Companies are hiring -- but will they hire you?

In today's economic climate, it's easy to make assumptions about the difficulty of finding employment. Despite the overall economic gloom, a closer look at IT hiring reveals a more complicated picture. If you're experiencing a frustrating job search or are afraid to leave your current position, don't assume that no one's hiring. By learning about some of the bright spots, in-demand skills and what employers value most, you give yourself the best chance to succeed under challenging conditions.

While companies are indeed decreasing expenses, most can't afford to make drastic cuts in technology. Since the last economic downturn, firms have become more convinced of the importance of technology to their business success. According to Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, 12% of the more than 1,400 CIOs polled planned to hire employees during the first quarter of 2009, and only 4% anticipated personnel reductions. The majority planned to maintain their current staffing levels.

Key initiatives continue

What's behind current tech hiring? Companies are still pursuing critical IT initiatives -- for example, embracing the virtualization of servers and storage, and using Microsoft's .Net Framework to build a wide range of applications. CIOs expect to continue to invest in information security in an effort to protect data and intellectual property from vulnerabilities.

IT executives are also increasing their investments in wireless applications as they realize the value of mobile technologies. As a result, their organizations are charged with supporting devices such as cell phones, smartphones, PDAs and BlackBerries, leading to high demand for professionals with related skills.

According to the Robert Half Technology 2009 Salary Guide, skilled IT professionals are still in demand by many employers. Companies are finding that while there might be plenty of IT workers available, the ones with the the skills and experience they really want are in short supply. Talent needs persist in a number of IT specialties, including help desk and desktop support, networking, applications and Web development, network engineering, and systems and data security. Demand is stronger for certain skills, such as .Net, SharePoint, Java and SQL Server development.

For job candidates willing to look beyond their customary environment, our research also points out industries and geographical areas that promise continued IT growth. CIOs in the professional services and business services industries are projecting greater IT hiring activity, for example. Other industry sectors with positive outlooks include health care, nonprofit and education. CIOs in the Mountain region and in the New England states are the most optimistic about hiring .

Employers are indeed cautious about making costly hiring mistakes, and most companies are extending offers only to the most highly skilled, experienced candidates. Many are interested in hiring IT professionals on a project-to-hire basis, allowing them to ensure a good fit before making a full-time commitment. A staffing firm specializing in IT can provide you with access to such opportunities.

Demonstrating your value

While training in a thriving specialty or considering a change in geography or industry can indeed broaden your opportunities, chances are you're most concerned with leveraging your current skills and experience. That means honing your resume and your interview skills, especially in an uncertain economic climate.

As businesses tighten their belts, a documented history of contributing to business success becomes more important for job candidates. Technical certifications in in-demand specialties may work in your favor, but firms want to see how you have benefited previous organizations' bottom lines. Make sure your cover letter and resume emphasize your quantitative contributions.

Faced with daunting economic challenges, employers are more interested than ever in professionals who can quickly start helping to solve problems and meet business objectives. As you prepare for an interview, take a thoughtful look at the employer's unique challenges and identify specific ways you can contribute. In today's climate, that outlook will benefit both the employer and your career.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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