The chances of finding a job in the technology sector are improving, according to some statistics released Wednesday by online job board Workopolis.com — but one recruitment expert says employers are being more choosy about who they hire for IT-related positions.
Workopolis.com said that of the top five industry sectors that have seen significant increases in job postings on its site over the last year, technology is second on the list, with an increase of 76 per cent. It follows energy, which has seen a 95 per cent increase in job postings. After technology comes production management, which has shown 66 per cent growth; finance, up by 51 per cent; and hospitality/travel, up by 50 per cent, according to a statement from Workopolis.com.
Bruce Powell, managing partner with Toronto-based recruitment firm IQ Partners, said his company has experienced an increase in IT-related recruitment requests in the last while. “It’s amazing how many clients who weren’t hiring IT workers two to three years ago are now hiring programmers, managers or administrators,” Powell said.
IQ Partners, which also recruits for sales and marketing positions, has a couple of banks, as well as some software and online technology companies, on its client roster that are experiencing some growth. “Across the board, everyone has had…not a crazy need, but a steady need to add [some] people in various roles.”
Chris Drummond, director of marketing at Toronto-based IT staffing firm CNC Global, agreed that, overall, the job market for technology professionals is picking up. “One way we measure this is through the number of job offers that that our candidates receive,” Drummond said in an e-mail. “Six months ago, a good candidate might get one or two job offers during a search. Today, the same individual is likely to see three or four.”
Over the last year, CNC Global has seen a 57 per cent increase in the number of job requirements issued by its customers, the key areas of demand being application development, hardware support, project management, database management, e-commerce and help desk/user support, he said.
Recently, one of the most significant trends has been an increase in permanent hiring, Drummond added. “Twelve months ago, the ratio of contract to permanent placements was approximately five to one. Today, it’s closer to three to one. In fact, when it comes to project managers, the ratio is almost one to one. Generally, an increase in permanent placements means the market is getting better and employers are starting to feel good about the future.”
He cautioned, however, that this general job growth trend isn’t happening across the board. “It really depends on your experience, your skill set and the vertical market that you’re looking at. Senior professionals and those with specific industry experience still have an edge.”
Powell noted that this hiring increase varies by region. The most growth is happening in Toronto, and Calgary is also picking up, but Ottawa is still “very, very slow, although we are just seeing the beginnings of activity (there),” he said. “It will probably be up to six months until [recruiters] see a really noticeable difference” in Ottawa. Recruiters tend to see ahead of the curve, he said, so Ottawa-based job seekers may be waiting even longer before they notice an improvement.
Hiring numbers also vary depending on the size of the company and the industry, Powell said. “We work with a bank client that has done fairly significant hiring across the board, and our business with them has probably tripled in the last six months.” A company of that size might have 10 positions available for the same role, he explained.
But smaller- and medium-sized companies tend to be more strategic in their search, he added. “It’s not a rush to get someone on board; they’re really focusing on making each hire a very well thought-through strategic decision.”
Despite this increase in posted jobs, a survey by Workopolis.com of more than 4,000 online job seekers across Canada also found that nearly 40 per cent of respondents reported that it’s harder to find a job now, compared to a year ago. Fifty-two per cent said it’s about the same, while nine per cent said it’s easier.
Powell said he’s not surprised with these results. “Candidates are finding it hard to find work now — I think it’s because companies are being way more selective. In the heyday if you looked good, you’d get the job and [a company’s] due diligence process was fairly quick. Now it takes three times as long to hire someone but they know they’re really making the right decision.”
Thirty-five per cent of the survey’s respondents also said that they believe employers require more work-related experience for the same position compared to a year ago. Powell said that’s because companies don’t just want to hire the right person, but the best person with the most related experience.
It’s easy for people to declare on their resumes that they have certain skills, and the Internet has multiplied job seekers’ ability to apply for jobs, making it easy for them to market themselves. “But [those job seekers] may or may not actually have the skills [the employer] is asking for,” he said. “There are more jobs out there but companies are starting to be really disciplined about finding the right person.”
Certification does play a role in getting your foot in the door, but at the end of the day, companies look for the “best person, bar none,” Powell said. Education is “definitely on list but it is less important than hands-on experience….What’s more important is [a candidate’s] real-world, hands-on ability to do the job.” In the Workopolis.com survey, 19 per cent said employers are demanding more job-specific education than they did a year ago.
As for salaries, 30 per cent of survey respondents said employers expect to pay a smaller salary for the same position or level of qualifications. Powell acknowledged that salaries are down, but that’s been going on since the tech sector crashed, and companies are paying less simply because they can. However, Powell added that he thinks this is a short-term situation. “It’s just matter of supply and demand. Right now companies can pay a little less and still get a high-calibre individual.”
Drummond agreed that the market has favoured employers for some time, but that this will change. “The economy is improving, Canada has developed a number of centres of IT excellence and we’re starting to reap the benefits of U.S. outsourcing initatives,” he said. “As a result, we expect to see an increase in churn as workers begin to take advantage of new opportunities. This is likely to put retention back on everyone’s radar screen.”
There’s no real shortage of IT workers at the moment, Powell added, but “as the economy picks up a bit and demographic changes (such as baby boomer retirement) come into play, we will find a significant increase in demand and reduced supply; at that point salaries will trend up again.”
Although this trend will vary by specific positions, in general “companies will start to realize the value of hiring the right person instead of the cheapest person. They will continue doing more diligence and will pay that extra $5,000 for the best person in the marketplace.”