Recruitment market slowly turning, report finds

However, management roles are still few and far between

An upturn in project activity is seeing more contract project managers and business analysts being employed, but the outlook for permanent positions in those areas remains bleak.

That's the view of Gregor Bell, manager for permanent IT staff at recruitment firm Robert Walters.

"We went from a situation 18 months ago when there was a shift to permanent project managers in-house, to the downturn, where that whole project management world shut up shop," Bell says.

The situation hasn't changed until the past few weeks, he says.

"It's starting to pick up again, but in the contract space, not the permanent one.

"I haven't had a genuine in-house project manager position to fill since January."

Robert Walters' third-quarter 2009 market update notes that businesses, after shedding headcount during the downturn, "are now taking an optimistic view of the market and becoming heavily involved in business-focused projects, strategically concentrating on those that are essential for growth and that will have a greater return on investment to the business within eighteen months.

"As a result, there has been increased requirement for resources in the project space, ie project managers and business analysts in the contract market, although requirements in the permanent market are still rare."

Bell says that at management level, things are still tight.

Managers "would be the most affected in the last 12 months -- much of that cost has been taken out of the business.

"Some layers of management have been disestablished, and companies haven't replaced at that level, or have unified teams under one manager and not replaced the headcount.

"I'm talking to mid-to senior-level management candidates who haven't been able to find any positions."

The result is that many managers are staying in their current role, he says.

"They haven't felt confident looking for new opportunities."

In such a tight market, networking is an important way of seeking out new roles, Bell says.

Managers who bring more than just administrative experience are still in demand, he says.

"Those that can bring something else to the table, such as innovation and the ability to execute strategy are still sought-after, but your in-house, administrative type manager is less sought-after at the moment."

Below management level, certain skill sets remain in demand, the market update notes.

"There continues to be a shortage of experienced candidates in specialist fields such as developers at all levels, and more recently BizTalk.

"Particularly this year, we have also seen an increase in the demand for Microsoft Dynamics skill sets."

Web developers are also sought-after, with the update noting "as organisations continue to push their online presence, we are experiencing more need for candidates with a strong focus on web technologies at varied levels."

There's also a demand for telecommunications skills. "The shortage in the telecommunications space for engineers, specifically optimisation, network designers and network performance engineers continues, with many resources having to be drawn from overseas."

Looking to the future, "We envisage a slow but steady increase in the level of recruitment activity in the market as we approach 2010, especially by the second quarter of next year.

"We anticipate that this increase in recruitment will eventually lead to greater skills shortages and ultimately herald a return to the market becoming controlled once again by candidates.

"Managers will therefore need to move quickly on good CVs to ensure that they are getting the best candidates in the market."

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