Q3 Figures to be Best for Finding New Job

By Pam Baker

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After a long bout of recession blows and outsourcing knockouts, IT pros are longing for a true recovery complete with better jobs, more reasonable workloads, raises, bonuses and employment sweeteners. The good news is that 2011 looks to be the year of the IT comeback and all the goodies that implies.

The bad news is that the good news will come as a trickle through most of the year with the big bonanza showing up late in the third quarter. Timid employers are damming the flow of new jobs in the first half of the year. While one can hardly fault them for being cautious, holding that deer-in-the-headlights pose is helping no one.

"Those who think they can still take their time and put people through a month-long hiring process are losing candidates right and left," said Jack Williams, VP of National Sales and Recruiting with Staffing Technologies Worldwide in Atlanta.

To soothe their jangled nerves, the majority of large companies "will start off with consulting opportunities, which could then lead to permanent positions in 2012," said David Marceau, VP and co-founder of Ridgefield One, a staffing firm. Those job-seekers who take these consulting opportunities and do not get moved to permanent employment still benefit as they will be in a better position to take full time roles with other companies "because they will have the 'freshest' resumes."

Other companies are turning to temporary hires, independent contractors and outsourcing as a short-term fix. While the temps and independent contractors can easily be switched to full-time, permanent employees, outsourcing is less flexible -- considering the restraints imposed by multi-year contracts -- and can even rob companies of the best talent available as they grow and hire armies of seasoned IT pros. For example, Avanade, a joint venture between global outsourcer Accenture and software giant Microsoft, is currently hiring for 1,200 positions throughout the U.S. and Canada across all areas, including developers, consultants and analysts.

Such competition for job candidates from outsourcing companies can be devastating to enterprises in the long-term. "The most important factor in remaining competitive or regaining a competitive edge is still, and will always remain, a company's internal staff," said Michael Winwood, president of Technisource.

Breaking Point

To hire or not to hire will remain the question for many companies in the first half of 2011, but, by the second half, the writing will be permanently inked on the job board: talent is scarce.

"After a few years of very lean times, contractors with strong technical skills are back in charge of their careers, and just in the last three months, they now have much more control over where they go and where they don't," explained Williams. "One thing that distinguishes the hiring climate right now is the need for companies to move quickly."

Not only will it be harder to recruit talent, it will be harder to retain current IT staff too. For one thing, exhausted IT staff will eagerly accept new positions at competing companies that offer a lighter workload than they've carried for two years (or more) now. The resulting turn-over will weaken companies that are already vulnerable because of overwhelmed IT crews.

"Those employers who continue to hire technical employees without also hiring management and support employees will see an exodus of talent, as employees seek opportunities which may pay more, but more importantly, will allow them to focus on what they enjoy the most, technology, rather than being burdened by other non-technical tasks," said Marceau. "Therefore, beginning around Q3 of 2011 we will see a marginal amount of increased opportunities for IT management, business analysts, project managers, office admins, and other support staff within IT."

The need to hire permanent, full-time IT staff will thus be amplified in all fields by the new turn-over rates, the restoration of projects that were put on hold during the recession, and the diminishing pool of available talent to hire.

Defining the Perfect Candidate

By many accounts, some 500,000 IT jobs will be lost to offshore outsourcers by 2014; however, U.S. companies are no longer outsourcing like its 1999. In other words, the approach to outsourcing is becoming far more refined and exacting than it was in earlier days.

Companies are more experienced with the practice and are considerably savvier about bait-and-switch tactics, fraudulent resumes, time zone problems, differences in work ethics, hidden costs, and other problems. As a result, offshore outsourcing will become more fragmented between geographies and between traditional outsourcers and home-grown independent contractors and consultants.

"In the past, it has been OK to remain as silos: the network guy for the network; the server guy in the server room; and the storage guy managing the storage. End of story," explained Vanessa Alvarez, an infrastructure and operations analyst at Forrester Research. "Today, models such as converged infrastructure, which are the fundamental building blocks for private clouds, unify server, network and storage components and are very tightly integrated."

Alvarez said those IT staff members that do not master these changes will find themselves laid off in 2011 but those who have mastered it face a bright future. "There is a growing demand for architects and IT staff in general who can understand all three of these areas and how they integrate and interact together (server, storage, network)."

Unfortunately, certifications are not aligned with the new converged architectures making it more difficult to establish proficiency. "EMC recently announced a cloud architect certification program, which is a start," said Alvarez. "However, we need to see more training and certification programs around these new architectures, technologies and overall business acumen … it is hard to find such talent today."

Even so, the search is on. According to the latest 2010 IT HIRE Intelligence Survey by Technisource by Technisource and conducted by Monster.com, 86 percent of HR professionals that are planning to make hires in the next six months plan to do so within the technology field.

Of those respondents that plan on hiring technology oriented positions, the majority will be in applications (71 percent), project management (56 percent), and infrastructure (50 percent). When identifying the ideal IT candidate for a position, type of work experience (93 percent) comes in first place in order of importance - followed by years of experience (71 percent) and personality/culture fit (65 percent).

So it's probably best to dust off your resume if you haven't already or, if you are doing the hiring , to start looking now so you can find the people you need before they are all gone.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).