TestGorilla LogoTestGorilla Logo

How to hire a chief technology officer (CTO)


Not every company needs a chief technology officer (CTO). However, when you’re hiring one, it’s truly a make-or-break decision for your business. The CTO turns the CEO’s vision into reality. They’re fundamental for your organization’s success.

A CTO is one of the most costly hires for a company. And while it’s difficult to calculate the real cost of a bad hire for your business, one thing is certain: Streamlining your hiring process can help you avoid dealing with the consequences of hiring the wrong person. 

This can prove to be a particularly difficult task, especially if you’re a non-technical recruiter. Here at TestGorilla, we’ve compiled a short step-by-step guide that will help you find the best candidate for your organization. 

Below, you’ll find the essential hard and soft skills of a CTO and learn how you can test them objectively by implementing pre-employment skills testing into your hiring process. 

You’ll also find information about a CTO’s average salary, the best platforms to hire a top performer for your business, and what interview questions to ask.

What is a CTO?

A chief technology officer (CTO), also known as chief technical officer, will play a critical role in your company, especially if it’s a technology-driven business. But not only: While CTOs most often work for companies in the IT sector, they are valuable in every organization that relies heavily on technology for its success. 

We live in a digital world, meaning that the smart use of technology is an integral part of business success today. Healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and retail organizations can benefit from having a CTO to provide strategic guidance for the utilization of technology. 

Additionally, most startups need a CTO to implement cutting-edge tech solutions and become more competitive in the market. 

Why is the role of a CTO so important?

So what exactly does a CTO do for your company and why is their role so critical?

The chief technology officer acts as the leader of the IT department of your organization and has the final say about all technical operations. Your CTO needs to make sure that your employees are making the best use of your tech stack to reach your business objectives. 

This is a C-level position that liest at the intersection of technology and business. And not just that: CTOs need to have excellent technology, research, development, and management skills to lead your teams to success. 

You can see why this is one of the most influential job roles in your organization and why you need to find someone multi-talented and reliable. 

The CTO commonly reports only to the CEO (chief executive officer) and the CIO (chief information officer), so it’s important to find someone with integrity and who behaves ethically at all times.

What are the key responsibilities of a CTO?

Some of the key responsibilities of a CTO are to:

  • Develop and execute technology strategies to reach the company’s short-term and long-term objectives

  • Plan product architecture

  • Research the latest industry trends and technological advancements

  • Partner with product managers to design the product roadmap

  • Provide technical guidance and expertise

  • Manage the technology team

  • Assess and mitigate potential technology-related risks

  • Act as a bridge between technical and non-technical stakeholders

Another way to understand better the role of the CTO is by reading more about the four core CTO personas, as defined by Gartner. The four common CTO personas in end-user organizations are:

The four common CTO personas graphic
  1. The CTO as a digital business leader. They do a lot of research on the most cutting-edge technological trends and keep an eye on your competitors and how they use technology. They look at the best ways to leverage technology to reach business objectives.

  2. The CTO as a business enabler. They are in charge of the technology and make sure it’s used correctly and functions as intended. 

  3. The CTO as an IT innovator. This CTO figure guides the software development team and aims for innovation and modernization. 

  4. The CTO as COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the IT department. They are focused on the day-to-day running of IT and on-time delivery. This CTO is involved in IT purchasing and procurement decisions.

CTO hard skills

A CTO should have a variety of hard skills that ensure they can deal with their daily tasks and strategic responsibilities. Here are the essential ones:

Technical knowledge

Depending on the type of company you’re hiring for, technical knowledge can mean different things. 

Any CTO must be deeply familiar with new technological trends and tools in your industry. More importantly, however, a CTO should be able to incorporate, integrate, and anticipate technology developments. 

The type of technical knowledge that your CTO needs to have depends on the type of software that you use. For example, when you’re hiring a CTO for a tech company, you should look for a candidate who is familiar with:

  • The programming languages your team uses, such as JavaScript, Python, and SQL

  • Common frameworks, such as jQuery and React

  • How to use AI for product development

Research skills

A big portion of a CTO’s time is dedicated to research. CTOs typically focus their research on:

  • Industry trends

  • The technology landscape

  • Innovations

  • Competitive market analysis

  • Risk & security

  • Cost optimization

Business management skills

The CTO needs to possess a comprehensive understanding of business operations, market trends, and customer expectations. Without the necessary business management skills, they wouldn’t be able to align their technology decisions with your company’s goals. 

Make sure you’re looking for a CTO who:

  • Has a thorough understanding of business

  • Can plan and organize business operations

  • Knows how to do market analysis

STEM background

Usually, a CTO has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a STEM subject. 

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the subjects that provide a good background for a chief technology officer.

