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Prospects better but clouds still on the horizon

Published on
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Written by
Nicholas Olczak [1]

The employment market in the information technology sector is picking up again after taking a hit from the financial crisis.

But the crisis has brought changes in the types of roles being offered, meaning job seekers need to be willing to be flexible and look for positions in different areas.

"Now we have a lot more opportunities, compared to earlier this year," said Anthony Au, a general manager at Manpower Professional IT Recruitment. "It's far from good yet, but opportunities are there, candidates have a lot of choices."

There has been a shift in the focus of recruitment towards delivery of products and away from product development. Development roles remain quite limited, according to Chris Mead, general manager of Hays Recruitment in Singapore. 

"New initiatives in terms of creating products are still at a minimum across Asia," he said. "But some regional governments are investing to create new projects and investing to create new jobs."

He said that opportunities still existed in product development, but companies looked for the best candidates who closely matched their requirements. Alongside this, he said companies were looking to hire a lot more "sales style" employees.

"Most of the organisations restructured certain roles after the financial crisis. They were also keen to find good technical sales people," he said. As a result of this change, he said, it was necessary for job candidates to be more willing to adapt to different duties and roles.

"Candidates have to be a bit flexible," he said. "That's what employers now expect."

Au said that there was much more hiring on the technical sales, pre-sales and marketing side of the technology industry.

"When the market starts picking up, people want to sell more, so the frontline staff are the people who get the benefits," he said.

For these roles, he said candidates needed to have a good knowledge of the company's products. However, an ability to communicate and speak different languages was often more important than technical skills.

"IT people can pick up tech skills easily," he said. "Soft skills are more difficult."

Government departments had been a fairly consistent recruiter of IT staff even during the financial crisis, Au said, adding that these departments were still hiring staff at the moment. 

For the telecommunications sector, he said that the industry was still in difficulty because the competition was high and the profit margin too low. He said that while the industry's recruitment was quiet overall, some data centres were still hiring.

Mead said some of the telecommunications vendors were rolling out new products such as broadband systems which required support staff.

He also said that many of the end users - companies using computer systems after they have been fully developed - were now hiring employees directly. End users include financial institutions, which a Hays quarterly report indicated are one of the biggest recruiters of information technology staff. 

"Leading investment banks are currently recruiting into their Equities and Futures business," said Emma Charnock, regional director of Hays in Hong Kong and China. "The roles are focused on infrastructure and development."

Au agreed that across the financial sector, hiring for IT roles was being boosted by the pick-up in the market. He said that a lot of financial firms had a backlog of work from during the financial crisis and that some had also recently chosen to move more IT operations to Hong Kong.

"It's a good sign," he said. "The quality of work in Hong Kong attracts companies to do this." 

On the infrastructure side, Charnock said financial companies wanted support engineers or analysts covering Windows, together with market data and database products. These needed to have an excellent knowledge of specific products, she said.

She said that development roles were more front-end focused, with employees working alongside traders to produce risk and pricing data. Candidates for these roles would need strong object orientated design skills and database exposure.

"Some vacancies will focus specifically on a programming language like C++ or Java, so excellent programming knowledge is required," said Charnock.


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