Susan Hall of IT Business Edgespoke with Deborah Vazquez, CEO of Boca Raton, Fla., IT staffing firm Protech, about the IT job market in south Florida.
Hall: So what trends are you seeing?
Vazquez: We’ve been seeing quite a strong market for the last couple of years. Up until the beginning of this year, we were seeing a lot stronger demand for consultants-contractors-but since the beginning of the year, we’re getting more of a mix of requirements for contractors as well as direct hires. And we’re definitely seeing a tightening market on the supply side, the candidates. We’re seeing a lot of competitive job offers, multiple job offers. We’ve got more of a supply problem than anything. That’s a big shift, but it’s happened over the past two years.
“Clients are not indecisive. They’re moving forward with candidates. Their interview cycles are tight. There’s no dragging of the feet.” Deborah Vazquez, CEO, Protech
Hall: Are you seeing any signs of hesitation in hiring related to economic worries?
Vazquez: Nope. Things are moving at a very fast pace right now. Clients are not indecisive. They’re moving forward with candidates. Their interview cycles are tight. There’s no dragging of the feet.
Hall: So what kind of projects are they moving so quickly on?
Vazquez: There are a lot of development projects, a lot of them having to do with outward-facing Web site development. That’s the clear No. 1 in requests that we get. .NET developers, Java developers, a lot of SharePoint. We can’t keep up with SharePoint demand. There’s a definite supply issue there. BizTalk. Networking is not quite as strong, though it has picked up a bit in the past 60 days or so.
We’re also beginning to see some movement in management, to director, but not quite at C-level yet. But there’s definitely some demand for manager and director types, which is a breath of fresh air, because that has been a real laggard in terms of positions.
Hall: So if the talent pool is so tight, you have to be talking poaching, right? These people already have a position.
Vazquez: Most of them? Absolutely. For those short-supply skill sets, absolutely. They’re working, they have options and it’s highly competitive. Our policy is not to poach from our own clients. We like to work with companies with good reputations and poach from the ones who don’t. And fortunately, or unfortunately, we have a number of places that don’t, so we have places we can go to get talent-and we bring it in. South Florida is a place that people think of for retirement purposes, and we always tell people, “You can work here and enjoy the benefits of what you would enjoy when you retire. Why wait until you retire?”
Hall: I would think that would be a big selling point.
Vazquez: It is. Why wait? Get down here and enjoy seeing beautiful palm trees on your way to work every day. It’s a great place to live and there’s no state income tax, so we use that as well. In many markets, state income tax ranges between 6 and 11 percent, so that’s right off the top of your salary. South Florida salaries are not as high as in other markets, like New York or California, but we don’t have that state income tax and the cost of living here is still lower. So it all works out nicely.
Hall: So if you’re trying to lure a candidate to a new position, what does it take to get them to leave the job they have?
Vazquez: Though many candidates’ first priority is money, we really try not to focus too much on that. When we qualify a candidate, we try to make sure that is secondary, not their primary motivation for leaving, because if it is, that means they’re not going to last wherever we place them. Here, we have a very decentralized geography and people do not like to drive from one county to another. Traffic is getting bad. So those quality-of-life motivations make a big difference. Sometimes management, leadership is not great at whatever company and that’s pretty known. We know what technologies companies use, at least the major ones, therefore what skill sets they have and the reputation that they have as an employer. So we try to focus on the companies where we know people are not happy Some of the companies with the worst reputations actually pay really well because no one wants to work for them. Some candidates will actually take a cut to be in the right environment, and those are the ones we focus on, because we know they’re going to stick.
Hall: So in this tight labor market, what are some of the more successful hiring strategies?
Vazquez: Unemployment in IT is very low compared with other industries. IT has been extremely resilient. We didn’t suffer that much as a result of the recession. But employers have been very lax I guess they’re looking at the business as a whole and they’re thinking, “Well, there’s a lot of people out there, so we don’t really have to try that hard.” Unfortunately.
Now, I think that some of them are catching on. We’ve seen strategies like open vacation policies, meaning there’s no set amount of vacation a person can take. They can take as much as they like as long as they meet their deadlines and goals. That’s very attractive. Those are the really progressive companies that are doing things like this.
Telecommuting is always a great one. As far as benefits, a lot of the 401k matching got cut and that’s beginning to come back. So it’s really good benefits packages, respect for the employee and involvement from that employee as far as input into decisions and making it more of a team environment. That’s what attracts people to jobs. They want to have input, whether it’s a software application or using best practices or working on the infrastructure side. More so than money, they want to see that they have a career path, that they have a way to grow. A lot of why people are interested in leaving where they’re at is because there’s no growth.
Hall: So beyond .NET, Java and mobile, what skills are particularly hard for you to find?
Vazquez: I would say No. 1 for us would be developers with iPad, iPhone skills, Android developers. I’d also say unique tools like Hyperion, BizTalk, SharePoint. Those would be No. 2. After that, I would say just developers in general – that would be really solid .NET developers with externally facing development experience-Java, same thing. And even Oracle, E-Business Suite. We’re having an issue with companies catching up to the fact that salaries have increased. That is another trend. We are seeing increasing salaries in the past two years.
Hall: By what kind of percentage?
Vazquez: I’d say easily 10 percent, if not more for some job categories. There was about a year and a half when we got hit. There was a kind of a blip there when there were more people than jobs, and people went to work for 10K, 15K less than they were worth. And now, that 10K is back. So for people who are interested in making a move, unfortunately, that is their primary reason, and that concerns us. But salaries have absolutely increased.
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