Although the number of U.S. IT jobs increased slightly by 2% between the first quarter of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, the demand for IT workers is expected to slow during the rest the year. This glum outlook is the result of a recent survey of 500 hiring managers by the Information Technology Association of America, which found that the pool of candidates for jobs are now better qualified than ever before. What will help candidates stand out from the crowd? On-the-job experience, certifications, and good interpersonal skills, say survey respondents.According to the survey, the U.S. IT workforce grew from 10.3 million in 2003 to 10.5 million in 2004. However, the hiring managers polled said they plan to fill approximately 230,000 jobs this year, compared to almost 500,000 last year. Tech support specialists are the most sought after professionals with 67,000 jobs to fill this year, followed by network systems execs with 36,000 jobs.And competition for jobs has increased: 33% of hiring managers said applicants are better qualified for positions this year than last, and another 44% said candidates are as qualified than those encountered last year.\u00a0While I imagine most of you are busy studying for certifications and working hard gaining valuable knowledge in your job, it's always good to know that there are employers out there who appreciate your commitment to your personal development. So let's take a closer look at the study to see what employers are saying about hiring and the state of the workforce.The majority of employers (46%) say previous experience in a related field is a highly prized asset in job candidates. A full 41% said a four-year college degree in a related field provided the best background for IT jobs.In terms of adding value to the enterprise once employed, formal on-the-job training (56%) narrowly beat certification programs (55%) as providing the best method for internal advancement. It's interesting to note though that large companies appear to be far more interested in formal on-the-job training than small firms, says the report. Perhaps this is because large companies are more likely to have the resources to conduct in-house training, the report suggests. So if your company provides in-house training - what are you waiting for?According to the study, IT companies appear to place higher value on certifications than non-IT firms. A full 49% of IT companies said IT certifications and continuing education are "very important" for career development compared to 37% for non-IT employers.Breaking the survey results down into job roles, 53% of managers hiring network design and administration professionals said the best candidates were those with more than a year's worth of previous experience in a related field under their belts. A full 51% put the same emphasis on a related degree, and 22% on vendor certifications\/training - a significantly higher percentage than the average results, says the report.\u00a0Next time, we'll examine the soft skills that hiring managers want in employees, plus the anticipated tenure of network execs in their jobs.***Network World Technology Tour: VoIPSept. 14-29, at a city near youhttps:\/\/www.nwfusion.com\/events\/voip\/index.htmlFor corporate executives, VoIP raises expectations and fears that impact every corner of the enterprise. Data. Budgets. Users. Technology.Convergence. And so in support of IT executives who must meet every challenge, Network World presents a crucial new Technology Tour event.Claim one of the limited number of complimentary seats at this high-demand event and you'll learn how to plan, configure, troubleshoot, and leverage your VoIP infrastructure in ways that please CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and everyone who reports to them.Network World Technology Tour: Messaging and SpamSept. 21-30, at a city near youhttps:\/\/www.nwfusion.com\/events\/messaging\/index.htmlStrategy & Management for Messaging & Spam is a sophisticated new Network World Event seminar that's as innovative and aggressive as the spammers themselves. It treats content management as a professional discipline. Help to solve the symptoms of spam by going inside the world of messaging for a dose of preventative medicine driven by proven management principles.