Recruiters See Continued Strength in Tech Job Offers

Despite slowing somewhat, IT salaries continued to rise during the first quarter, in some cases pushed notably higher by a lack of professionals with the expertise needed to help businesses meet federal health-care mandates and varying business requirements.

Leveling UpAccording to the PayScale Quarterly Index, the usual growth rate of IT pay of more than 1 percent per quarter stalled at just 0.2 percent during the first period of the year. In addition, overall wages in some tech-centric cities stalled or even slightly declined, though tech recruiters say they continue to see stiff competition and strong offers being made to technology candidates.

The PayScale Index tracks the salary required to fill positions, PayScale lead economist Katie Bardaro explained. While it reflects inflation and market changes, it doesn’t track raises given to existing workers, she said.

Tracking more than 300,000 employee profiles per quarter, the index is designed to factor in a worker’s level of experience, education, employment setting and job responsibilities to track pay from one point in time to another. Since the index’s base year of 2006, the tech sector has consistently been a leader in wage growth, Bardaro said, attributing any hiring hesitation to general economic uncertainty.

Pay for Premium Skills

Over the past 12 months, IT salaries grew 5.1 percent, compared with 3.5 percent for wages in the overall economy, PayScale’s figures show. (Dice’s most recent salary survey, which polled employed tech workers on their pay, also found salaries for full-time tech workers grew by 5.1 percent, to an average annual salary of $83,370.)

Bardaro calls the PayScale Index “a direct application of supply and demand,” and she notes that in the current labor market, uneven as it may be, tech workers remain a hot commodity. “There is high demand for their talent and limited supply (which) drives up the going wage rate,” she said.

For example, health-care organizations are still scrambling to meet federal mandates for technology associated with the Affordable Care Act. IT workers with the skills to help meet those deadlines can command premium pay. Experience with EPIC information systems, for instance, can boost pay by 10 to 20 percent, based on job and location.

Other skills with strong wage growth:

Bardaro said wage growth was highest for front-end developers, more so than back-end IT functions, and for any positions involving both IT and analytics.

DevOps is Hot

The index found slight overall wage declines in some tech hubs, including Boston (down 0.7 percent) and Seattle (down 0.2 percent), while growth softened in San Francisco to 0.7 percent compared to previous quarters of more than 1 percent. Bardaro pointed out that those drops weren’t specific to tech jobs, however.

Rob Byron, principal consultant and team leader of information technology at WinterWyman Search in Boston, said he’s seen no declines in IT offers. “Companies have to make competitive offers to fill positions,” he said. “We’re seeing candidates kicking offers, staying at their company.”

One area where Byron sees particular heat is DevOps. “It’s fairly new (so) to find someone like that, it’s pretty competitive. There’s only a small number of candidates who have that skill set.”

Negotiating Power

Byron also says many candidates are negotiating for better terms before accepting an offer. “We’re seeing in almost every deal we do these days, the candidates have a little more power. In certain skill sets, there’s so much demand and there are not enough qualified candidates out there. So they have a little bit more cachet,” he said.

David Knapp, regional VP for technology and creative services at Robert Half International in San Francisco, also identifies skills in particular demand:

  • Application developers, with salaries up as much as 9 percent over the past year.
  • Business intelligence analysts, with a rise of 7.3 percent.
  • Network architects, up 7 percent.

It’s not only big companies who are paying up, Knapp says. Startups, too, know it’s a level playing field when it comes to recruiting. “They’ve got to be as competitive as possible,” he said. “They need to put their best foot forward in making an offer. Then they can throw in value-adds such as technical education, certification, working from home. You’ve just got to put the best offer out there.”

33 Responses to “Recruiters See Continued Strength in Tech Job Offers”

  1. Well that’s nice. Except for the fact that 80% of the “hot” jobs are in web or mobile development and you’d better be an EXACT match to the job description. It’s nice that someone took the time to find out where all the “Hot” jobs are but it doesn’t do you any good if you’re not a coder.

    This isn’t good news for the rest of us.

  2. I agree with JW. Employers want “EXACT” match of their job description. If not, resume is out the window. Now a days, employers want someone with both PM and development skills where as before, they would hire a PM to run the project and developers to do the coding. So IT Salary is really not rising as numbers indicate.

    • Yes, they certainly do want an EXACT match.

      The really fun part is when that match includes a requirement for 10 years experience in something that has only existed for 5. Or expertise in two completely unrelated fields, both of which take an entire career to become expert at.

