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IT recruiting a casualty of the recession

Companies have lost some talent-acquisition muscle, and they're going to feel the effects of that loss

By , Network World
August 15, 2011 03:04 PM ET

Network World - In the face of a lousy economy, hiring freezes and expense cuts, many companies have decimated their recruiting teams. But as IT staffs ramp up efforts to fill open positions and compete for key talent, this lack of recruiting resources could hurt them.

"A lot of recruiting staffs just don't exist anymore," says Joel Capperella, senior vice president of client solutions at Yoh, a technology staffing firm. "As the crash in 2008 came on full strength, the first folks to go were often recruiters. If you're not going be hiring anybody, why do you need recruiters?"

Some companies eliminated their internal recruiting teams and shifted to using outsourced services on an as-needed basis. Others kept recruiting in-house, but significantly downsized their departments. In both scenarios, companies have lost some talent-acquisition muscle -- and they're going to feel the effects of that loss, says Paul Rowson, managing director at WorldatWork, a nonprofit organization focused on human resources issues.

"When you start to recruit back, you start to experience all the signs of the hiatus, the laziness and the remission," Rowson says. "Any time you stop using a muscle and you don't exercise it, you can't just spring into action again."

While the job market is by no means booming, there have been signs that have industry watchers cautiously optimistic about the hiring outlook. IT jobs site Dice.com currently lists 81,498 available tech jobs, a gain of 24% compared to 65,959 open tech jobs in August 2010.

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Among 1,400 CIOs surveyed by staffing firm Robert Half Technology, just 7% said they plan to add IT staff in the current quarter. However, 87% of CIOs are confident in their companies' growth prospects in the next three months, and 48% say it's challenging to find skilled professionals today. (See also: "5 surprising IT skills that hiring managers want now")

With talent gaps to fill, recruiters could be hard pressed to find the right people without adequate resources. It's a problem not only for designated recruiters, but also for hiring managers -- in IT and other departments -- who share the staffing burden with HR.

The recession isn't the only reason hiring managers are feeling more pressure to take on recruiting responsibilities, says Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption at Monster.com. It's a trend that has been developing for years as managers have taken a more active role in scouting talent and shaping their teams.

Five years ago, most managers would have waited for HR to present them with candidates for an open position. Nowadays, an IT manager is more likely to say, "Hey, here are three or four people I've talked to over the past six months. Let's start with them," Winegardner says.

As shepherd of a team, that's how an IT manager should behave, he says. "A good manager is always scouting for the next team member."

However, just as recruiters are out of practice, so too are managers who have been focused on making do with current staff, not hiring new talent. Companies that aren't in good recruiting shape could wind up making desperate hires, which could include overpaying for talent.

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