How to Hire a CTO [The Fullest Guide]

Updated 02 Jun 2023

14 Min




Chief Technology Officer or CTO helps startups and established companies to build a new product from scratch or improve existing tech solutions, meet deadlines, follow the budget, and manage the development team.

To fulfill these goals, CTO should have in-depth tech expertise, strong communication and management skills along with the ability to work under pressure.

How to hire a CTO for your tech startup? There are several options — an in-house CTO, a freelancer, and an outsourcing company. However, you also need to know when to hire CTO.

Quick Overview: CTO and Their Duties

Hiring a startup CTO, you need to understand what they’re responsible for. CTO’s duties depend on the company’s goals and requirements. It’s common to distinguish four types of CTO personas. Let's consider them more precisely.

4 types of CTO personas

Types of CTO personas

A digital business leader

A successful digital business leader stays constantly updated on the latest technological trends and closely monitors competitors to understand how they leverage new technology. This knowledge is then applied to identify opportunities for your startup's growth and success.

The business enabler

If you choose a CTO for hire s a business enabler, this person will play a pivotal role in assessing risks, ensuring optimal performance of technology systems, and aligning them with the organization's strategic objectives. The CTO also takes charge of leading and managing the software development team, fostering effective collaboration that drives goal achievement.

The IT innovator

An IT innovator promotes a culture of modernization and innovation within the software development team. They guide the team in adopting Agile methodologies, facilitating continuous improvement, and utilizing cutting-edge technologies to bring innovation and stay on a competitive edge.

The COO of the IT department

The Chief Operating Officer of the IT department focuses on crucial aspects such as on-time delivery, efficient IT purchases, vendor management, and ensuring alignment and collaboration among internal and external stakeholders. By streamlining processes and fostering effective communication, the COO ensures that all resources are directed towards a common goal, optimizing the department's overall performance and boosting the productivity.

When to Hire a CTO?

There are various factors that influence whether or not it’s time for your company to hire a CTO. The most widespread option is hiring a Chief Technology Officer if you need a high-level technical specialist to manage the software development process.

When should a company hire a CTO?

  • You don’t have tech expertise. To be on the same page with the development team, you need to have technical knowledge. In other cases, you’ll face difficulties during the product development.
  • You want to go through digital transformation. If you have a large business where outdated technology or practices affect productivity, it’s high time to update. However, a large-scale technology update can be a struggle. A CTO specialist can make this transition more comfortable and keep your company up-to-date. You need to follow the latest trends to offer end-users the best experience, be it your team members or customers. So, CTO expertise is required here.
  • You need a leader for your development team. CTO can help you manage and mentor your development team. Having experience in software development, CTO can share the experience with other specialists. Also, a CTO specialist can guide your business in the technology field.
  • You need to push your company forward. You already have a working product and get a stable revenue, but you want to move on and boost your business. CTO can help you go through tech transformation smoothly, without losing money. If the business boost implies more users, CTO can help adjust the product's architecture to take that load. If it's about redesigning an old app, CTO can help your team make the transition as smooth for users as possible (no log out, data losses, other issues).

We’ve already touched upon CTO’s roles and responsibilities. In this guide, you can also find hard and soft skills each CTO should have.

8 Steps to Hiring a CTO to Make Informed Decisions

When choosing a perfect candidate for the CTO role, it is essential to navigate the process strategically and make informed decisions. Let’s consider the steps that may help complete the process of hiring CTO smoothly:

Step 1. Outline your business objectives and requirements

In order to hire the right Chief Technology Officer for your company, it is crucial to primarily single out your business goals and needs. Evaluate why you require a CTO and how their expertise can contribute to the growth and success of your organization. Understanding when to hire a CTO, your specific demands and requirements will help you outline the key responsibilities and expectations for the CTO position, as well as find the appropriate person who reflects the environment and workflow of your company. For instance, you need a CTO for the following goals:

  • Digital transformation
  • Bringing tech innovation
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Tech leadership and team management
  • Strategic partnership and provider organizing

Step 2. Identify clear CTO requirements and prepare a precise job description

Once you have a clear view of the goals you need a CTO for, it's time to identify the specific requirements for this role within your business. Consider the technical skills, industry knowledge, leadership experience, and strategic vision that are essential for the position. Draw up a comprehensive job description that accurately discloses the responsibilities, goals, and expectations you have for the CTO. This will serve as a foundation for attracting qualified candidates who align with your unique business needs and aims.

