The IT Hiring Outlook for 2009

By Dave Willmer

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It’s hard to miss the headlines about the economy, but the news isn’t all doom and gloom for the IT field. Although companies are certainly being cautious about hiring, a number of factors are fueling demand for IT professionals within several specialties. In fact, you may be surprised to learn there is still competition for top candidates.

Unemployment in IT remains low relative to many other occupations and, at the same time, there are fewer college graduates with technology-related degrees. Meanwhile, businesses are recognizing that technology can help them improve efficiency, achieve cost savings, and stay competitive during the recession. Budget conscious managers are looking for IT professionals who understand how to contribute to the bottom line. They want employees who can help their companies operate more efficiently, selecting the best products and getting the most out of technology investments. They also seek people with a track record of saving their employers money.

Firms are also evaluating candidates carefully for their people skills. Employers need individuals who can fit in with the group on a personal level. There is demand for applicants who have a customer-service mind-set, the ability to work under pressure, and strong written and verbal communication skills.

You may find greater competition if you’re seeking candidates in the following specialties:

Attracting Talent

Although many people are out of work right now, the most skilled professionals may still be employed. Given current economic conditions, people are more reluctant to change jobs, so managers today often find it takes extra effort to convince leading candidates to join their companies. A key selling point today is financial stability, so if you can show that your organization is weathering the recession, you’re at an advantage. Highlight any recent investments in technology and explain how IT contributes to the firm’s success. The more confident applicants are that their jobs would be safe at your firm, the more receptive they will likely be to joining your team.

Also point out any training opportunities your firm offers. Technology professionals are particularly committed to keeping their skills sharp, so they want to know you will provide access to education and learning, whether through mentoring, internal development programs or external training.

Competitive compensation also can help attract and keep highly skilled candidates. This means paying slightly above what other businesses are offering their employees. According to the 2009 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, starting salaries for IT professionals are expected to rise by 3.7%, on average, in 2009.

The one guarantee about hiring conditions in 2009 is that they will be unpredictable. You may be overwhelmed with resumes for one opening, then find you receive much less response for another. Staying up-to-date on trends through websites such as this one, as well as by reading industry and local business publications, can help you anticipate what’s ahead and get the most out of your recruitment efforts in the new year.

Dave Willmer is the new executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services.