Talent Wars

Competitors -- and now cloud providers -- are poaching your best IT staffers and job candidates.

Dan Herrington says his first inkling of a brewing IT talent war came early this spring, when he noticed that "college kids weren't accepting our offers on the spot."

This was a first for Herrington, who is executive sponsor of college recruiting for IT at USAA, a San Antonio-based Fortune 200 insurer and financial services company that has been No. 1 on Computerworld's Best Places to Work in IT list for two years in a row.

Herrington adds that another disturbing new trend is a "marked increase" in the number of college hires who accept job offers but then later change their minds. "We've seen college students reneging on internships as well," he notes.

USAA has responded by expanding its out-of-state college recruiting efforts and stepping up communication with interns between the time they accept an internship and their first scheduled day on the job. So far, the approach appears to be working, as evidenced by nearly 200 college hires -- both full-time employees and interns -- in 2011.

In Melbourne, Fla., Vinay Patel, senior software engineering manager at Harris Corp., has been seeking experienced software developers for three or four months. So far, only two applicants have passed both telephone and in-person interviews. Both were offered employment, but one turned down Patel's offer and the other accepted but subsequently reneged a week before he was due to start. Apparently, he received a better offer, Patel says. "The job seekers seem to be in the driver's seat right now," he notes.

A quick scan of numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this about-face in the IT job market. In May, it pegged the IT unemployment rate at 3.8%, significantly lower than the national average unemployment rate of 9.1%. At the same time, 65% of 900 hiring managers surveyed by Dice.com said they expect to hire even more tech professionals in the second half of this year than they did during the first six months of 2011. "The growth has reached a level where positions are staying open for months due to a shortage of qualified technology professionals," according to the Dice report, which went on to suggest that now may be a great time for IT job candidates to ask for more money than they're offered initially.

"Technology professionals are the basis for innovation, efficiency and creating an agile workplace," says Tom Silver, senior vice president of Dice.com. "Now is the time to ask for more money. Negotiate hard at the outset of a new job, because that initial salary may set the base for the next three years."

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