If anecdotal evidence from recruitment circles is anything to go by, the channel can expect healthy growth in the next two quarters as IT companies start to hire again.
The feeling is backed up by the latest TMP Worldwide job index, which states that 30 per cent of Australian IT companies intend to recruit staff in the period from February to April. This compares to the 8.2 per cent of IT companies that have plans to scale back.
The results of the survey, which polls the responses of over 6,000 employers across all industry sectors, are a promising economic indicator, according to recruitment firms in contact with ARN.
Norman Lacey, executive director of the IT Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA), said there are "definitely signs" of improvement in the number of positions being filled by ITCRA's 88 recruitment company members.
It appears Sydney has rebounded faster than other cities, with ITCRA predicting a full recovery in the third and fourth quarters of next year.
But it's not a case of being out of the woods just yet for many companies, according to Channel Resources, a recruitment company that specialises in placing candidates into channel companies.
Paul Sadler, Channel Resources' managing director, claims that while things are improving -- with around one-third of channel companies intending to hire staff in the next six months -- employers are expecting immediate results from their new employees.
"It's quite positive. A lot of companies are taking on staff because there's no other way for them to hit their targets," said Sadler. "But employers aren't as interested in [a candidate's] potential as they were 12 months ago. Now they want people who are actually going to bring their customer relationships.
"[Companies] are on skeleton staff at the moment, not skeleton staff like over Christmas, but they've been shaving off staff to get back to their core business. In order to grow and meet some pretty enthusiastic sales targets, they're going to have to bring in new accounts. And the only way to get those accounts is to hire the people with those relationships."
According to several recruitment companies, experience is being rated higher than industry-based qualifications. Ben Evans, a partner in a Sydney-based IT executive placement firm, claims that despite current optimism in the job sector, employers are more cautious about the candidates they hire.
"With the New Year and fears of a recession abating, IT spending has definitely sped up. To take advantage of this, [IT companies] are starting to hire new sales and pre-sales staff in anticipation of more business. However, I have found a more careful approach than before. Hiring managers are perhaps looking for more specific experience or a longer track record of success," said Evans.
Evans is expecting an April/May boom in hiring from companies working on a US financial year period, although companies that have made strategic hires early in the cycle stand to gain the most.
"Companies that have made successful hires in Q1 and Q2 will be looking to consolidate that by bringing on one or two more people; other companies that have played the softly, softly approach will see their competition doing well and will make the plunge themselves to start hiring again," he said.
Despite the increase in recruitment, it remains an employer's market, according to Channel Resources' Sadler, with numerous talented candidates on the market, and an overall decrease in salary levels.
Evans agrees: "Companies shouldn't just be looking for people who are on the market -- some may be on the market because no-one wants to hire them. Good people are currently employed and employers need to be able to demonstrate a good value proposition to them as to why they should move."
However, as Sadler points out, candidates that do get placed, predominantly in sales/marketing rolls, have less time than ever before to prove their worth. "I know of companies that have had to retrench people in the first three-month period because the candidate is not bringing in sales quickly enough," he said.
According to Sadler, tier-one corporate dealers and systems integrators are currently the most active in seeking new staff. Least active include vendors and distributors.