Every modern company needs at least one technical expert. Companies in all industries require someone that helps them translate processes, services, and products into the digital space. In some cases, hiring a software engineer or a VP of engineering is more than enough. In other cases, when you need a leader and decision-maker that has a serious technical background in the IT field, you’ll likely need to hire a remote CTO.
While startups don’t have the same budget as big companies, hiring a remote CTO can help them reach their goals and scale their company. In this article, I’ll explore why you should hire a remote CTO for your startup and how to do it.
- What is a Virtual CTO?
- Why Hire a Remote CTO for Your Startup?
- How to Hire a Remote CTO for Your Startup: 5 Steps to Follow
- What Are the Responsibilities of a Remote CTO?
What is a Virtual CTO?
A chief technology officer (CTO) is the executive in charge of the roadmap to be followed by a company’s tech team. This means that they help businesses build new tech products, improve existing ones, and provide different tech solutions that help them reach a company’s goals. They oversee the engineering and technology department and determine, after making a detailed evaluation, the short and long-term needs of an organization.
CTOs mainly deal with future decisions. They are constantly making critical decisions regarding where a product or project is heading and what steps the company needs to take to reach its goals. Because of this, not everyone highly involved in IT can become a CTO. They need specific skills, and mostly, they need to have a long trajectory and experience working in the technology field.
Virtual CTOs have the same responsibilities as onsite CTOs with the obvious difference that they manage remote teams instead of working in onsite environments.
Two of the main aspects to look for when hiring a CTO for your remote project are education and professional experience. In a study by Agile8, the world’s best CTOs (from Apple, Facebook, Amazon, among other companies) spent 24 years shaping their careers before obtaining the role. On average, they worked in 4 companies and had a total of 8 positions.
Why Hire a Remote CTO for Your Startup?
Hiring a remote CTO is a decision you need to review with your team carefully. Firstly, because any C-level role means paying high salaries. You’re hiring, in this case, someone with the experience and expertise to take your processes and product (or service) to the next (digital) level.
But is it worth it? What if it’s a waste of money?
When you own a startup, every penny counts. And part of your strategy consists in multiplying your money, not losing it. Therefore, reviewing the roles you need and evaluating them makes a difference. And while hiring a remote CTO might make you think you’re losing money, remember that if you have the right reasons, you are not losing money but investing it.
When you can’t build or manage your product, a CTO can significantly make the difference. For example, if you need a core technology to make your product better than others in the market, hiring a CTO will help you reach that goal.
These are some of the reasons why you should consider a remote CTO for your startup business:
- Optimize the ROI in IT infrastructures and systems.
- Define the architecture of your future product.
- Advice on what are the best technologies to use in your business.
- Evaluate the development team’s performance.
- Develop a business plan estimating skill sets needed, costs involved, timeline and deliverables.
- Manage the product roadmap.
How to Hire a Remote CTO for Your Startup: 5 Steps to Follow
If you’ve been working with development teams for a while or have had the experience of hiring someone for a tech position, then you know how challenging it can be. In some cases, when companies lack the skills to hire for technical positions, the challenge is even greater.
As a remote placement agency, we specialize in finding and helping companies hire technical professionals from all over the world. And while there are many strategies we use to hire elite technical talent, these 5 tips will help you hire a remote CTO for your startup.
1. Understand Why You Need to Hire a Remote CTO
Before starting the recruitment process to hire a CTO, your first step should be figuring out if you need one. In other words, understand your business’s needs and see if they align with what a CTO offers. In some cases, you don’t need a CTO until you have a more developed product or project.
You must first understand why you’re hiring for a C-level role. A CTO is in charge of overseeing a budget and constantly reporting to your board of directors; therefore, you need to keep in mind that they need to be part of your long-term strategy.
If you want someone to review your resources and craft a strategy for the short term, perhaps the adequate role is a technical advisor. Or, if you need someone to be on top of your development team and control the processes, a VP of engineering can be the right fit. However, if you do need someone to help you scale your business and be in charge exclusively of managing your tech strategy, then hiring a CTO is the right choice to make.