Strategic mindset 

A successful chief technology officer has a strong analytical mind, oriented toward building long-term strategies and solutions for every department that they work with. Cultivating a strategic mindset is crucial for a change leader. In practice, this means:

  • asking the right questions to uncover opportunities and challenges

  • analyzing different viewpoints 

  • mapping out long-term actionable plans for the future

CTO soft skills

As a C-level employee, a CTO has to deal with a lot of people daily. They’re also someone that the team looks up to, so it’s imperative to hire someone with good soft skills who can create a positive company culture.

Some of the most important soft skills of a CTO include:


A CTO should be able to motivate their team no matter the circumstances. Leading by example is the most inspiring way to lead. That’s why you need someone who realizes the importance of their position as a leader.

A good leader: 

  • Sets a clear direction

  • Guides others into doing the right thing

  • Creates an inspiring vision

  • Takes on responsibility for the team

  • Enables everyone to do their best work

  • Knows how to resolve conflict 

  • Is an excellent communicator

Time management

Every minute matters when money is on the table. Managing their time well helps CTOs and their teams: 

  • Increase productivity 

  • Not miss out on great opportunities 

  • Ensure that they can meet their deadlines 

  • Prioritize tasks

Critical thinking

A CTO should be capable of analyzing information critically and making sound decisions. Look for someone who has excellent critical-thinking skills, meaning that they’re good at: 

  • Observing situations

  • Evaluating information

  • Interpreting facts 

  • Rational decision making 

  • Problem-solving

Business ethics

Integrity and honesty are crucial qualities for any CTO out there. Anyone in such a high position should demonstrate impeccable business ethics and inspire the team to act with integrity and transparency. 

How to test CTO skills

Traditional resumes are becoming obsolete: They focus on experience over skills and are often inaccurate and ineffective. You need to hire based on your candidate’s current skills and aspirations, not on their last job’s title or their self-assessed skills.

This is why pre-employment skills testing has become one of the top screening methods for recruiters all over the world. They provide a way to:

  • Eliminate human bias

  • Base your hiring decisions on accurate data

  • Find out your candidates’ strengths and weaknesses

  • Reduce the time-to-hire

In short, pre-employment skills testing can transform your hiring process and help you hire faster and reduce turnover. 

Recommended tests for hiring a CTO

With TestGorilla, you can build a skills assessment of up to five tests relevant to the job role. 

Here are some of the tests you can use during the CTO hiring process:

  • Business operations management: Find a candidate who knows the fundamentals of managing the operations’ side of a business. 

  • Market analysis: This test will help you find a CTO who can provide insightful analyses for making strategic decisions. 

  • Cybersecurity: A CTO needs to know how to protect your company’s assets against cybersecurity threats, assess and reduce the risks of security breaches, and have an in-depth understanding of general cybersecurity principles. 

  • Software skills: Our software skills tests enable you to check whether your candidates are proficient in the software tools that your company uses. 

  • AWS: This test will enable you to identify candidates who are skilled in cloud computing and have a solid grasp of the most common AWS solutions – and who know how to build and evaluate your product’s architecture. 

  • Spatial reasoning: This test is relevant for companies that produce physical high-tech products. It evaluates applicants’ ability to analyze 2- and 3-dimensional objects in space. 

  • Business ethics and compliance: Find a person who has a strong ethical compass and acts with integrity and honesty in any situation.

  • Leadership and people management: This test enables you to identify strong leaders who know how to inspire and guide teams.

  • Time management: Your next CTO needs to know how to manage their own time efficiently, in order to manage your team’s schedule.

  • Critical thinking: Find people who are strong analytical thinkers, i.e. who can quickly assess information and make sound decisions.

  • Culture add: It’s important to find a CTO that’s aligned with your company’s mission and values. 

CTO interview questions 

Skills tests enable you to evaluate your applicants’ skills, but interviews are invaluable for gaining a more in-depth understanding of their expertise and suitability for the role. For C-level positions, a series of interviews is usually necessary to find the best person.

Here are some sample questions you can ask candidates during interviews: 

  1. How do you see your role as a CTO in our company? What would be your top priorities?

  2. How do you balance short-term technical needs with long-term strategic growth?

  3. How do you foster a culture of innovation in your team?

  4. How do you bridge the communication gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders?

  5. Describe a time you had to push back on an initiative because it wasn't technically feasible.

  6. How do you ensure that your tech stack remains scalable and efficient?

  7. Describe your approach to mentoring and developing tech talent.

  8. How would you approach cybersecurity in an organization of our size?

  9. Describe a situation where you had to convince leadership to invest in a particular technology. 

  10. How do you ensure that your technical decisions support the overall strategic goals of the business?

  11. What type of company culture do you thrive in?

  12. How do you ensure data privacy compliance in your tech operations?

If you need more ideas, check out our selection of interview questions for executive roles, leadership interview questions, and behavioral questions you can ask candidates

Where to find a CTO

Hiring a freelance CTO is usually not a good option. The role of a CTO is essential for your business’ success, so you need someone who’ll be fully dedicated to your organization and who can commit to working with you in the long term. 