      Suffice it to say, I’ve seen some really nonsensical job postings these past few years.

      I suspect that a lot of the “impossible” job descriptions we see are simply companies going through the motions of advertising for local talent as part of the requirements so they can then go ahead and bring in thier H1-Bs.

      • G Thompson

        Indeed. I believe many of the job postings are not serious, in that companies are simply generating “proof”, to show the Gov that they put forth their “best effort” to fill their positions.

        In our capitalist society, where Wall Street and CEOs rule, cheap labor is the name of the game.

        • Yep…

          Once I got suspicious about this pattern and started paying attention, I noticed that there are a lot of those. Not “all”, or even “most”, but still “a lot” of job postings that seem to be specifically written in the hopes of getting zero applicants.

          Some are sneaky and subtle, some are blatantly obvious. But once you start watching for it, it’s clear that there are a great many job postings made with the specific hope of not getting any applicants.

          Do you have 15 years experience admining Ubuntu servers?
          10 years with Windows Server 2K8?

          Neither one is possible you say? But this job requires both.

          Oh well, guess they’ll just have to ship in some dirt cheap offshore labor who claims to have it.

          • Actually, it won’t be the actual worker who claims to have the bogus experience.

            That claim will be made by a middle-man agency who watches for these ads and custom crafts a resume that miraculously fits every last impossible detail.

  3. It’s great news considering that most of us in IT have been kicked and beaten down on salaries while C-level management has had smooth sailing since the dot-bomb. The wage inequality is staggering between what top-level managers make and the rest of us. Time to unionize!

    Billing rates in Silicon Valley for contractors have finally gone back up to 3-digit billable on a lot of jobs too. This is especially good news since the cost of living here has gone through the roof because of the housing shortage. Many of us are now insisting on telecommute ( FOAD to Marissa Meyer ) options and/or limited in-office requirements simply because we can’t afford to live close to the office or for that matter San Francisco. Average rent in SF is $3000/month. 36K a year for housing is ridiculous, but the market for housing favors the owner.

    If you have DevOps skills you will not need to hunt for work, recruiters will be calling you. This means if you have back-end server/system administration skill and can actually code in something besides shell script you will be in hot demand. Take the time to at least learn Perl, but if you can, learn Python and Ruby, at least from a procedural perspective. Learn Puppet or Chef, you won’t go wrong.

  4. The cry that the US is not producing enough people with math and science skills and falling behind other countries is nothing new and false. Ask a new grad in the math and sciences how easy it is to get a job. The cry that not enough IT, especially LINUX Administrators, are in shortage is also false. You need the core skills but also Web, network, programming and storage skills. Used to be that these these we specialties but now you must know it all. The cry comes from business trying to convince government to allow more (cheaper) labor from foreign countries. A kind of out sourcing. Any more I don’t recommend to parents and students not go into this line of work. It’s feast or famine and the latest panacia. Be a artist or musican instead.

  5. Yes, agreed with previous posters on the “EXACT Match”. I think that leads to creative reconstruction of resumes when developers figure it out. I was rejected at one job interview for not knowing a few questions … I looked it up when I got home and had concept & operational skill developed in about an hour and a half.

    I can’t believe that managers with dev experience would throw out candidates with 90% of what they need. Anyone knows there’s ALWAYS a little OJT if only for business. When I was hiring developers, I looked for people who had demonstrated that they could get up to speed with technologies quickly and produce quality work.

    Thank God I’ve developed a profitable consultancy. Customers are so much easier to deal with than HR managers.

  6. Salaries are increasing compared to what? Or, better stated, to when?

    After somehow surviving the recession, I finally managed to land another job in the tech field. Pre-2008, this job would have easily paid 30K more than what I’m getting. And yet, I’m happy to have it, because there’s still not much hiring going on out there.

    Is the situation today better than it was 6 months ago? Definitely. Is it anywhere near as good as it was 5 years ago? Not by a long shot. And I honestly don’t believe it ever will be again.

    I’ve been in this field for too long now, so i really can’t move to something else and expect to maintain a decent standard of living. But believe me, when I hear young people talk about choosing IT as a career path, I do my best to talk them out of it.

      • The answer is simple. It’s a service industry job and you’re going to get treated as such. I’ve personally accumulated student debt nearing the level of a juris doctorate (lawyer) with a fraction of the earning potential and none of the stability.