Step 3. Start searching for CTO candidates

To find potential CTO candidates, you should explore a variety of channels and platforms. LinkedIn can be an excellent resource for identifying professionals with relevant experience and expertise. We’ll also overview more resources in this article later. Additionally, industry-specific job boards, executive search firms, and professional networks can help you discover candidates who have proven expertise in your industry. Create a shortlist of the top 5 candidates who, in your opinion, demonstrate the necessary skills, cultural fit, great soft skills, and leadership qualities for the position.

Step 4. Conduct the first screen

The first screen is an initial evaluation process designed to assess the suitability of each candidate. This step typically involves interviews via a remote meeting where you can check their qualifications, accomplishments, and overall fit with your organization. During these negotiations, explore their past experiences, management style, problem-solving approach, and their ability to align with your business goals and vision. This initial screen will help you filter the candidate pool for further consideration.

Step 5. Perform a technical assessment

Since the CTO position requires strong technical acumen, it is important to assess the candidates' technical skills and expertise. This can involve various methods, such as coding exercises, technical discussions, or reviewing past projects. By evaluating their ability to handle the specific technological challenges your company faces, you can gain insight into the candidates’ abilities to handle tech challenges, architectural design skills, and proficiency in relevant programming languages and frameworks. But, this step can be challenging if you don't have a technical background. In this case, you can hire a consultant to assist you in evaluating a CTO, or you can reach out to previous employers to collect feedback.

Step 6. Evaluate cultural fit

Cultural fit is a vital aspect to consider when hiring a CTO. Assessing their alignment with your company's values, work culture, and leadership style is crucial for long-term success. Evaluate such details as communication skills, teamwork abilities, and adaptability to your company's environment, as we’ve discussed earlier. A CTO who can effectively collaborate with other teams, inspire others, and introduce a positive work culture can significantly contribute to the overall prosperity of your organization.

Step 7. Review references

Before making a final decision, it is essential to conduct reference checks to validate the candidate's professional background, work ethic, as well as the entire performance. Reach out to references provided by the candidates, such as former colleagues, partners, or clients. You should communicate with them concerning the potential employee to get a clear look at their work, productivity, efficiency, and impact on previous organizations.

Step 8. Prepare and sign the partnership contract

After choosing the ideal candidate, you should agree to the terms and conditions of the employment contract. Ensure that the agreement incorporates the CTO's responsibilities, reporting structure, compensation package, and any other relevant details. It is critical to establish a transparent understanding of expectations and align both parties before finalizing the document.

Hire a qualified CTO

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How to Hire a CTO If You Don’t Have Technical Background: Tips to Follow

Hiring a CTO for your startup can be a struggle if you don’t have technical expertise. Below, I’ve listed several tips that can help you choose the right candidate.

  • Consider the work experience. Previous experience will let you understand how successful the CTO has been at last positions. Get in touch with previous employers to get some feedback.
  • Look through candidates’ social media. Hiring a CTO, you need to study their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. It’s common to use these social networks to get working contacts. CTOs should have an extensive communication network to cooperate with other developers and managers.
  • Check communication skills. Let's face it — CTO communicates a lot with developers, c-level managers, clients, and others. Communication skills are crucial. CTOs explain tasks, goals, and set deadlines. Good communication skills improve team effectiveness.

Of course, if you want the CTO to control the development process and review the product’s quality, you need to check candidates’ technical skills and knowledge. The best way to check the tech knowledge is to analyze the code. However, if you don’t have the required expertise, you can hire a CTO from an outsourcing company or a tech consultant. In this case, you won’t need to worry about the technical part. An outsourcing company takes care of the CTO’s qualification.

