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CIO talent search: Windows, SQL, wireless

A new survey reveals a surge in Q3 hiring by CIOs -- but only for a few specialized slots.

The third quarter is looking up for Microsoft Windows administrators, wireless network managers and SQL Server managers -- positions that will be most in demand by CIOs who plan on increasing their full-time IT staffs later this year.

That's according to the "Information Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report," a national poll of more than 1,400 CIOs from U.S. companies with at least 100 employees. Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm, sponsored the poll, which was conducted by an independent research firm.

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Overall, 14% of CIOs plan to hire, while 3% plan personnel cuts, for a net 11% hiring increase planned for Q3. Eighty-one percent of CIOs expect no changes to their current staffing levels.

This is the highest increase in hiring predictions recorded by the poll in three years. The same poll predicted a net 5% expansion one year ago. It is the fourth straight quarter the survey results have predicted net hiring increases.

"I think it's a sign that IT executives are starting to move forward with more full-time hiring," said Joel C. Dibble, senior public relations manager for Robert Half. "We can't say the flood gates are open, or we're back to 1998. I think it's more of a steady improvement."

The hiring expansion reflects an uptick in business expected by 38% of firms. A greater need for customer and end-user support will drive the hiring for 21% of respondents.

CIOs said help desk/end-user support tied with networking as the two job categories that have the most need within their departments.

"Newly initiated projects such as systems installations and the development of Web-based applications necessitate additional support staff to help users take advantage of new tools," the survey stated. "In addition, as firms become better able to offer promotions to retain and reward those who took on more responsibilities during the downturn, the entry-level help desk positions these individuals occupied must now be filled."

Microsoft Windows administrators (NT/2000/XP) dominate hiring needs, a position named by 77% of CIOs as a top priority. Other sought-after skill sets include wireless network management and SQL Server management, listed by 48% and 47% of CIOs, respectively.

Larger firms, with 1,000 or more employees, predict greater levels of hiring.

The geographic areas expected to experience the most new hires are New England and the regions surrounding Texas, Okla., Ark. and La.

"Part of this trend may be due to the recent expansion of the biotechnology industry within the Boston area, as these firms look to bolster their information systems," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. The industries predicting hiring activity include transportation, business services, retail and financial services. Robert Half Technology has been tracking IT hiring activity in the U.S. since 1995.

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