Picture cloudy for 2009: recruiters

IT hiring is holding up, but uncertainty hovers

AbsoluteIT director and Auckland general manager Martin Barry says now is “a particularly hard time to be making predictions” about the ICT recruitment market.

Looking at the year ahead and forecasting what’s in store for candidates and employers is “harder than in the last few years”, he says.

That’s because while the market has cooled, the reasons why remain uncertain.

“There’s no doubt there has been a slowdown in ICT recruitment in the last two to three months, but that could also be seasonal,” he says.

The upshot is that, for employers, “there’s a better calibre of candidate, both contract and permanent”.

While there is more choice for employers, “there are still pockets of skills shortages”.

Examples include SAP specialists and those skilled in development languages, “though there are more candidates in that space than this time last year”.

CRM specialists are also in demand, not just in larger organisations, but in small-to-medium-sized businesses as well, Barry says.

“CRM is needed in SMEs – they can see the return on investment.”

Projects will be scrutinised more closely this year, he says.

“The ROI will have to be good for more speculative projects – there’ll be more commercial reality.”

Also, remuneration raises will be harder to come by for employees and candidates this year, he says.

“It’ll be much harder to get pay rises over the next six to 12 months, but there’s been good movement in that area over the past two to three years.

“These things are cyclical.”

Whether things are at a low in New Zealand, and poised to get better, or whether the worst – a situation on a par with the US or UK – is yet to come, is unclear, he says.

AbsoluteIT has an office in London and Barry says there are increasing inquiries from expat New Zealanders looking to return home and from UK residents wanting to migrate to New Zealand.

“In the UK, people have to sell their house before the move and that’s difficult at the moment.”

Many New Zealanders who recently left for the UK and were provisionally planning to stay six to 12 months are “looking at the six-month date”, he says.

“Previously, they’d have stayed there for two years.”

CPU Recruitment director Craig Parsons says organisations are “being smarter” about how they go about recruiting.

“In the past, companies would have said ‘we want a .Net developer and a business analyst specialising in a particular industry’, for example.

“Now, they’re looking for people with cross-over experience – they’re looking for more than just one skill-set.”

There is increasing demand in the functional consulting area, Parsons says. “Companies are looking for greater efficiency by leveraging off existing IT investments.”

An example is Oracle and SAP customers who are often sold a variety of modules, but don’t use all of them, he says.

“They’re looking at activating modules not being used.”

The upshot is high demand for consulting services around the two vendors, especially Oracle, he says.

Like AbsoluteIT’s Barry, Parsons is finding that CRM skills are “very sought-after” at the moment. “As the economy tightens, companies need to look after their customers and maintain the whole customer experience, and CRM is a big part of that.”

There is also ongoing demand for Business Intelligence specialists, he says.

Demand for .Net and J2EE developers has lessened in the past few months, but the need for specialists in embedded software is still strong.

Parsons has noticed some organisations are in a drive to use internal staff resources more efficiently.

“Many at the larger end of the scale are looking at redeployment on a national basis – for example, they’ll send a Wellington staffer to Auckland temporarily, rather than hire someone in Auckland.”

Hiring freezes are also in place at some larger organisations, he says.

Overall, IT seems largely immune from the wider economic downturn, “but that could change tomorrow”, he says.

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Tags recruitmentcareershiringAbsoluteITmartin barrycpu recruitmentcraig parsons

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