IT jobs outlook brighter in 2010

Job outlook for new year improves, but job seekers need to be flexible with offers and view them as development, say human resource executives.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

With the economy improving, the outlook for IT jobs looks brighter in 2010, though candidates should be flexible in accepting employment terms, said human resource executives.

Quarterly surveys by Manpower Staffing Services Singapore have shown improvements in the job market over the last three quarters, said country manager Peter Haglund in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia. If the trend continues, Haglund said hiring for the IT industry as well as other industries is expected to pick up to pre-recession levels.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Roger Olofsson, associate director at Robert Walters Singapore IT specialist recruitment division, described the job outlook in the IT industry as "cautious optimistic" across most of the markets in Asia as companies deal with the aftermath of the global crisis.

But with recent changes in the economy, Olofsson said hiring activities across most industries for IT professionals are expected to increase. There is even possibility of salary increases for candidates considering a job switch toward the second half of the year as the hiring landscape becomes more competitive, he added.

Tay Kok Choon, head of strategic sales development of Internet recruitment Web site JobStreet Singapore told ZDNet Asia that candidates can expect a fair amount of hiring, but must be flexible enough to accept employment terms in view of the current market conditions. "They should take the opportunity to develop themselves so as to cope with the challenges ahead," she added.

Manpower's Haglund had the same view. "Experience will always have more impact than just training and certifications," he said, although his firm does not discount the importance of training and certifications.

"In general, we would encourage candidates to increase their experience through contract or temporary work if permanent positions that fit their career goals are difficult to find," he said. "We also advise candidates to try to get assignments that add to their experience."

IT skills and business savvy preferred
JobStreet's Tay said that IT skills in vertical markets such as healthcare and government, as well as those in re-engineering, are in high demand. However, she added that candidates are expected to understand and be in good communication with businesses, besides being able to take the initiative to make decisions in the best interest of an organization.

"In general, most organizations are planning to keep their staffing levels flat. However, they do recognize that technology skills and being business savvy take time to develop," she said. "As such, they will be active in planning their future IT workforce requirements and start training staff on technologies that are relevant to their business in the future."

Robert Walters' Olofsson mentioned three areas for candidates who want to upgrade their skills to increase their market value:

1. Go deeper into technology specialization to become an even stronger expert in the key area of focus.
2. Develop skills in team management or project management to take on more responsibilities.
3. Develop skills and understanding of the business domain that the IT candidate is supporting in order to bring more opportunities to the table.

Yeo Gek Cheng, director of IT&T practice at Hudson Singapore, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that communication and presentation skills are "invaluable" as the ability to articulate solutions and propositions will differentiate a candidate from another with similar skills.

Job search on social media not catching on
According to Olofsson, social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have "played a part to various degrees" in the recruitment process, but candidates still prefer professional recruiters.

"The digital media is simply another channel that can be used in the recruitment process, be it for organizations, candidates or recruitment firms," he said. "However, we believe it will not replace the role and expertise of a search firm. Personal engagement and face-to-face interaction between candidates and hirers are still among the best recruitment strategies."

On the other hand, Hudson's Yeo believes social networks can benefit candidates, as being connected to the right network of contacts is key.

Manpower's Haglund reckons social networks can open up more opportunities in local and foreign markets as candidates and employers enjoy greater reach.

He added that the advancement of mobile technologies can enable more flexibility in how and where work is performed. "This means that the choices for both individuals and clients increase, as well as increased competition for a job or a candidate," said Haglund.

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