Still Hiring

Tech worker shortage persists

Dot-coms bleed pink slips. Does that mean the technology job market drops like a dot-com stock?

Not at all. There are still more jobs available than candidates, as companies scramble to find personnel. John Gantz, chief research officer at International Data Corp., predicts that 1.5 million Internet executive jobs must be filled in 2001 — and thats over and above the current 2.7 million openings. Even if troubles continue for dot-coms, it wont make much difference, he says. "More threatening to the job market than the dot-com crash would be the slowing of the economy," Gantz says.

Refugees from Internet companies wont be out of work for very long, says Candace Garthwaite, managing partner at recruiting firm Garthwaite Partners International in Greenwich, Conn. "I think most of those people [recently laid off] have been able to find positions, because the market has been so tight. There are still a huge variety of opportunities," she says.

Nevertheless, other companies say the so-called Internet Crash of 2000 hasnt noticeably freed up any talent.

"The dot-com failures havent made it any easier for us to get qualified candidates," says Donna Morris, vice president of human resources at JetForm, a work flow software company in Ontario, Canada. She adds, however, that JetForm has hired some senior people from Internet companies, and shes seen an increase in companies contacting them for "internal job fairs" they plan to hold for employees about to be laid off.

Morris sees 2001 as a continuation of 2000s aggressive recruiting market, but with a twist: Organizations will increase their employee retention efforts. "Turnover makes it tough to maintain business knowledge," she says. Morris also believes there will be a return to more "work/life balance" issues., a job site that aggregates postings from corporate sites, finds that "tech people are harder to find than ever," says Brett Walker, vice president of marketing. "It feels like ever-growing demand in the executive space." He says he sees more nontechnical companies than ever desperate for help as they move to the Internet themselves.

As the dot-coms that do remain "grow up" to meet demands for quicker paths to profitability, experienced business management executives remain in short supply — which means management consulting firms are likely to find receptive clients. Robbins-Gioia, a consulting firm in Alexandria, Va., provides program and project management consulting for Fortune 500 companies and increasingly for a number of Internet companies.

Traditional on-site project management consulting doesnt sit well with fast-moving dot-coms, says Patricia Davis-Muffett, Robbins-Gioias director of marketing. "We started, a project management portal, for program and project management over the Internet," she says. "This helps companies solve the skills shortage problem, but they still need someone with project management experience for the mentoring component." Customers can use the portal as a virtual project management office with a team dedicated to their account, or use the Ask the Expert feature to get answers from the most appropriate expert.

Feeling Secure

Then there are specific tech industry job categories for which demand never seems to cool off, such as Internet security professionals. Elad Yoran, executive vice president of Riptech, a security services firm, predicts that the need for security experts will continue to increase in 2001.

"Security is somewhat impervious to market ups and downs, and were having dynamic growth right now," he says. As traditional companies increasingly adopt e-commerce and e-business, more security issues will arise, Yoran says. Whats more, internal network security remains the largest problem.

So, an apparently perpetual "Now Hiring" sign hangs in Riptechs window. "Were actively trying to recruit," says Yoran, hoping to double his staff of 130 over the first half of 2001. Riptechs clients cant recruit enough security personnel, and theyre now looking to outsource. "Last year, we were always asked why an enterprise should outsource security," Yoran says. "They no longer ask that question."

With the job market still tight, compensation demands arent slackening. "Were not seeing the spike in salary and bonuses going down yet," JetForms Morris says. "Salaries are still going up by 10 percent or more."

But Garthwaite, the recruiter, says there has been a return to reality from the outlandish expectations some job seekers used to have. Most candidates now do not have any false hopes of getting rich quick from stock options. "We know in our heart of hearts its a long shot," she says.

FlipDogs Walker says: "There may not be as many [BMW] Z3s and daily massages, but talent still draws a battle."