Who Are Hiring Conditions Favoring?

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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Although no one can know for certain how the economy will affect the hiring market, it’s important for technology hiring managers and executives to benchmark salary and benefits information regularly to ensure your compensation measures up. Being prepared for any economic environment can mean the difference between hiring the right IT professionals at the right time and not meeting your IT department’s critical hiring objectives.  


Research for the Robert Half Technology 2008 Salary Guide shows that demand continues to grow for highly skilled information technology (IT) professionals, and that companies should plan on ongoing competition for the best candidates.


Continued business growth in some sectors, combined with ever-growing reliance on the IT department to provide a competitive advantage, has prompted many firms to increase IT hiring activity. At the same time, unemployment is still historically low for college-educated professionals, making it challenging to find qualified employees.


Skill sets such as the Microsoft .NET framework and SQL Server development are in particularly short supply.


Many employers are responding to this situation by increasing compensation levels to attract candidates. According to the salary guide, average starting salaries for the IT industry will rise 5.3% in 2008.


Positions facing talent shortages will see even larger gains. They include:


·     Lead applications developers - Their base compensation is forecast to increase the most of any job classification. Starting salaries are expected to rise 7.6%, to between $80,250 and $108,000 annually.

·     Applications architects. A close second, their compensation will increase 7.5%, to the range of $87,250 to $120,000.

·     Messaging administrators. Starting salaries will be in the range of $55,000 to $77,750 – a 7.1% gain over 2007 projections.

·     Data modelers. Base compensation will rise 7.0%, to between $74,250 and $102,000 a year.

·     Network managers. Starting salaries will be in the range of $74,500 to $98,500, up 7.0% from last year’s estimates.


Other Recruitment Strategies


In addition to boosting pay levels, companies are implementing other measures to encourage the best candidates to come on board:


Sign-on or annual bonuses -   Some employers are offering sign-on bonuses to applicants with the right mix of high-demand skills and IT industry experience. The immediacy of this financial reward can be a strong enticement for candidates.


Companies also are committing to annual bonuses, which are typically tied to an individual’s contributions to the firm’s success. Employees like to know there’s a clear connection between performance and rewards. A recent survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting found that the average incentive payout in 2007 for professionals was about 13% of base pay.


Equity incentives - Historically, equity incentives such as profit sharing and stock options were offered primarily to executives, but more and more firms have expanded eligibility to include a wide range of employees. If the company does well financially, workers can be rewarded accordingly.


Professionals like the sense of ownership and financial benefits offered through equity incentives, making them a powerful recruitment tool.


Professional development opportunities - Education and training programs can be a strong selling point with IT professionals who are committed to professional growth. Firms that offer their employees the time and financial resources to expand their skill sets are viewed favorably as prospective employers.


Candidates feel that these organizations value their talents and are committed to supporting their career growth. If your company can’t afford internal training programs, consider providing tuition reimbursement for external courses. In addition to technical training, your firm also can support skills development in other areas critical to the job, such as communication, management and business acumen.


Keep in mind that if your budget is tight and you can’t spend as much on compensation and benefits packages as other employers, you’re not out of the running when competing for employees. In the 2007 Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report from Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com, nearly two-thirds (65%) of workers polled said the option of having a flexible work arrangement might encourage them to choose one job over another, while 33% said telecommuting could sway their opinion.


So, look at the big picture and make sure you’re presenting the full range of benefits of working at your organization when recruiting applicants.


Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.