CIOs Cautious About Third Quarter IT Hiring Outlook

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IT jobs might be a little bit harder to come by in the third quarter of 2004, but not for the reasons you might think. According to the latest Robert Half Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report, a net five percent of CIOs and other hiring executives interviewed plan to increase hiring. That’s a slight drop of 4 percent from last quarter’s forecast when results hit their highest level in almost two years. The majority of executives polled, 88 percent, plan to maintain existing staff levels.

“When you look at the main driving factor, the people that we pooled, and our personal experiences mirror this, business expansion is the leading driving factor for IT hiring,” said Melissa Maffettone, branch manager for Robert Half Technology in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Fifty-one percent of the executives that we interviewed cited business expansion as the leading factor. That number is marking the third consecutive quarter of growth for that category. Companies that are the most optimistic about their IT hiring plans are technology executives in larger companies. Looking at the net 5 percent increase, full-time hiring activity is there, but companies want to see strong evidence of a sustained economy before they start adding significantly to their staff.”


Instead of hiring full-time staff, companies have addressed their increased workloads by engaging project professionals. “During the recession, companies have managed to do more with less, but they’re going to need to start bringing on full-time staff,” said Maffettone. “When you look at the last quarter numbers, it’s not surprising that there was a slight decrease across the board. When we saw the increase last quarter, it was a reaction to the improving economy. Now we need to look at the growth continuing, the productivity levels subsiding, and then obviously there will be that increase for full-time staff.”


Maffettone said that during the recession hiring managers were extending the hiring process to ensure that they were making a successful hire. Unfortunately, those highly skilled candidates who were kept waiting began to get multiple job offers. To avoid losing the top talent, hiring managers will need to expedite the employment process. “Every manager during the recession learned valuable lessons. Those who experienced layoffs were slightly gun-shy in making decisions, but among IT executives, there is definitely an increased optimism, but they’re looking for that sustainable economic growth. Because of the lessons they learned, they’re going about (hiring) more strategically now, hence the project professionals to fill in the increased workload and then the full-time hiring follows.”


Research indicates that the strongest area of employment growth is the West North Central and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country. Maffettone said that the .NET development platform is a big initiative for a lot of companies, and the skill sets most in demand are Microsoft Windows and Visual Basic development. There is also a high demand for security professionals and desktop support skills under the Windows administration.


“We’re starting to see industrywide replacement of antiquated desktop systems and software,” said Maffettone. “We saw a big boom during the dot-com era, and obviously years have passed. The cost in maintenance of supporting these older systems, it makes sense for most companies to purchase new systems, so we’re seeing a lot of upgrades. Windows is the hottest skill set for a few reasons, like spam. Companies are cracking down because spam is impacting productivity and system performances. People who have that Windows administrative experience, viruses, help desk and desktop support are the most in demand.”


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