How to survive the IT recruitment drought

Are you out of work, rapidly spending your last paycheque and wondering what the heck to do next? Well, now might be the time to consider that Tibetan retreat you’ve been mulling over, because the international IT job market is not looking good.

Inboxes in recruitment firms around the world are filling up with resumes from people looking for work, but the agencies aren’t getting many calls from employers any more. U.S.-based online recruitment site is receiving an average of 24,000 resumes a day and has a total of 13.7 million resumes online, according to Jeff Taylor, founder and chief executive officer. This time last year, it had 6.5 million, he said.

Taylor described the job market as having “come back into balance” with a “more naturalized buyer/seller relationship.” Where once there were 100 job seekers to every 100 jobs, there are now 1000 people looking for those jobs, he said.

The people contacting agencies at the moment are not those with the “hottest skills,” said Russell Clements, deputy chief executive of U.K. IT recruitment company S3 Group Ltd. “The people that swell the ranks don’t tend to be the people the market wants; there’s a skew between what’s wanted and what’s available,” he said.

Internationally, database developers, NT support and systems administration staff are finding themselves out of work, recruiters say, as are management and executive staff who haven’t worked “hands on” for some time – and of course contractors, who are usually among the first to be cut back.

But, said Clements, “the underlying trend in salaries is still up,” reflecting the need to pay good money for the right people. “It’s when we start to see a decrease in salaries that you know there are more people unemployed with the needed skills.”

There is still mobility in salaries for people getting promotions, for managers moving to directorships and directors to vice presidents, said Taylor. And while existing stock options might not be worth much now, it’s a great time to get in on the ground floor with new options in a company.

Many people think it’s a bad time to be moving and so they are willing to take less money for what they feel is a secure job, he said. “There’s movement back towards traditional companies and the implied stability they can deliver,” he said.

It’s not all bad news, however, and there are countries where many skills are still in demand. In Germany, for example, the skill shortage is so acute that the government has announced it will grant “green card” work permits to bring in skilled staff from overseas. The country is especially short of programmers, software developers and IT security specialists.

So what sort of training should people do to help find work? Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on the important skills .

Oracle database and C++ programming “will always be in demand,” says Clements, while both Tom Morgan, vice-president of recruiting operations at Pencom Systems Inc. in New York, and Steve Cotton, a senior consultant with Reed Technology Group PLC in the U.K., agree that C++ and Java are the skills to have.

However, Morgan’s colleague Jim Robinson, vice president of Pencom’s New England operations, said that “the market has changed unbelievably for Java people.” There just aren’t that many positions for Java now, he said. Java programmers were in demand regardless of experience 18 to 24 months ago but now “you’d better have EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans), J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) and specific deliverables to cite, as well as middleware experience – Weblogic, Websphere, CORBA – if you want to find a job,” said Robinson. is still seeing demand for C++, classic software developers and Oracle database developers, said Taylor, and there is strong activity in the health care and biotech industries. “Don’t be discouraged by lack of experience in the industry,” he said, because young industries are more open to taking candidates from other industries.

In New Zealand, experience with any of the Microsoft suite of programming tools — VB (Visual Basic), SQL Server, ASP (Active Server Pages) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) will help you find new work, said Rachel Heathcote, a consultant with Candle IT&T Recruitment Ltd., based in Auckland, New Zealand. Formal analysis tools such as Erwin and Visio are also useful, she said.

“In New Zealand there’s a glut of NT support and admin type people,” she said. “I have been advising candidates to try to differentiate themselves – for instance, it will be useful in the future for NT administrators to have database skills such as SQL Server.”

Security, being on everyone’s minds at the moment, is another strong growth market. “Anything touching on security is going to grow,” said Christelle Boissonnet, a recruitment specialist at French systems integrator CS Communication & Syst