        You’re better off learning a few of the “hot skills” and see how the industry suits you before going in head first. You’d be in a better position than a lot of us “old dogs” as well since we’ve got too much invested by now to give up on the field as a whole.

        • Everything you said is true, but there’s even more to it.

          This profession has been commoditized by the enormous flood of people entering it in the 90’s. This, along with heavy lobbying to keep the flow of H1-Bs coming in, has been quite successful in suppressing wages in this line of work. After 20 years of working my way up, I’m now just bringing home slightly more than a decent auto mechanic can make fresh out of school.

          And the mechanic gets to go home after work and enjoy his time with his family. A “not insignificant” portion of my off-work time has to be spent learning new ways to do the same old shit. I believe the “professional” term is keeping my skills up to date. Back in the good old days, companies would fork over piles of cash to fly you to Vegas or Miami so you could stay in a 4-star hotel while you took a training course during the day and partied like a rock star at night. These days they just tell you “Go get some training on that”. And it’s on your dime.

          Mechanics also don’t have to deal with the on-call rotation. Which is basically just a code-word for “work 24 hour shifts for one week out of six”. And, no, that extra time is not included in your salary calculation.

          This used to be a really great profession. It’s not anymore. I don’t have enough pre-retirement years left to make a career switch and have a hope of getting back to the income level I’m at, but if some kid just about to graduate high school asked me for career advice? Yeah, I’d tell them to steer clear of IT.

          • Also, if this whole “cloud” thing takes off like it looks like it’s going to…

            That’s going to boil down to one overworked sysadmin doing a mediocre, but financially acceptable job of the same work that 10 or 20 gainfully employed sysadmins used to do.

            Not that I’m opposed to the advancement of technology. I’m a big fan of that, which is the reason I got into this line of work in the first place.

            But there’s no denying that as a whole, IT people are killing their own job market by making hard things easy, and reducing the need for skilled staff.

  7. G Thompson

    Let’s not forget rampant age discrimination in IT. Especially for coders.

    Once over the age of 40, good luck! Especially, if applying to a “hip” company, like Facebook. Pfft

    • Jon Hamm

      That’s silly, there’s no “rampant age discrimination” afoot: you’re projecting your own inability to convince an employer to hire you on others. I’m well over the age of 40, and get plenty of work. My experience is an asset to those who appreciate that while I have 4-5 years of Rails experience, I also have the perspective of 15+ prior years on other languages and frameworks. Grow up.

      • No, he’s right. There is definitely age discrimination in IT. I know this both from my own experience looking for work, and from “just between us” conversations I’ve had with HR people.

        It’s certainly not impossible to get work in IT when you’re over 40, but it is most definitely one more (significant) obstacle to overcome.

        • G Thompson

          Correct. I never said I’m unable to find work. I have only the evidence to go by. That being, before I hit 40, I never received a “Not a good fit” response. I usually knew during the interview, and still do, if the fit was good. If the fit was good, I pretty much always got an offer. After 40, the “Not a good fit” responses started appearing.

          Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, and it’s something else. Being a mobile apps developer, who’s been designing on mobile, since before iOS and the smartphone boom, I can only guess age, rather demand for my skills.

      • It’s ok. It’s understandable that one wouldn’t acknowledge a problem if one didn’t personally experience it. From your post, it’s obvious that you haven’t but there’s a world outside of your personal experience. Perhaps you live in an area that doesn’t have as much competition or you’ve forged long term relationships that have kept you above having to worry about competing with the masses to beg for work at a fraction of your previous salary.

        The bottom line is, there is age discrimination and it’s kept a lot of us out of work regardless of our bag of skills. Luckily for you it hasn’t touched you yet.

    • That’s very true. At 42 I certainly don’t feel like an old man yet, but I have been finding that my age closes a lot of doors now.

      My favorite code-word so far was that they were looking for someone with “a more recent educational background”.

      • G Thompson

        The HR department must have been run by a newb.

        Most HR departments, if they respond at all, and to limit their exposure to legal action, will not include any words having to do with time, such as “recent”.

        The standard response is often “Not a good fit”.

        • Yeah, it was unusually blatant. Wasn’t the HR department, though. This was the hiring manager who was really trying to get me in and he just botched the effort to obfuscate the reason his higher-ups had given him.

          But even when they’re more careful, you eventually start to pick up on the pattern. Like getting a call from the recruiter, going through a couple phone screens, only to have interest dry up when I mention, or send a resume that shows, that I was a working professional in 1992 and not a kindergarten student.

