14 Essential Traits to Look for in a Chief Technology Officer

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council share some important qualities companies should look for in their CTO candidates.
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
October 11, 2021
Updated: October 18, 2021
Young Entrepreneur Council
Expert Contributor
October 11, 2021
Updated: October 18, 2021
hiring-cto
Top row, from left: Ashwin Sreenivas, Matthew Podolsky, Daisy Jing, Salvador Ordorica, Benjamin Rojas. Middle row, from left: Firas Kittaneh, Stephanie Wells, Blair Williams, Syed Balkhi, Chris Christoff. Bottom row, from left: John Brackett, Jared Atchison, Thomas Griffin, Josh Kohlbach.

Because the chief technology officer position is so important, you need to ensure that the right person assumes the role. A CTO needs to not only have a strong command of technology, but also project management, organization and team dynamics, among other things.

If you’re hiring a CTO for the first time, you may not know exactly what to look for when reviewing applications and interviewing job candidates. Below, a panel of the Young Entrepreneur Council members shared 14 traits they look for when hiring a CTO and why each quality is so essential to the job. 

14 Essential Traits to Look for in a Chief Technology Officer

  1. A Role Model Personality
  2. A Strategic Mindset
  3. The Ability to Make Tough Decisions
  4. Good Communication Skills
  5. Technological Adaptability
  6. Quick Response Time
  7. Organizational Skills
  8. Management Experience
  9. An Understanding of the Customer
  10. A Willingness to Learn
  11. Multi-Project Management Expertise
  12. An Ability to Solve Problems
  13. Competence in Data Security
  14. Strong Coding Knowledge

More From YECRaising Money for Your Business? 9 Alternatives to Investors.

 

1. A Role Model Personality

When hiring a CTO, you should hire someone whom your future engineers will respect. Your CTO will eventually become a beacon for future hiring, and a technically sophisticated CTO will be able to attract other great engineers to work with them. —Ashwin Sreenivas, Helia

 

2. A Strategic Mindset

When hiring a CTO, you need to find one with a strategic mindset. The CTO needs to see the big picture to move the company forward. This includes understanding and researching marketing trends, business models and technologies. The CTO will analyze competitors and create technology strategies to disrupt the status quo. They will cultivate motivation and encourage collaboration within their team. —Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

 

3. The Ability to Make Tough Decisions

Find someone who can make tough decisions on their own without bias. A good CTO should also have high standards and not accept excuses. These type of people use their hearts to connect with others but their minds to deal with them. They are also both also fair and realistic. They know what to do when they’re stuck in a situation where they need to meditate because they have a strong, willful character first and foremost. —Daisy Jing, Banish

 

4. Good Communication Skills

A good CTO is a master communicator and should be able to verbalize and write out their thoughts and goals to clearly enhance motivation. A good CTO should also be able to talk on a technical level to your developers while being personable and charismatic with the rest of the organization, striving to make things clear, concise and easy to comprehend. —Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC

 

5. Technological Adaptability

One key trait I look for when hiring a CTO is the ability to adapt to the ever-changing nature of IT. This quality will help me understand how adaptive and innovative they are and if they can develop new strategies when technology and the market both change. —Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO

 

6. Quick Response Time

Rapid diagnostic skills are important. When things break, you need someone who can figure out a patch quickly, followed by a permanent fix. Downtime is incredibly expensive, so speed is important in these instances. Otherwise, you lose revenue by the minute. —Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

 

7. Organizational Skills

When hiring a CTO, I look for someone who knows how to prioritize tasks, meetings, events and other business-related duties. CTOs usually have a lot on their plates, but without effective delegation and organization skills, there’s no way they can get to it all. A good CTO knows what to focus on at the present moment and what can wait for later so it’s easier to get things done. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

 

8. Management Experience

Look at a candidate’s history in managing projects and people. A CTO needs to have tech knowledge, but someone at a managerial level has to have a bird’s-eye view of a process or job. A CTO needs to have experience dealing with people, troubleshooting processes and ensuring that goals are met in a way that aligns with every other major goal in the business. —Blair Williams, MemberPress

 

9. An Understanding of the Customer

At the end of the day, everything we do and make revolves around fulfilling our customers’ needs. This is why a CTO needs to be someone who has some knowledge of marketing and user experience. Otherwise, we start building products for specialists rather than our real customers. Anyone at the C-suite level needs technical expertise plus knowledge of what customers need and how to best serve them. —Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

 

10. A Willingness to Learn

When hiring a chief technology officer for your business, I suggest looking for someone who loves to learn and actively participates in high-profile webinars and online courses. Ideally, you need a CTO who is willing to learn about new technology and embraces the challenges that come with the territory. —Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

 

11. Multi-Project Management Expertise

One thing you’ll want to look for when hiring a CTO is an ability to manage large-scale projects. Your technology officer will likely oversee the way multiple teams use tech to do their jobs. If you find someone who doesn’t know how to manage multiple projects, you could miss out on critical opportunities to grow your business. —John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

 

12. An Ability to Solve Problems

When hiring a CTO, I look for someone who’s a problem solver and self-starter. They need to be able to handle unexpected circumstances and delegate upcoming projects and tasks without hesitation. If they’re firm about what they bring to the table, it’s easier to see them as a reliable candidate. —Jared Atchison, WPForms

 

13. Competence in Data Security

The CTO is responsible for managing all technology-related affairs in the company. But in doing so, they should be able to maintain all security and privacy measures of the company. The CTO should be able to decide what measures to take in order to avoid any security mishaps that can lead to data breaches. —Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

 

14. Strong Coding Knowledge

When hiring a CTO, I think it’s important to examine how skilled he or she is at coding. As the head of the technology department, the CTO will have to work closely with developers. Having a good knowledge of codes can help to understand the projects in detail, spot any errors or simplify things if the project becomes too complex. —Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

Expert Contributors

Built In’s expert contributor network publishes thoughtful, solutions-oriented stories written by innovative tech professionals. It is the tech industry’s definitive destination for sharing compelling, first-person accounts of problem-solving on the road to innovation.

Learn More

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us