More Hiring on the Way

By Allen Bernard

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CIOs remain optimistic about IT hiring in the second quarter, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report.

Twelve percent of executives polled plan to add full-time IT staff in the next three months while just three percent anticipate personnel cutbacks. The net nine percent increase matches forecasts in the previous and year-ago quarters.

Key Findings

  • For the sixth consecutive quarter, business growth was cited as the leading motivation for adding IT staff.
  • Technology executives in the Mountain and East South Central regions are most optimistic about hiring activity.
  • Networking is the hottest specialty.
  • Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration skills are in strongest demand.
  • "Firms are hiring again, but only after clearly defining their requirements and making sure there is a sustainable need for more full-time IT professionals, said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.

    "As the economy improves, the job market is slowly shifting in the candidate's favor. Businesses that may have found it easy to recruit IT staff a year or two ago are discovering there is now greater competition for the most-qualified applicants."

    Among CIOs who plan to hire in the second quarter, 35% said corporate growth or expansion is the primary reason. Twenty percent cited increased customer and/or end-user support needs, and 19% said hiring activity was being fueled by the installation or development of new enterprise-wide applications.

    In Demand Skills

    When asked which technical skill sets were needed most within their IT departments, 83% of CIOs reported demand for Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration expertise. Wireless network management was cited by 51% of respondents, followed closely by SQL Server management at 49%. (CIOs surveyed were allowed multiple responses.)

    When technology executives were asked which specialties were most in demand in their departments, 20% said networking. Internet/intranet development was ranked second with 14% of the response, and help desk/end-user support and applications development each received 13% of the response.

    Regional Outlook

    The Mountain states are expected to lead the nation in IT hiring activity during the second quarter. Twenty-five percent of CIOs expect to add employees and just three percent projected personnel cutbacks. The net 22% increase is up 14 points from last quarter and is 13 points above the national average.

    "Companies in the region are beginning to upgrade outdated systems and implement projects that were previously put on hold," Lee said. "Many are striving to improve the efficiency of data access and flow, which is creating very strong demand for applications developers familiar with Microsoft .NET and Java."

    CIOs in the East South Central states also forecast notable employment gains in the second quarter. Twenty-one percent of technology executives in this region plan to expand their IT departments and only one percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 20% hiring increase is up 14 points from the previous quarter.

    Industries Hiring

    Technology executives in the business services sector project the strongest hiring activity. Nineteen percent of CIOs in this industry expect to add employees and none project personnel cutbacks.

    The net 19% increase is up five percentage points from the first-quarter forecast and 10 points above the national average. The business services sector has led all industries in hiring optimism for four out of the last five quarters.

    "As the economy continues to improve and organizations expand, they are hiring business services firms such as advertising agencies and data-processing companies for support," Lee said. "This influx of new work is prompting business services firms to add technology staff, particularly database specialists who can manage vital customer information."

    CIOs in the finance, insurance and real estate industry also are optimistic about employment gains. Twenty-three percent plan to expand their IT departments and eight percent foresee staff reductions, for a net hiring increase of 15%.

    Survey Methodology

    The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has been tracking IT hiring activity in the United States since 1995.