Careers: It's a Cruel Summer for IT Job Seekers

U.S. firms are in a holding pattern, at least when it comes to IT hiring -- a departure from the first three months of the year.

To describe the economic outlook as "uncertain" is, if anything, to understate the case. To describe the hiring outlook for IT workers as "formidable" is, on the other hand, to hit the nail on the head.

According to IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology Inc., for example, U.S. firms are basically in a holding pattern, at least with respect to IT hiring. That's a distinct departure from the first three months of the year.

For the upcoming quarter, Robert Half projects a net 1 percent increase in IT hiring.

Half bases this projection on its quarterly survey of North American CIOs. Every three months, it surveys more than 1,400 IT chiefs about their hiring plans for the upcoming quarter. For Q3 of 2012, Robert Half found, 5 percent of CIOs anticipate hiring new IT workers while 4 percent anticipate reducing IT staff. That makes for a negligible 1 percent uptick in hiring.

All isn't lost, however, according to Robert Half researchers.

"Although most organizations are keeping staff levels constant, our research suggests larger companies may hire more actively in the third quarter," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Firms with 1,000 or more employees plan a net 10 percent increase in hiring next quarter, up from a net 5 percent increase projected for this quarter."

What's more, IT chiefs are surprisingly confident about Q3 business growth: more than three-quarters (76 percent) described themselves as "somewhat or very optimistic about their companies' growth prospects in the next three months." An even larger group -- 82 percent -- expressed confidence that their firms will invest in IT projects during the third quarter.

Now as ever, certain IT skills are more in demand than others. IT chiefs told Robert Half that they're having trouble recruiting IT pros in a trio of functional domains: networking (cited by almost one in five), data or database management (cited by just under one in six), and help desk/technical support (also cited by slightly less than one in six).

As for specific in-demand IT skills, database management skills lead the pack. They were cited by more than half (55 percent) of IT leaders. Network administration was the second most in-demand skill area. It was cited by just under half (48 percent) of CIOs. Web development/design came in third, cited by fully one-third of IT decision-makers.

Regionally, IT hiring will likely be strongest in the Pacific states (Alaska, California, Hiwaii, Oregon, and Washington), where a net seven percent of CIOs expect to exand their IT rolls.

About the Author

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