The CIO Job Market in 2010: More Opportunity and More Competition

The CIO job market gained steam during the fourth quarter of 2009, and executive recruiters expect that momentum to build in 2010 as the economy recovers.

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Tue, January 05, 2010

CIO — As bad as 2009 was for employment in the U.S.—and it was truly terrible—the CIO job market picked up during the latter half of the year, according to executive recruiters who believe the increase in CIO job openings and search activity is a positive sign of what's to come in 2010.

"The bottom was reached in the first quarter [of 2009], and it started to turn around mid-summer," says Mark Anderson, president of ExecuNet. "Right now we're definitely seeing the market rebound for CIOs and [for executives] across the board. We're seeing about a 23 percent increase in the number of jobs being posted in our private network from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009."

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Anderson adds that executive recruiters polled by ExecuNet in December anticipate a 19 percent increase in search assignments in 2010. Last year, search assignments were down 30 percent from 2008, according to ExecuNet, so the 20 percent increase in 2010 won't quite recover the business lost in 2009.

Shawn Banerji, a recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates' Information Officers and Business and Professional Services practices, says his firm witnessed "decent" hiring through the second half of the fourth quarter of 2009. "We were booking one to two new CIO searches every week," he says.

Interestingly, notes Banerji, the CIO job market began to thaw when search activity traditionally slows: mid- to late summer (when most professionals are on vacation) and at the end of the year (when attention turns to the holidays and time off).

Dice.com, which targets IT professionals, observed a similar uptick in employment activity during the second half of the year. By the end of December, the number of jobs advertised on Dice exceeded over 50,000, up from a low of about 45,000 job ads in the middle of the year.

"That's unusual," says Dice.com CMO Tom Silver. "Typically we see job count drop off toward the end of the year. I look at that as a sign of encouraging things to come in 2010."

Trends Driving the CIO Job Market

Several trends set the stage for the CIO job market to begin its rebound during the second half of 2009 and to continue through 2010.

First, stimulus money that the U.S. government allocated to industries such as health care, green energy and green technology spurred hiring in those areas, even at the bottom of the recession, says ExecuNet's Anderson.

Pent-up demand for talent also played a role in the hiring rebound, says Banerji. "August popped because people didn't do a lot of hiring in May, June and July," he says, adding that clients realized they needed to make some key hires to get their businesses ready for 2010.

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