Where Is the Best Place to Hire a CTO: Hiring Options

So, you’ve decided to hire a CTO and want to cooperate with a skilled and talented specialist for a reasonable amount of money. Let’s discuss your options.

The modern IT market offers you three most widespread options to hire a CTO — cooperate with a freelancer, hire an in-house specialist, or find a reliable specialist from an outsourcing company.

Where to hire a CTO

CTO hiring options

Freelance CTO for hire

Freelance type of work is quite popular these days. However, it’s not the best option for a CTO specialist. CTO requires long-term cooperation, but freelancers can break up the project without finishing it.

Also, unless you’re a tech guru, it's quite complicated to check the candidates’ knowledge and skills.


  • There are a lot of freelancers, so you can find an appropriate specialist.
  • Freelancers have lower rates in comparison to other options to hire a CTO.
  • You don’t pay for freelancers’ sick days, vacations, and taxes.


  • Freelancers aren’t perfect for long-term cooperation.
  • Nobody can guarantee that a freelance CTO finishes the project.
  • Communication difficulties are possible because of a time zone difference and a language barrier.
  • No opportunity to check whether your CTO is only involved in your project.

Where to look for:

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer

Hire a CTO in-house

Hiring an in-house CTO can be a good option if you’ve already released the product to the market and it brings you some revenue or investment opportunities.

Having a CTO in-house, you can communicate and discuss all the issues without delays. However, this hiring option tends to be time-consuming and pretty expensive.


  • In-house CTO is completely involved in the project and interested in the final result.
  • CTO can help you close complicated deals.


  • A lot of additional expenses like purchasing hardware and software, paying taxes and office rent.
  • Hiring an experienced CTO is usually time-consuming.
  • In-house CTO gets a bigger salary than freelancers or specialists from outsourcing companies.

Where to look for:

  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice

Hire a CTO from an outsourcing company

Outsourcing is quite popular due to affordable prices and access to a big talent pool. Eastern Europe is becoming increasingly popular as a result of many tech talents, low taxation, and government backing for the IT sector. It displays the ideal balance of low cost and constant high quality of the IT services provided.

IT outsourcing gives you access to a large pool of technical experts with both expertise and experience. The hiring process may be completed in a matter of days rather than months. So, hiring a certified CTO won't be too time-consuming process.

Cooperating with an outsourcing company, you can reduce the time required for interviewing candidates and end up paying less.

Why outsource development to Eastern Europe? Discover seven primary reasons.


  • You can hire a CTO specialist with deep expertise in the required technologies.
  • CTOs from outsourcing companies have different business experiences.


  • You may face security difficulties. To avoid them, you should sign an NDA.
  • If you’re located in different time zones, you’ll need to set a schedule for calls.

Where to look for:

  • Clutch
  • GoodFirms
  • IT Firms

As you can see, there are enough hiring options for a CTO. To get a high dedication level and required experience, it’s better to hire an in-house CTO or cooperate with a specialist from an outsourcing company. Freelance isn’t the best option since you need long-term cooperation.

CTO for Hire: Average Cost

The cost of hiring a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) can vary depending on several factors. Namely, they are as follows:

  • Location
  • Company scale
  • Business domain
  • Previous experience
  • Qualification level

On average, the hourly rate for a CTO can range from $150 to $300 or more, depending on the factors mentioned above. However, it is essential to note that these figures are estimates and can vary widely based on the individual candidate and specific circumstances.

To provide a general understanding of the salary range for CTOs in different countries, we conducted an analysis of annual CTO salaries sourced from platforms such as UpWork, Clutch, and Glassdoor. Here is a compiled table showcasing the approximate annual CTO salaries across various regions:

Average CTO payrolls by regions

RegionAverage salary (annual)





Western Europe

$127, 081

Central and North Europe






CTO as A Service from Cleveroad

Cleveroad is an outsourcing company that offers full-cycle software development (since 2011) across the most demanding market domains, such as Logistics, Healthcare, FinTech, Media, Retail, Education, etc. Our company provides a wide range of IT services that meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. Feel free to get your benefits from our CTO as a Service opportunity:

  • Proficiency in the tech field from versatile CTO experts with specialization in your business domain to address the precise challenges of your industry
  • The business-oriented look at a project from both a software development and client perspective, definition of values and potential drawbacks of the product
  • Organizing the software development flow appropriately to boost productivity and efficiency
  • Seamless adoption of the new role into your internal processes, fitting into your budget
  • Tech roadmap that comprehends your business goals and needs, considering the obstacles and risks you experience to maximize cost-efficiency, flexibility, and scalability while also meeting the dynamic customer requirements

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What does a CTO do?

