Q3 IT Hiring Pickup Seen

Demand for IT talent strongest in Pacific and New England states, CIO survey shows

Menlo Park, CA — May 27, 2003 — Chief information officers (CIOs) forecast a net increase in the hiring of information technology (IT) professionals in the third quarter of 2003, according to the just-released Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report.

Ten percent of executives surveyed plan to expand their IT departments in the coming months, while 3 percent anticipate staff reductions. The net 7 percent increase is up three points from the second-quarter forecast.

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a 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 information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key findings of the latest survey include:

  • Eighty-six percent of CIOs expect no change in hiring activity.

  • Business expansion is the leading factor driving hiring among IT executives.

  • CIOs from midsize companies are most optimistic about their hiring plans.

  • Microsoft Windows administration is the skill set most in demand.

  • Fifty percent of CIOs hiring will be seeking staff-level professionals. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) will be hiring midlevel managers.

  • CIOs in the Pacific and New England states and the business services sector are most optimistic about upcoming hiring activity.

"The hiring climate overall remains conservative," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half. "However, some firms are moving forward with systems upgrades that were previously on hold, particularly those designed to enhance customer service or achieve greater operational efficiencies."

Forty-one percent of CIOs who said they are planning to add personnel in the coming quarter cited business expansion as the primary reason for hiring. A desire to improve customer support was the next most popular motive, with 30 percent of the response.

Executives from midsize companies, those with 250 to 499 employees, projected the greatest increases in hiring activity, according to the survey. Thirteen percent of respondents at these firms said they expect to add personnel, and 3 percent forecast staff reductions.

Lee noted that some companies are bringing on project professionals and converting them to full-time employees if satisfied with their performance.

Regional Outlook

IT executives in New England and the Pacific region projected a net 9 percent increase in hiring activity during the third quarter. The forecast for the Pacific states is up eight points from the second-quarter projection.

"Businesses in the Pacific region are experiencing demand for security experts and applications developers," Lee said. "CIOs in New England plan to hire database analysts and project managers who can assist companies in centralizing isolated [enterprise resource planning (ERP)] and [customer relationship management (CRM)] applications."

CIOs in the South Atlantic and East South Central states also forecast hiring activity above the national average. A net 8 percent hiring increase is expected in each of these regions.

Industries Hiring

For the second consecutive quarter, CIOs in the business services sector are most optimistic about technology hiring in the coming quarter. Twelve percent of executives expect to hire personnel, while 2 percent anticipate staff reductions, for a net 10 percent hiring increase.

Employment activity is also expected to exceed the national average in the manufacturing and finance, insurance and real estate sectors. IT executives in each of these industries expect a net 8 percent hiring increase in the third quarter.

Skills in Demand

When asked which technical skill sets were needed most within their IT departments, 80 percent of CIOs reported demand for experienced Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administrators. Cisco network administration was identified as another highly sought-after specialty, receiving 38 percent of the response. Visual Basic development is also a hot specialty, with 29 percent of executives selecting this area of expertise. (Survey respondents were allowed multiple responses.)

CIOs were also asked which specific positions were most in demand within their IT departments. Help desk specialist, programmer/analyst and network administrator received the majority of the responses. When asked at what level they will hire in the upcoming quarter, half (50 percent) of CIOs said they would be filling staff positions; middle managers were in demand among 24 percent of CIOs polled.