Hiring an in-house CTO can be pretty costly but it is a good investment in your company’s future. 

The best places to hire a CTO are:

  • Wellfound: Wellfound, formerly AngelList Talent, is a place where tech startups, angel investors, and qualified job seekers meet. You can find aspiring CTOs on this platform. 

  • CoFoundersLab: This is a platform where like-minded entrepreneurs and professionals exchange experiences and connect for different collaboration opportunities. 

  • Indie Hackers: This is a website where founders of successful businesses and startups share their stories and strategies – and a great place to find someone with the right skills for a CTO.

  • LinkedIn: On LinkedIn, you can search for highly qualified professionals in your industry and recruit passive candidates.

  • Dice: Dice is a platform that gives you easy access to millions of tech professionals. 

How much does a CTO cost?

Salary.com reports that the average salary for a CTO in the US for 2023 is $296,290 per year. It typically falls somewhere in the range between $259,133 and $340,210 and depends on the person’s experience, skills, and qualifications, as well as on your industry and location. 

Sample CTO job description

Position: Chief technology officer (CTO) for a(n) [type of company and industry, f.e. finance startup, insurance company, software consulting firm, etc]

Location: [City, state]

[Your company name] is a(n) [brief description of the company, f.e. "pioneering startup providing groundbreaking Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions in the finance sector"]. 

Our mission is to [briefly describe the company's goal, f.e., "revolutionize personal banking through AI"].

As we continue our journey towards market leadership, we are seeking a visionary chief technology officer (CTO) to join our team and guide our technological decisions, foster a culture of innovation, and lead our highly motivated Dev team.

Key responsibilities

In this role, you'll be working with other C-level executives and our entire team to:

  • Shape and execute the company's tech strategy, ensuring technological advancements align with business goals

  • Oversee and mentor our IT and Dev teams, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, innovation, and agility

  • Ensure that our solutions remain cutting-edge, secure, and scalable

  • Work closely with product managers to develop and implement features that deliver value to our customers

  • Act as a bridge between the technical team and non-technical stakeholders, ensuring transparent and effective communication

  • Implement best practices in software development, quality assurance, and cloud-infrastructure management

  • Ensure compliance with data privacy regulations and ensure our data and assets are secure

  • Oversee the company's technology budget

Skills and qualifications

The successful candidate will have: 

  • A bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Engineering, or related field; a master's degree or MBA are a plus

  • Proven experience in a technological leadership role or equivalent, preferably in [your industry]

  • Exceptional leadership skills with a demonstrated ability to inspire and guide teams

  • Strong grasp of modern software development practices and cloud services

  • Visionary thinking with the ability to see big-picture trends and opportunities in [your industry]

  • Excellent communication skills and the capability to translate technical jargon into clear insights for non-technical stakeholders

  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

What we offer

With us, you'll get:

  • A chance to shape the technological direction of a rapidly growing [type of company, f.e. SaaS startup]

  • A competitive compensation and benefits package, including equity options

  • Opportunities for professional growth and development

  • A collaborative, transparent, and empowering company culture

How to apply 

[Describe your application procedure here]

Find the best CTO for your company with skills testing

A good CTO has a solid understanding of technology, business, and team management. It can be challenging to find a person with strong skills in all three fields – and it can be even more of a hassle to evaluate these skills. 

That’s why we recommend using pre-employment skills testing to identify the right CTO for your company. 

Get started with TestGorilla’s free plan today – and recruit your next CTO without bias or stress.


Hire the best candidates with TestGorilla

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

TestGorilla Logo

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Free resources

Anti-cheating checklist

This checklist covers key features you should look for when choosing a skills testing platform

Onboarding checklist

This resource will help you develop an onboarding checklist for new hires.

How to find candidates with strong attention to detail

How to assess your candidates' attention to detail.

How to get HR certified

Learn how to get human resources certified through HRCI or SHRM.

Improve quality of hire

Learn how you can improve the level of talent at your company.

Case study
Case study: How CapitalT reduces hiring bias

Learn how CapitalT reduced hiring bias with online skills assessments.

Resume screening guide

Learn how to make the resume process more efficient and more effective.

Recruiting metrics
Important recruitment metrics

Improve your hiring strategy with these 7 critical recruitment metrics.

Case study
Case study: How Sukhi reduces shortlisting time

Learn how Sukhi decreased time spent reviewing resumes by 83%!

12 pre-employment testing hacks

Hire more efficiently with these hacks that 99% of recruiters aren't using.

The benefits of diversity

Make a business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives with this data.