          Either way, it’s frustrating to be in a line of work where 20 years of solid experience is a liability, rather than the asset it is in most fields.

          • G Thompson

            I’m at the ripe, old “IT” age of 46. In order to keep my resume to a reasonable length, I’ve included only the last ten years of work experience. Also, I list only time spans, not dates.

            I know I’ve been hit with age bias, when the phone interview goes well. The on-site interview goes well, and I really click with the team. Then, either no response, or “Not a good fit.”.

            I once was chatting with a corporate VP, I met at the gym I go to. He told me the issue with “over 40s” is, it’s assumed they are married, with kids. Therefore, will be resistive to putting in the long hours. In other words, will want a life outside of work.

          • Yes, I certainly relate to that and it has been my experience also. It is next to impossible to prove age discrimination. The question is how does one deal with it and go forward? What strategy is useful to overcome it? How does one deal with an industry where the disposible H1-B or the young geek with no social skills or life is in demand? Most the the info on the internet and literature is by people who don’t experience or understand it.

          • G Thompson

            What’s really annoying is, I have friends in one of the “noble professions”. Lawyer, doctor, civil engineer. They don’t seem to have to deal with age bias so much. Their careers are pretty well laid out until retirement.

            For some reason, especially software startups, if you’re not wearing a hoody, Chuck Taylors, and punk hair, you’re deemed unworthy. Maybe something to do with movies The Matrix, Social Network, etc.

    • There is most definitely age discrimination so if you are 50+, this is another big hurdle to deal with, along with everything else. I’ve read a lot of articles on this and had recruiters admit this to me privately. I also have a good friend hit this brick wall (she got confirmation from a friend on the inside who heard the hiring manager say “Nope, too old…I want younger & cheaper…”. I’m quite sure I’ve hit this myself, although it’s always very stealthy so you can never be 100% sure. They can give you pretty much any other reason why you didn’t get the job and you can’t prove otherwise (if they give you the courtesy of sharing a reason, versus the all-to-common never hear anything blow-off). Compound your age with being out of the workforce for a while, even if you’ve had a stellar career and turned in huge successes in the past, and you are pretty much screwed.

      Btw, there is a fledgling community just starting to form in Facebook that folks might want to check out. It’s nice to know we are not alone in this unemployment situation but it sure feels like it at times. It’s called “New Horizons, The Next Chapter”

      I don’t see anyone else addressing this 45-50+ unemployment problem at the political level and it certainly gets very little press coverage so it seems we are just kicked to the curb and forgotten like yesterday’s news. There is strength in numbers and there are some things we can do to fight back about all of this. If nothing else, drop off a comment or suggestion and give it a a “Like” to at least help build some positive momentum. It sounds like the community needs and interests will help shape the course and direction.

  8. Hospitals have an urgent need for experienced, highly skilled IT professionals to ensure they can meet new government requirements and qualify for financial incentives measures to address their attraction and retention issues with IT professionals. Commonly reported effective tactics include increasing base pay rates, offering retention bonuses, and providing additional education and training.

  9. B Anderson

    Ditto on the notes about EXACT match. Combine that with Ageism (55 like me?! You would think I was the personification of a TRS-80). Then add on that I’m (Shudder) a Woman! FUGGEDABOUDIT!
    They don’t want experience, or demonstrated creativity and they don’t want breadth. They don’t care about your achievements if it’s not in 10 years of Mongo Frigging DB development.
    The market has been flooded with cheap and narrow offshore resources and hipsters who have a very definite retro attitude about people who don’t look like them.
    Bitter much?

  10. My comments r more along the philosophical lines. That said, reguardless of age, within reasonable limits of course and depending on the skillset, there is someone who wants u; who will hire you. On the other hand, when up against a huge pool of 20 somethings with up-to-date skillsets no family complications and an over abundance of bottled up energy, all those pluses just screams revenue coeporate IT. Thank You.

  11. Very interesting thread here. I’ve been looking for a new position for 90 days. I’m a well qualified C++,C,Objective C engineer in Oregon and I’ve been wondering why i’m not getting interviews. This “Exact Match” thing has me wondering. Also, if you’ve noticed, many of these companies use a third party resume screener. when you click on a link to apply, you are subtly redirected to a different site. I wonder if its partly because the screeners don’t have enough experience to read between the lines on qualifications? I’m very worried because i’m almost 60. Today I applied for a job that redirected me to Cybercoders, and their registration process actually asked me if I was over 40. FYI