Demand for IT Talent Strongest in Pacific and New England States, Survey Shows

May 27, 2003

MENLO PARK, CA -- Chief information officers (CIOs) forecast an 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 and 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 stratified random 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 leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

  • 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 of Robert Half Technology. "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."

Lee noted that with today's reduced IT staffing budgets, an increased number of companies are seeking assurance of a successful hire by bringing on project professionals and converting them to full-time employees if satisfied with their performance.

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.

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.

Regional Outlook

IT executives in New England1 and the Pacific2 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 ERP3 and CRM4 applications."

CIOs in the South Atlantic5 and East South Central6 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.

Chart: National Average

Chart: Skills in Demand

Chart: Regional Breakdown

Chart: Industry Breakdown

Chart: Hiring Motivation

Chart: Company Size

Chart: Hiring by Level

With more than 100 locations in North America, Europe and Australia, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. For more information about Robert Half Technology or to learn about online job search opportunities, please visit

1 Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
2 Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington
3 Enterprise resource planning
4 Customer relationship management
5 Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
6 Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee

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