A Chief Technology Officer is responsible for overseeing an organization's technology strategy and ensuring that it aligns with business goals. Their primary duties comprise the following:

  • Setting the technology vision and roadmap
  • Evaluating and implementing new technologies
  • Managing the technology budget and resources
  • Leading the software development team and ensuring efficient project delivery
  • Assessing and mitigating technology-related risks
  • Collaborating with other executives to drive innovation and digital transformation
  • Keeping up with technological trends and industry best practices
Frequently Asked Questions
How to hire a CTO?

Hiring a CTO for your startup can be a struggle if you don’t have technical expertise. Below, I’ve listed several tips that can help you choose the right candidate.

  • Consider the work experience.
  • Look through candidates’ social media.
  • Check communication skills.

Still, hiring this specialist can be challenging and time-consuming. To save time and money, you can cooperate with a reliable outsourcing company like Cleveroad. We offer an IT consultation with our senior specialists. Also, you can hire a CTO from us to fulfill your tasks without distracting your team. By the way, the average hourly rate of a CTO in Eastern Europe is $50. The average salary of the CTO in the USA reaches $120,000 per year. If you need to recruit an experienced CTO in short terms, outsourcing is the perfect option for saving time and money.

When should I hire a CTO for my startup?

Hiring a CTO for a startup depends on various factors, including the stage of your business, the complexity of your technology needs, and your growth plans. Generally, it is advisable to consider hiring a CTO when:

  • Technology requirements become critical for business operations and expansion
  • The demand for an appropriately-compiled pipeline within digitalization
  • The need of a leading and managing role in your software development team
  • Challenges in scaling your technology infrastructure or integrating new solutions
  • Expertise in assessing and implementing new technologies and domain-specific trends
When should a company hire a CTO?
  • You don’t have tech expertise.
  • You want to go through digital transformation.
  • You need a leader for your development team.
  • You need to push your company forward.
Where is the best place to hire a CTO?

The modern IT market offers you three most widespread options to hire a CTO — cooperate with a freelancer, hire an in-house specialist, or find a reliable specialist from an outsourcing company.

The relevant resources to hire a CTO can vary depending on your specific needs, chosen hiring option, and location. Here are some popular platforms where you can find qualified CTO candidates:

  • Clutch
  • GoodFirms
  • IT Firms
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice
  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer
When is the right time for a startup to hire a CTO?

There are various factors that influence whether or not it’s time for your company to hire a CTO. The most widespread option is hiring a Chief Technology Officer if you need a high-level technical specialist to manage the development process.

What are the benefits of hiring a CTO?

Chief Technology Officer or CTO helps startups and established companies to build a new product from scratch or improve existing tech solutions, meet deadlines, follow the budget, and manage the development team.

How can a non-technical founder evaluate the tech skills of potential CTO candidates?

You can enlist the support of your technical team or hire external tech consultants (from an outsourcing IT company) to evaluate a CTO experience and knowledge in relevant technologies and problem-solving abilities. You can also seek recommendations from your network or industry contacts.

What are the potential risks and challenges associated with hiring a CTO?

Here are some common challenges associated with hiring a CTO:

  • Find a competent CTO with experience required for your company
  • Budget considerations
  • Poor cultural fit
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Communication issues

To handle these risks, it’s better to contact an experienced software development company that renders CTO as a Service.

How can a startup ensure a successful onboarding process for a newly hired CTO?

To facilitate a smooth onboarding process for a new CTO, you must clearly convey the expectations and goals for the CTO's role. Communicate short-term and long-term business objectives, and outline key priorities for the first few months.

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About author

Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics

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