Careers: IT Pros Testing the Waters

If the latest IT hiring projections from a prominent IT staffing specialist hold up, 2012 could get off to a bang. Make that a double-digit bang.

If the latest IT hiring projections from Robert Half Technology hold up, 2012 could get off to a double-digit bang. According to Robert Half's Q1 2012 CIO Survey, IT hiring is expected to post a net 10 percent increase in this quarter.

That's a four point improvement over the last three months of 2011 and one of the most encouraging IT hiring forecasts in recent history.

Every three months, Robert Half Technology, the IT staffing arm of Robert Half International, the prominent accounting and finance staffing firm, polls roughly 1,400 IT chiefs to get a feel for their hiring needs in the coming quarter.

Some survey periods are better -- or more encouraging -- than others. Although its projection of a net 6 percent increase in IT hiring for the last three months of 2011 was positive, Robert Half's first CIO survey of 2012 paints an even stronger employment picture for IT job-seekers. After years of licking their wounds, IT professionals are feeling increasingly adventurous, at least when it comes to testing the waters of IT hiring.

CIOs know an opportunity when they see one, and many are attempting to stockpile IT talent. The key word here is "attempting:" according to Robert Half, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of IT leaders say they're having trouble finding or recruiting skilled IT workers. That's up seven points from Q4 of last year.

"The employment market for IT professionals has become more active, with many professionals looking for new opportunities," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

IT hiring opportunities abound at a time when almost nine out of 10 CIOs (88 percent) say they're at least "somewhat confident" their companies will post growth in Q1. Nearly as many -- 83 percent -- expect that their companies will invest in new IT projects in the coming quarter.

Now as ever, certain skill types are more in demand than others.

For example, IT chiefs can't find enough network administration expertise: more than half (57 percent) cited a dearth of network admin skills as a major pain point. Networking itself is very much in demand: one out of five (20 percent) of IT heads cited networking as the skill area in which they're having the most difficulty recruiting; nearly as many (19 percent) cited IT security, while application development (15 percent), data and/or database management (11 percent), and help desk/technical support (10 percent) rounded out the top five.

Windows invariably pops up in every Robert Half Technology CIO Survey; Q1 of 2012 was no different: 56 percent of CIOs cited challenges finding or recruiting Windows administration skills. This was second only to network administration, and tied with desktop support, which -- given the dominance of Windows on the enterprise desktop -- is arguably a related field.

Of course, some IT chiefs are more bullish than others. CIOs at retailers, for example, expect to radically expand their IT staff in the coming quarter: Robert Half is projecting a net 17 percent hiring increase in this vertical. Other hot verticals include services -- with a net 16 percent increase in IT hiring -- and manufacturing, for which Robert Half projects an 11 percent net increase.

About the Author

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