Careers: A Job-Seeker’s Market?

Some jobs -- particularly in network administration, security, and software development -- are always in demand and hard to fill.

The economy remains a big story for IT job seekers and HR departments alike.

It should surprise no one that the outlook for IT hiring is something of a mixed bag. IT chiefs are still hiring, to be sure -- but not at the pace that once characterized previously booming years.

What's encouraging, according to IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology, is the likelihood of a sharp uptick in IT hiring activity. CIOs expect to add IT personnel at the fastest clip in more than 12 months.

Robert Half's take: yes, companies are cautious. By the same token, they're likewise doubling down on IT to help cut costs and boost operational efficiencies.

Call it a win-win -- for both IT departments and IT job-seekers. "As companies maximize operational efficiencies and strive to make information more accessible, they rely on their IT departments," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. "CIOs are reinitiating previously deferred projects and are more willing to invest in augmenting their teams."

Almost 10 percent of IT chiefs expect to increase their IT hiring activity in the first quarter of 2011: 11 percent plan to add to their employment roles, three percent are planning cuts. That’s a net increase of eight percent; in Q4 of 2010 just three percent of shops planned to add new IT workers.

According to Robert Half, an overwhelming majority of IT chiefs -- 84 percent -- profess to be at least "somewhat confident" their companies will experience growth in Q1; more than one-third (35 percent) go so far as to say they're "very confident."

The firm also reported that more than half (54 percent) of IT chiefs expect to have difficulty finding or recruiting suitable employees to fill IT job openings.

When it comes to trend, the search for network administrators is most interesting.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, CIOs listed network administration as the skill area in which they expect to have the most trouble recruiting. In fact, nearly two out of three (65 percent) of IT chiefs listed network administration as their top in-demand skill area, up five percentage points from Q4. Finding employees with security and software development skills also worries CIOs; all three skill areas are recognized as "in demand" by Robert Half.

However, just because a functional skill is in demand doesn't mean it's hard to fill. The second most in-demand skill in the Robert Half tally was Windows administration (cited by more than three-fifths of survey respondents) followed by desktop support (59 percent). CIOs don't expect to have as much trouble recruiting in either of these two skill areas. (Database management was fourth in the list, cited by 54 percent of respondents.)

About the Author

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