Tech Hiring Creeps Back to Health

Lisa Vaas

September 22, 2010

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The hiring climate in IT is gaining momentum, tech staffing agencies report, but its recovery pace is akin to that of a snail going about its business after recovering from a coma.

“It is gaining momentum at a very deliberate pace,” said John Reed, District President of Robert Half Technology in the Central United States. “I would say it’s continuing to improve every month, every quarter.”

There are a handful of motivations stirring the snail. One is a pent-up itch to dive into projects that got shelved last year, Reed said, including desktop updates. “A lot of companies said, ‛We’re not going to buy hardware, we’re not going to buy software, and we’re not going to kick off projects. We’re just going to maintain, to get through this thing. If it’s not critical to business, we’re going to shelve it.’”

A growing number of companies are now finally moving forward with these projects, Reed said, cognizant of the fact that they have a business to maintain and they’ll lose competitive impetus if their competition moves forward with projects they themselves have neglected.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, said you could see an attitudinal shift at Microsoft’s recent Worldwide Partner Conference, which wrapped up on July 15. “Many went into their budget season Q4 [2009], they had a budget set aside, but they ... didn’t come out of the gates in January and hire for them. Now, midyear Q3, a lot of companies know where they are in their financials, and they know where they can spend now, and they’re starting to spend more than they were,” he said.

The new-found confidence encompasses Windows 7 upgrades, but Windows 7 is a tiny snippet of the back-on-track scenario.

Here are specifics on how small a snippet and its rate of growth: IT Expert Voice’s Daniel Dern spoke to technology job site Dice.com in January about the worth of Windows certifications. At that time, Tom Silver, senior vice president of North America, reported seeing only a modest demand for Windows 7 skill sets, with a mere 100 job postings requesting this experience on any given day. Seven months later, as the second half of the fiscal year opens up purse strings to a certain extent, the number of requests for Windows 7 skills has tripled. That brings Windows 7 to about 300 job postings on Dice on a daily basis"a drop in the bucket when compared with the site’s 66,000+ total postings.

“So yes, there has been an increase in demand for Windows 7, but only marginally,” Silver said. “As companies continue to migrate towards this operating system, we would expect demand for tech professionals with this skill set to grow.”

Hiring companies are falling into two camps: Those replacing desktops and updating with the most current Windows version, and the type of company that’s biting the bullet and upgrading enterprise-wide. Those diving in whole-hog, updating by hundreds or thousands of PCs, are scheduling the deployment for 30-day stints, Reed said, making it obviously short-term work.

But while RHI is seeing primarily project-based skills demand, Dice is seeing more requests for full-time Windows 7 skills. “About 60% of the Windows 7 job postings are full-time,” Silver said. “There are contract positions as well, but it appears the current job availability is slightly more geared to full-time positions. This is consistent with what we see on the site overall.”

He also said that there are a variety of roles that list Windows 7 as a desired skill, including Systems Administrator, Technical Engineers, and Project Managers, both at the entry level and for seasoned professionals. “So even though it’s early days, there are opportunities,” he said.

So if the hiring recovery is not overwhelmingly fueled by Windows 7, where are the increasing IT jobs? Microsoft’s emphasis on Windows Phone 7 development gives us a clue. As eWEEK reported, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer devoted a good chunk of WPC keynote enthusiasm to the next version of the company’s mobile phone operating system.

Microsoft is highly motivated to get a piece of the lucrative smartphone pie now dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone. It even went so far as to offer cash to developers who create applications for Windows 7 phones, offering to “co-fund strategic projects” on a limited basis, according to a Microsoft spokesperson quoted on Top Tech Reviews.

Microsoft’s no dummy. That smartphone zest is reflected in hiring trends, with companies snapping up phone developer skill sets, said RHI’s Reed. “That’s definitely a growing area that companies are investing resources in,” he said. “We see that as a place where people are hiring. Everybody does that. Every entity wants their Web presence mobile-friendly. You have more and more applications, with people wanting to access things from their smart phone. To enable that, you’ve got to have people with expertise, people who know how to take those applications and make them mobile-friendly with the user.”

With regards to which segments of the economy are recovering, tech staffing firms report varying results. RHI is seeing growth in healthcare, transportation, some aspects of construction, and education. Sapphire Technologies is seeing feeble recovery from the financial sector, according to recruiter and IT resume expert Shana Westerman, while retail weathered the recession and is still going strong. Yet Dice’s Silver said that the job site hasn’t seen a slowdown in IT growth in technology on Wall Street. As a matter of fact, job listings are up 38% year over year on eFinancialCareers.com, a Dice Holdings service that’s a global career site network for professionals working in the investment banking, asset management, and securities industries.

Related Information From Dell.com: Your Desktop Strategy.

Article Source: IT Expert Voice


Lisa Vaas has been a technology journalist since 1995, when she first started writing feature articles for PC Week " which later went on to become eWEEK " that focused on Customer Relationship Management technology, the care and feeding of then-scarce technology talent, and the magic mixture of technology and business savvy that turned companies into technology leaders. Since then she’s focused on databases, including open-source databases, has chagrined Larry Ellison by scooping Oracle’s 10g release, and went on to cover information security and cybercrime, writing for publications including CIO, ComputerWorld, and PC Magazine. Most recently she’s been covering one of the only technology industries that (woefully enough) is exploding due to the weak economy: namely, Applicant Tracking System (ATS) packages used to parse resumes. Find her work at www.lisavaas.com.

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