Careers: IT Hiring Still Strong

Thirteen percent of CIOs expect to hire new IT workers in the coming quarter

Every quarter, information technology staffing firm Robert Half Technology checks the vitals of the IT job market, surveying enterprise CIOs—more than 1,400 of them—to get a feel for their hiring plans in the coming quarter.

Now, as in previous quarters, Robert Half researchers have good news for North American IT pros. More than 1 in 10 (13 percent) of CIOs expect to hire new IT workers in the coming quarter, while just 3 percent anticipate making reductions. Past Robert Half CIO surveys have been tempered by sobering caveats—for example, a net 9 percent of CIOs anticipated hiring new IT workers in Q2, which was down from the previous quarter. No so this time. This quarter’s net hiring outlook is at least unchanged from the previous quarter.

All told, Robert Half researchers flagged a number of salient trends that are helping to drive IT job growth. For one thing, Robert Half says, continuing business growth is leading the charge, which is a good thing as far as U.S. firms—and U.S. IT workers—are concerned. Second, help desk and end-user support professionals are most in demand. This is consistent with Robert Half’s findings over the past several quarters. Third, CIOs in the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) and Mountain states are most optimistic about hiring activity. On a per-vertical basis, the construction industry should see the strongest IT employment gains.

“Ongoing competition for IT professionals, particularly those with hard-to-find skill sets and specialized expertise, is prompting many companies to devote greater resources to recruitment and retention efforts,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

While most CIOs cited business growth as the primary impetus for new hiring, nearly one-fifth (19 percent) cited installation or development of new enterprise-wide applications. That’s up six points from Robert Half’s previous survey, and suggests that U.S. firms are moving forward with more resource- and personnel-intensive projects.

Overall, fully four-fifths of enterprise CIOs cited Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003 skills as those which are most in demand, followed closely by network administration (specifically with respect to Cisco, Nortel, and Novell technologies). Demand for RDBMS management skills was third.

Windows, network administration, and database management skills might be most in demand, but CIOs say another segment—that of help desk management or end-user support—as the most rapidly growing skill area. Networking was second, followed by application development.

For Q4, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of executives in the East South Central region—which includes at least two states (i.e., Alabama and Mississippi) that were hit a year ago by Hurricane Katrina—anticipate adding to their employment rolls, while just 1 percent forecast staff cutbacks. That’s 12 points above the national average, Robert Half researchers say.

“Many companies have been moving into the East South Central region to take advantage of the lower cost of doing business and are actively recruiting employees,” Lee observed. “Firms that have recently invested in hardware and software upgrades now require long-term support for their systems, which is creating demand for help desk professionals, network engineers, and network security staff.” Ditto for CIOs in the eight-state Mountain region, where 21 percent of IT execs expect to add jobs in Q4 and no state is forecasting reductions.

CIOs in the construction industry are most bullish about hiring in the coming quarter, with more than a third (34 percent) planning to add IT staff and none anticipating cutbacks. Similarly, CIOs in the professional services and business services sectors also anticipate adding employees at a higher than average clip, with IT execs in both industries projecting a net 14 percent hiring increase in Q4.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.