CIOs Predict Steady Short-Term IT Hiring

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Chief information officers (CIOs) that contributed to the most recent quarterly IT Hiring Index and Skills Report published by research firm Robert Half Technology (RHT) seemed to indicate that happy days are here again, if not quite at the levels of the tech boom of the late ’90s. Of the approximately 1,400 CIOs polled in RHT’s stratified random sample, 12 percent projected they would be adding IT staff, while only 3 percent said they would be cutting back.


“It’s no secret that the economy is getting better, and the job market is getting better,” said RHT Division Director Jeff Markham. “The economy goes in cycles and we’re in an upturn. I think those numbers reflect that, albeit it’s a much more reserved and cautious growth than it was back in the late ’90s up to 2000. It’s still an uptick and, hopefully, more sustainable because it is slower.”


The largest percentage of respondents (84 percent) said they anticipated no change in IT personnel levels. However, Markham said that due to the nature of the study, this statistic was slightly misleading. “The survey is centered around adding full-time staff,” he explained. “What the 84 percent (figure) doesn’t address is how many projects are going on that they don’t count as head-count growth because they’re using contractors. If 84 percent of businesses weren’t going to do projects or take on initiatives that need contract or special project workers, then this economy would probably be at a standstill.”


“What we find when we dig deeper with the specific companies that are asked those questions—in my office, we talk to 300 to 400 different companies per week—our contracts and special projects business is through the roof right now,” he added. “We just can’t find enough people. For the first time in three years, we actually have a candidate shortage in a lot of areas.”


The report also examined various trends in the IT industry. According to its findings, CIOs in the Mountain and mid-Southeast regions are the most optimistic about adding IT staff. Lower cost of living (and thus lower salaries) and good degree of quality of life (environment, crime rate, traffic, etc.) may be factors behind increases in these areas, Markham said.


Among the hottest specialties in the study were networking (particularly as it relates to security solutions) and business intelligence in Internet development (the ability to analyze Web data, click-through rates and other statistics, and deliver that to the right people to generate revenue.) Unexpectedly, the most in-demand skill was Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration, reported as such by 83 percent of participating CIOs.


“As companies laid off people during the downturn, there was this compression of IT duties,” Markham said of the demand for Windows admins. “Windows network administration was something that was easily compressible, because normally a director of IT can do it as part of his or her job. Now that the economy is getting better and companies are getting more confident in their business and profit growth, they’re starting to decompress those duties. That’s bringing out hiring for network administration. Jobs are getting a little more specialized and that’s creating that Windows administration position again.”


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