initially thought this was, until the chair asked all of the panel members to introduce themselves.
There was a set of laminated questions in front of me, and people took turns reading out questions. Here's a rough synopsis of those questions and my answers.
Why do you think you are the right fit for this position in a community college?
I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was fortunate to get an education that allowed me to compete for a position like this. Many students here are like me -- they were not born rich, but they can be given a chance for a better life. I would enjoy being a part of that. In addition, we are entering a period of financial austerity, and I know how to utilize limited funds in a judicious manner.
What are three values you use to guide your management style?
The first is integrity, a value that takes a lifetime to achieve but can be lost in a moment. The second is teamwork -- together we make up for one another's weaknesses. The third is customer service, because customers equate to jobs.
How do you recruit, retain, and train your workforce?
I screen candidates for ethics, integrity, and team spirit. Technical skills can be taught. Since there are limits to monetary rewards, I am generous with nonmonetary rewards, due to an unlimited supply of these. I focus on creating a positive and fun environment for everyone.
What are the issues for libraries in community colleges?
We used to be geographically bound. Our customers used to be the community around us. Now our customers have more choices, but we have more opportunities. Libraries are becoming electronic gateways to other library systems.
Please describe a major change you implemented where there was a resistance to the change.
We wanted to implement a new VoIP system. The faculty and staff were concerned about stability and phone numbers changing. I promised to keep everyone's last four digits the same, and I planned for a six-month transition. This overcame their objections, and we had a successful implementation.
How do you make short-term and strategic plans?
I look at organizational goals. If the organization has a strategic plan, I align the IT plan to the organization's plan. Then I look around for ways to finance the vision.
Name three new IT developments that are impacting educational institutions.
The first is the need to support any device from anywhere. Second, we need much higher levels of security. Third, industry developments such as cloud computing and software-as-a-service allow services to be available from outside our organization. We need to focus on management of data, information, and services, regardless of where they reside.
What do you think about faculty members who want to use their own email services from places like Google or Microsoft?
We should encourage faculty and staff to use college-branded email when interacting with the public. People do not like restrictive policies, which hamper their work. Disk space is cheap, and with liberal policies, people usually use institution-branded systems.
Can you describe how you go about developing a budget?
Start with goals. Create long-term and short-term priorities, and develop a funding plan.
At the end, with six minutes left, I was given the opportunity to ask questions. I asked one: At the end of one year, what would I have to achieve in order for you to give me a good evaluation? Their responses gave me a good idea of what the institutional priorities were.
Within a few weeks, I learned the panel was having difficulty selecting two finalists. After a couple of months, I discovered the panel selected two finalists based on the size of their previous organization's budget -- which was not covered during the interview or the application process.
Certainly three-, five-, or even seven-member panels are quite common in academic settings, but 18 people can never be a good number for an interview panel. Decision making in such a large group is too unwieldy.