Careers: A Job-Seeker’s Market

It’s the fourth straight quarter of sustained optimism on the hiring front. Thank corporate growth and the increasing use of enterprise wireless devices.

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. Fourteen percent of CIOs expect to hire new IT workers in the coming quarter, while just 2 percent anticipate making reductions. The result: a 12 percent net increase in hiring activity—good news, to be sure.

Robert Half CIO surveys are often tempered by sobering caveats. For example, a net 9 percent of CIOs anticipated hiring new IT workers in Q2 of 2006, which was down from the previous quarter. Not so this time—or this year, for that matter. Robert Half predicted a net 15 percent increase in CIO hiring activity for Q3, a 12 percent increase over Q2, and a whopping 16 percent increase for the first quarter of this year.

Robert Half researchers flagged a number of salient trends that are helping drive IT job growth. For one, continuing corporate growth is leading the charge, with almost half (45 percent) of North American CIOs citing such growth as an important driver.

Networking is the hottest overall job segment—although Windows Server administration remains the hottest overall skill area. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of CIOs cited Windows Server skill shortages, while 70 percent cited network administration (with Cisco and Nortel skill areas in particular) skill shortcomings. Database management (chiefly, Oracle, SQL Server, and DB2) was the third most in-demand skill requirement, according to Robert Half.

Why is networking the most in-demand overall hiring segment? Chalk it up to the rising tide of enterprise wireless.

“Growing use of wireless devices such as smart phones, cell phones, and laptops has heightened the need for professionals who can make these tools function effectively and securely within a company’s network,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.

Robert Half’s traditional overall leader—i.e., help desk/end-user support—was the number two overall hiring segment, followed by applications development at 14 percent. Where are companies hiring? Robert Half cited especially strong demand in the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) and Mountain states, while the construction industry is expected to realize the strongest IT employment gains.

One upshot of such strong, consistent growth is that employers are once again competing for top talent. This is a decidedly good thing, from a job-seeker’s point of view. “As competition for candidates intensifies in many specialties, organizations are starting to accelerate the hiring process, increase salaries, and offer work-life balance benefits such as telecommuting opportunities and flexible work schedules to attract and retain top talent,” Lee said.

About the Author

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