The IT job market is “very attractive right now,” says Scot Melland, CEO of tech job site Dice. “Much better than in past years.”
Over the last two years, the number of IT job postings on Dice has grown by some 62%, he tells Datamation, with 18% of that growth occurring this year.
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IT unemployment is down to a tiny 2.5 percent, he says, pointing to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. (He notes that the Bureau defines IT quite narrowly, calculating just 3 million positions nationwide. Dice, however, surveys the full tech market and so estimates there are there some 10 million tech jobs.)
“It’s a tight job market, demand continues to grow, and technology spending has been at a good clip for the last couple of years,” Melland says.
With the demand for employees relatively high, salaries are trending higher, though modestly. Dice hasn’t finished its yearly survey, but Melland hears that pay levels are increasing in the 3-5 percent range.
More attractively, though, due to the good job market, “Companies are now starting again to pay hiring bonuses, and pay other incentives, to get people to switch.”
Scoring the Sweet Gig
To land one of the better IT jobs, job seekers need to be aware of certain hiring trends.
First, tech jobs don’t tend to stay open long. On Dice, Melland says, the average “time to fill” a job is about 30 days, although most of the activity in the posting – like choosing the candidates – happens in the first one to two weeks.
About a third of the IT jobs on the site are new every ten days, he says.
Another key point that many tech pros aren’t aware of: it’s crucial to not just peruse posted jobs, but to post your resume.
This is because “Many positions – some of the best positions, you could argue – are never even listed,” Melland says. Employers simply search the Dice job bank of resumes, contacting staffers whose resume matches their needs.
Employers do this under cover hiring for any number of reasons. One of the main ones: they don’t want to tip off competitors of new ventures they’re launching.
The Dice site enables IT job seekers to set up a search agent and get the resulting job listings e-mailed to them. The agent could be set up to search a tiny niche (or very broad) area. For example, Melland says, “I could be an experienced project manager in Chicago, and set that agent up to get e-mails when those types of jobs [in Chicago] become available.”
Dice also sends out a monthly overall tech job market newsletters that tracks nationwide hiring trends.
The major tech centers – New York, Silicon Valley, Boston, Chicago – are the areas growing most quickly at this point, Melland says. Washington, DC has also seen heavy IT growth over the last 3-5 years due to homeland security initiatives, but that growth has tapered off recently. (DC, in fact, is currently the No. 3 tech market in terms of open positions nationwide, he says.)
Next Page: Hot Areas: Linux/Open Source, software development, security, and project management
The IT sectors with the most openings are those that make up the core of infrastructure building and maintenance: software development, DBAs, projects managers, and security. Also seeing dramatic growth are positions requiring Linux and open source expertise.
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Tellingly, software developers continue to be in demand in spite of the blaring headlines that warn of overseas offshoring. Dice has about 15-20,000 software development jobs posted, Melland says. (In total, there are about 90,000 tech positions listed on the site.)
“I think that’s what going on is that offshore outsourcing is growing, and quickly, but it’s still relatively small compared to the overall labor market for technologists in the U.S.” In contrast to the 10 million U.S. tech staffers, Melland calculates that there are some 400,000 outsourced offshore tech jobs.
“You’re talking about a small part of the market, and demand [for domestically-based developers] continues to grow – essentially the demand is much stronger than the leakage due to offshoring.”
Project managers are very much in demand, Melland says. “There are just not enough experienced project managers, and that’s something we’re going to continue to see.”
Two qualifications make a candidate going after a project management job particularly desirable. First, a background in software development. “People who were developers have a leg up,” Melland says. “They understand the technology and they’re able to manage teams very effectively.” Second, there’s a certification related to project management “that’s carrying a little bit of weight,” he notes. (The certification is Project Management Professional, PMP.)
The biggest project management qualification continues to be experience, he says. “Someone who’s been there and done it before.”
Also, open source and Linux skills are very hot. “Linux is one of the fastest growing, if not required, then recommended skills that most of the sysadmins and operations people have,” Melland says. “If you’re a systems administrator and you don’t have Linux experience, you might want to seek that out.”
“What we’ve seen is a number of large companies, especially public companies, that have converted their platforms to open source. There are many more types of companies that are thinking about doing those types of conversions.”
All this migration to Linux and open source means that job openings are zooming. Based on Dice statistics, Linux as a recommended skill is up 51% this year, and roughly 150% in the last two years.
The other hot area is security, particularly network security. “People who are Cisco certified engineers who have experience with secure networks are very much in demand,” he says.
“Security is hot and I expect it will remain hot going into 2007.”