Survey reveals salary optimism, workers job hunting in IT sector

13 Sep 2010

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Confidence appears to be returning to the tech sector with a recent survey showing that a large number of IT professionals are looking for new jobs or planning to move, while there is a broad expectation that salaries will rise.

Computerjobs.ie received responses from almost 700 IT professionals and found that 63.5pc said they expected their salary or daily rate to increase if they were to change jobs in the next three months. Only 5.8pc thought their pay would be reduced. The survey sample included a range of job types, including system analysts, software and network engineers, project managers, database developers and administrators, technical support workers and QA testers.

Around one-third of IT professionals, 34.2pc, are employed but actively looking for a new job, while 32.3pc said they like to check the market every few months. A further 15.9pc are unemployed or not working and actively seeking a job, leaving fewer than 18pc of IT professionals in work and not on the lookout for a move.

Money’s still right to mention

Money remains the biggest motivator to change jobs, cited by 30.7pc of respondents. The next most popular factor figured in less than half that amount, with 14.1pc of IT pros saying they would move to find a more financially secure employer.

“While salaries have probably remained static for the past while and there’s been a 20-25pc drop in contracting rates, it looks like it’s going to start going up again,” commented Niall Kelly, founder of Computerjobs.ie.

The salary issue has a caveat – although pay packets look set to rise by 10pc, that’s relative to last year’s figures, when the market was in a trough. With widespread pay freezes and wage cuts in place across many companies, in real terms salaries may only be returning to 2008 levels.

Despite uncertainty in the market, 29pc said they would not remain in their jobs if they were unhappy; 27.9pc said they weren’t sure and 36.9pc said they would stay put. Just over half of IT pros (53.1pc) said they are very confident their current employer would retain them during the downturn. Almost 60pc said they knew of friends in the IT sector who had lost their jobs over the past year.

LinkedIn is the most effective social media outlet for jobhunters and headhunters by some distance, with 15pc of respondents saying they know of someone who has found work through the site. Bad news for Twitter fans, though, with a meagre 1.8pc of IT pros saying the same about the microblogging site. (Facebook fared little better with a score of just 3.7pc.)

Companies are recruiting more actively than last year. Computerjobs.ie, which aggregates listings from most of the main recruitment firms, has had 700 vacancies already this year, up from less than 500 in 2009. There were close to 1,000 jobs listed on the site in 2008 and Kelly said this target may well be reached by the end of this year.

Buoyancy in the market has been helped by announcements such as Google’s additional 200 jobs in Dublin, as well as recruitment campaigns by Facebook, Dell, McAfee and Symantec. The activity isn’t restricted to the large global outfits, with Newbay, SoftCo, FBD, Currach Consulting and Version 1 all currently scouting for talent. “Multinationals are hiring in volume but Irish companies are also busy,” Kelly commented.

Spending boost

IT spending has also picked up, and this has helped to boost the permanent and contract jobs market. “Everything just got put on hold last year, but over the last six months projects have started and organisations have needed to find staff,” said Kelly.

That view appears to be widely held in the market. Recruitment firm CPL announced its results last week and CEO Ann Heraty was quick to namecheck the tech sector as being among the more active in hiring right now.

However, having open positions and successfully hiring the right people to fill them is not the same thing. While the Computerjobs survey indicates the IT market is picking up, anecdotal evidence tells a different story. It might seem counterintuitive in a year when a job in a Dublin city centre Londis store attracted a queue the length of Grafton Street, but it’s not necessarily a buyer’s market when it comes to attracting skilled technical staff.

Despite high unemployment figures, many tech companies say hiring is tough because good candidates are thin on the ground. For example, the software auditing firm iQuate is looking to create 25 full-time positions in the next 12 months in roles spanning development, implementation, project management, sales and channel management, but the early signs are not promising.

“We need to hire staff with the right mix of skills and experience but we are having major difficulties finding candidates of the right calibre. There is no shortage of CVs coming into us, but the people being introduced to us do not have what we are looking for. If we compromise on our requirements, we risk compromising the future success of the company,” iQuate CEO Jason Keogh told Siliconrepublic.

Another Irish software house, Inishtech, is also recruiting development staff but is having similar trouble getting the right people, CEO Aidan Gallagher confirmed. “We’re looking for top-quality developers and they’re not easy to get. It’s a tough challenge,” he said.  

The contracting question

For many unemployed IT workers, the contracting route usually had many attractions, not least of which was the greater money on offer than with some salaried positions.

Recruitment agency Robert Walters says it has noticed an increase in the use of temporary and temporary-to-permanent staffing options across the board in Dublin.

Clara Gough, IT consultant at Robert Walters’ Dublin office, said the advantage for companies in taking on contract workers is the flexibility it gives to bring staff in to areas where they are short handed without the rigmarole of getting signoff for a permanent employee.

The trend is that where companies can hire on a permanent basis, they usually will, said Gough. Certain areas such as web development and editing, Microsoft .NET, Java and SharePoint are more likely to go to fulltime candidates rather than temporary staff. “If good people come up in those areas, companies try to hire them permanently. People in that area have always remained in demand. Companies hiring for permanent roles are not looking for a generalist; they’re looking for specific skills,” she said.

Contracting tends to be strong in consultancy-related areas, such as risk assessment and audit. These services are often provided via a third-party firm rather than by people working for themselves.

Contracting is still more lucrative than permanent positions, Gough added. “A permanent role for a .NET specialist might carry an annual salary of between €55,000 and €65,000. On contract they would earn €300-€350 a day, which would equate to over €70,000,” she said. The reason is, permanent roles come with advantages such as health benefits, pension plans and long-term security, whereas contracting has no expectation of loyalty and the job is compensated accordingly.

What’s happening is, contracting is seen as a means to an end. According to Gough, some companies are hiring temps as a means of getting around headcount issues or maternity cover. That gives the contractor a vital foot in the door, often on an initial short-term contract. “Candidates don’t view it as different from a probationary period,” she said. “Many candidates are saying ‘I’m open for contracting but ideally looking for something permanent’.”

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