IT job seekers are spending more time looking for new employment, despite signs of hope for an economic recovery.
Average job search times rose to 3.4 months in the fourth quarter of 2001 after a record low of 2.2 months in the first half of the year, according to figures from international outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas (CGC).
The company warned that the sluggish job market is a trend that is likely to continue into 2002, and advised job seekers to rethink their approach.
CGC chief executive John Challenger said: "Companies today are hiring, but much more cautiously. They are also turning increasingly to outsourcing as a cost-control measure.
"Because of so many job cutbacks, employers have a much deeper pool of eligible candidates from which to choose when they do have a job to fill."
Despite harsh job seeking conditions, the company warned potential candidates against settling for full-time temporary jobs as a stopgap.
A temporary job prolongs the full-time job search, said Challenger, because employers view candidates like lettuce: the fresher to the job market one appears to be, the more likely it is that one will be picked.
Carole Hepburn, director of permanent recruitment at Computer People, explained that, although many companies were talking about recovery in the market, uncertainty still prevailed.
And while job losses appear to be easing, businesses will not begin hiring workers in large numbers until they are sure that a sustained recovery has taken hold.
"Lots of projects are being discussed but there's little evidence that companies are taking on more people. Expectations were very high about the market picking up from both the candidate and employer perspective. Now most are saying it will be some time in the first or second quarter of this year before things improve," said Hepburn.
But mid-level technical skills - notably Unix, C, and Window NT - are all in demand, Hepburn added. Java skills are less sought after, although a glut of candidates with good technical Java skills is good news for Java hungry recruiting companies, she said.
Although salary levels had managed to hold their ground, Hepburn maintained that candidates were more realistic about the pay rises they could expect if they moved on.
"Candidates would expect a five to 10 per cent pay increase to move jobs and they will probably get that," she concluded.
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