Another aspect I always advise clients on, especially those who already have a team of software engineers, is to evaluate if there is someone in the team that could be a good fit for the CTO role. This can bring great value, and as they are already involved in the company, they understand the team’s dynamics and culture.
Do you have someone in your team who is a visionary, has the right qualifications, and is always on top of the changes in the tech industry? You could give them an opportunity instead of going through the hassle of hiring someone new. But, if this is not your case, follow the next steps.
2. Define the CTO Skills and Requirements
In line with the previous step, hiring a remote CTO is a great idea to visualize your plans. Having a vision of where you want to be in the following years will help you understand how the role of a CTO fits into this plan.
Before crafting the general skills, evaluate your company’s needs, those that “every” remote CTO needs to understand. Evaluate your project:
- What needs to be done to have a successful project – product?
- What skills does your new CTO need to have to fulfill those needs? (Keep in mind they will perform in a remote environment)
- What does your 3, 5, 10-year plan look like? What value can a CTO bring to it?
- What are the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals for this role?
These types of questions help you craft the ideal skill requirements for the position. Another key aspect to consider is that hiring a CTO means hiring someone with vast experience and knowledge in the tech field.
While certifications and degrees don’t always translate into experience, it’s valuable to look for someone who is constantly upgrading their knowledge. More than that, specifically for this role, look for someone with a proven track of helping other startups grow. This is the best indicator that they can do it for your startup if they have helped other companies in scaling processes and assessing their technology strategies.
Once you have evaluated the skills you need your CTO to have that align exclusively for your startup, these are other – more general – skills to keep into account:
- Project planning (Being skilled in Scrum, Agile, Kanban, and other project management techniques)
- Strategic knowledge (They need to be able to choose which technologies will be used in the products, the languages, and developing strategies)
- Technical knowledge (Database management, network security, data mining, mobile development, storage systems and management, programming languages, statistical analysis)
- Business administration expertise
- Conflict management
- Visionary (and the ability to execute their vision)
- Crisis management
- Strategic thinking
- Bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field
- MBA (Master of Business Administration)
- Training in IT governance, ethics, compliance, project management, risk management, intellectual property rights, or information security, among other things.
- Software and project management certifications
3. Evaluate Your Remote Hiring Practices
Hiring a remote CTO is not the same as hiring an onsite CTO. I’ll expand more into remote hiring in the last point, but for now, your next step is evaluating your current hiring practices and improving them to find and attract the right talent.
Hiring in every industry comes with its challenges. But the IT industry is one of the hardest as the talent shortage keeps increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that by 2026, the shortage of IT engineers in the US would exceed 1.2M. And currently, 75% of enterprises are struggling with talent shortage or skill gaps in IT roles.
So, you already have the challenge of dealing with a shortage of talent, but having a poor hiring process makes it even more difficult. Before interviewing and evaluating candidates for the CTO role, make sure you have a strong process. How can you do this?
- Ask new hires for feedback on the hiring process; they can help you improve certain steps and give you a more objective perspective.
- Use ATS and analyze the data. ATS (Applicant tracking system) is a great tool for all recruitment teams as it helps to evaluate candidates effectively and automatize certain procedures. Besides that, you can analyze and look for patterns and characteristics. You can analyze turnover rates, length of time to fill a position, volume of job applications, cost per hire, and quality of hire, among other things.
- If you don’t have a skilled HR recruitment team that knows how to evaluate IT talent, it’s time to get the help of experts. Consider getting the help of recruitment agencies that specialize in IT talent. This way, you’ll avoid wasting money and time with bad hires or with lengthy hiring processes.
4. Build an Effective Evaluation Process
Improving your hiring process will help you attract and find suitable remote candidates faster. But one thing is finding candidates, and a different thing is conducting and evaluating the hiring process.
