Finding Chief Information Officers (CIOs) who have led IT in other organizations as described in "Are there unique attributes in Chief Information Officer (CIO) candidates?" is only a part of the selection process a hospital needs to employ. By doing some internal planning and focusing on three key components of the executive selection process, organizations can realize a positive hiring outcome for a CIO. These components are to: 

  1. Understand your organization’s culture and its team’s personality.To better define their cultures, CEOs must understand the dynamics of the groups and teams the new executives will lead. They must also understand the personalities and styles of other executives on the teams with whom the CIOs will work closely. These include board members, revenue cycle leaders, nursing, finance and quality personnel. This introspection reduces clashes in leadership styles and personalities. 

    The healthcare landscape is changing, and more and more groups and departments are interacting daily with IT. Let’s take physician leaders, for example. Crucial to the success of the CIO is how well he/she interacts and influences physician leaders involved with deploying an electronic medical record. Think about which CIO leadership styles would be most effective and which would be abrasive. Unfortunately, we can’t glean insight into candidates’ leadership style by simply reviewing their resumes. The good news is by doing some internal homework, CEOs and/or human resources leaders can use this knowledge as a guide in creating meaningful interview questions.

  2. Carefully review candidates’ personality profiles. Looking internally to gather data is only one aspect to a successful search. Understanding the behavioral tendencies of a CIO candidate is another aspect to carefully evaluate. There are several behavioral assessments available such as theDiSC or Gallup.  For instance, CIO candidates who present a high amount of drive and dominance could be very successful. However, asking a few questions about how they use influence in complex political situations could provide insights into their leadership styles. 

    Regardless of the behavioral assessment tool used for candidates (e.g. DiSC or Gallup), be sure it highlights characteristics such as influence, detail orientation, adversity to risk, and dominance/drive. One of the traits that an assessment tool should highlight is the degree of ease the person has with change. Change is an important factor in healthcare IT, and executives need to be comfortable with periodic changes to their strategic planning and dealings with multitasking. In addition, be sure to get a picture of the executive’s attention to detail. A highly detail-oriented executive may have difficulty making quick decisions and will require large amounts of data. In contrast, successfully working with complex EMRs and developing financial proposals for the board requires some degree of detail.  Make sure to evaluate the level of detail orientation through an assessment and by asking targeted interview questions.  

    Being a successful CIO in today’s healthcare environment requires a strong ability to influence teams toward goals and helping other groups understand the plans and vision. Determining the amount of influence the candidate possesses will be an important factor in his/her success. A healthy balance must exist between the amount of influence and drive/dominance the person exhibits. 

    Why is all this important? A personality with too much drive can alienate other executives and result in poor leadership results. Further, it can present a need to control others. By using behavioral assessments as a guide in the hiring process, hospitals will be more likely to find a CIO who will be successful, saving them from costly mishires.

  3. Reference check. A thorough 360-degree reference check cannot be understated. It’s crucial to get references from candidates’ subordinates, co-workers/colleagues and supervisors. Key questions CEOs and/or human resource executives should ask include: 
    1. What was the scope of [candidate’s] role in your organization?
    2. What are some of his/her key strengths?
    3. In which areas could [candidate] improve? 
    4. Can you provide any insight about why [candidate] is looking for another opportunity? (Or, can you provide any insight about why [candidate] left your department/organization?)
    5. Would you hire or work with [candidate] again?
    6. Do you have any other comments?  

By asking detailed questions during reference checks, you can ensure there are no underlying weaknesses that could affect the candidate’s success as CIO. It’s recommended that the reference check be concluded before the first on-site interview. During the interview, the CEO should ask additional questions about the reference check and clarify any questions with the candidate.


While these selection best practices increase the likelihood of a successful CIO hire, it should be noted that they take time to complete. Many organizations do not have dedicated resources to carry out these processes. In addition, the primary business of a hospital is providing quality care for patients, not managing a search for a CIO. Training recruitment staff to use these selection processes takes time. As a result, many organizations invest in the expertise of a retained executive recruitment firm to handle the entire selection process for this important leadership role.