Survey shows some CIOs in hiring mode

What are your hiring plans looking like? A new study shows that 11% of CIOs are planning to expand their IT staffs in the next quarter. Not exactly a hiring spree, but better news than quarters past.

Windows administrators and SQL server administrators rejoice. According to a recent report, your skills are now

in demand.

A study from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Robert Half Technology Inc. reports that 11% of CIOs plan to add full-time staff to their IT departments in the second quarter while only 2% are planning to cut personnel.

"We're just starting to see technology come back," said Katherine Spencer Lee, Robert Half's executive director. "It's not a rocket ship, but there's some pretty good signs of improvement overall, particularly in hardware, software, phone, network and starting new projects."

The hiring increase forecast is the largest since the third quarter of 2002, according to the report.

The firm polled more than 1,400 CIOs from companies with 100 or more employees. Business growth was the leading factor driving IT hiring, with 46% of repondents citing it as the primary factor for the decision to add headcount. Twenty percent cited a heightened focus on customer and end-user support.

Networking was the specialty most in demand with 21% identifying it as most in demand.

"Network architects and engineers with security expertise are highly valued," Lee said. "A growing number of companies are upgrading outdated systems and executives want to ensure that their networks are secure from attacks from the latest virus or worm."

Skills sets most in demand were Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP), cited by 79% of respondents, and SQL Server administration, receiving a 39% response. Another 34% selected Cisco network administration as a high-demand area.

"In a perfect world, our clients want the high-level skill sets," Lee said. "They want people who can communicate with both technical and non-technical professionals."

Additionally, there has been a growing need for people with Web services and business intelligence (BI) skills, Lee said. Sarbanes-Oxley compliance is creating a greater need for IT professionals with auditing backgrounds.

The Pacific region was most optimistic about hiring activity, with 14% predicting that they will add staff, followed by South Atlantic states at 15%.

The rise of offshore outsourcing has had an effect on IT hiring recently, but Lee said it is difficult to quantify.

"We've certainly gone through a tough downturn in the last three years," Lee said. "The majority of what we've seen in slower hiring has really been a result of more than offshore outsourcing. It's certainly a reality, but it's hard to say the direct impact it's had. The largest impact has been the economy versus jobs going offshore."

Industry-wise, the retail sector was the most optimistic, with 17% expecting to increase hiring and 14% of the business services sector planed to add staff.

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