Keep in mind that your CTO will be on top of the tech department and make critical decisions that will directly impact your company. You can’t hire anyone that says they have the experience and skills. You need to go through a series of interviews to evaluate the educational background, personality traits, leadership skills, and overall, the knowledge and experience they have helping companies grow.
An effective evaluation process for these roles implicates creating a mapping of the skills you need to test and how you will test them. The worst mistake you can make here is to do 1 or 2 interviews where you ask a few theoretical questions (which they could perfectly memorize the answers to before the interview) and decide upon those answers.
I always advise executives and hiring managers that they think of questions that demand “out-of-the-box” thinking when looking for an IT role in the management categories. Everyone knows how to answer the typical “What is your biggest weakness,” “Why should we hire you” questions. But if you know the skills and requirements you need, create the types of questions, tests, and overall interviews that will help you identify the right candidate.
Here’s a list of methods to test different skills:
5. Why Hire a Remote CTO Instead of a Local CTO
While having an onsite CTO allows you to have a better sense of control over how they manage their tasks, looking remote will expand your talent pool. Also consider that post-COVID, offering flexibility in the workplace is one of the key strategies to attract skilled workers professionals.
An IWG study found that 64% of recruiters said pitching a work-from-home policy helps them find high-quality talent. And a different study by Growmotely revealed that 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time.
All the statistics about remote work and how it highly impacts retention and productivity levels prove that most employees are more likely to take a job that offers these possibilities.
Now, there’s only one question left: where to hire a remote CTO for your business? Here are two alternatives, that depending on your working structure and resources, will help you find and hire the talent you need:
1. Hire a Freelance CTO Pros and Cons
Hiring freelancers in every type of industry has become the norm these days. In cases where a company needs specialized skills for different tasks that don’t require much involvement in the company or processes, it makes sense to hire a freelancer.
However, a CTO, as I mentioned above, is someone that needs to be on top of processes all the time; it’s part of their job. They need access to delicate information, as they will also be constantly making critical choices that don’t impact only the short-term but also the long-term. Therefore, I don’t recommend at all hiring a freelance CTO.
If you need a technical advisor, then a freelance position for this type of role is perfect. But a CTO should be involved in the company, understand its culture, its processes, among other things.
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of hiring a freelance CTO:
Where to look for a freelance CTO:
2. Hire a Full-time Remote CTO Pros and Cons
Hiring full-time remote software engineers is the best way to build IT teams for different reasons. Putting aside the fact that remote workers are more productive, hiring offshore developers and technical professionals allows you to have qualified experts at an affordable price.
Considering that this role requires a professional that is deeply involved in the company and takes full management of the tech department, hiring a full-time remote CTO is your best bet.
You can have someone who works exclusively for you, understand your team’s dynamics, how your company works, processes, culture, etc. This will help them make better decisions and understand your company’s needs more in-depth.
These are the main advantages and disadvantages of hiring a full-time remote CTO:
Where to look for full-time remote CTOs:
- Social media platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook groups, Twitter, Reddit.
- Job boards: FlexJobs, Remote.co,
- Remote recruitment agencies: DistantJob
What Are the Responsibilities of a Remote CTO?
These, on a general level, are some of the responsibilities of a remote CTO:
- Advise companies regarding existing resources and technical infrastructure
- Develop strategies to use and identify suitable technologies for processes and products
- Identify flaws in a businesses’ operations and improve them with the latest technologies
- Build quality assurance and data protection processes
- Help companies use technology profitability
- Track development team performance and mentor them
- Monitor and integrate the latest tech trends
- Take charge of the engineer hunting and team growth process
- Create a growth roadmap
From crafting a compelling job description to building an effective evaluation and hiring process, there are many ways that you can hire a Remote CTO. If you have a team of tech professionals by your side, evaluating the role of your next CTO can be a success. However, if you need a person to fill this role, but neither you nor anyone on the team has the technical knowledge, it’s time for you to bring up the big guns: Us.
At DistantJob, we’ve been helping companies hire remote technical talent for almost 10 years! We can help you find, hire and retain the best remote CTO. 60% than the industry average.