Here are the key takeaways from CompTIA's latest research on what IT job seekers and employers need to know for the coming year.
Job growth in IT is good news, but with a caveat, according to CompTIA's January 2015 research report entitles "IT Industry Outlook." IT industry executives are anticipating a challenging year on the hiring front.
The report was pulled together from multiple sources, including information for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Burning Glass, EMSI and CompTIA in an effort to put together an industry outlook spanning a workforce overview, growth projections, and technology and channel trends, said Tim Herbert, CompTIA vice president of research and market analysis
There are a few key factors that are shaping how people look at the state of IT to begin with.
For one, there's the definition of what constitutes a job in IT. Broader definitions may include engineers, or those in aerospace. CompTIA tends to focus on "core IT occupations," that are generally positions that would be found within an IT department, said Herbert.
Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they found that the base of this work segment increased by 2.4% in 2014, which translates to roughly 116,000 new jobs.
For context, the percentage rose slightly for 2013, and unemployment in this area is lower than the national average.
"When you look at these types of data points, it tells a pretty nice story for IT occupations and IT workers," Herbert said.
There are several trends potentially working on these low numbers, Herbert said.
"One of the macro trends is there's simply a lot of demand for technology and we continue to see that technology is more accessible than ever among small and mid-size businesses, so they're consuming more technology, they need more assistance to implement emerging technologies," Herbert said.
What all this means is that demand for IT workers is up, and of the 650 IT executives CompTIA talked to, 43% said they're understaffed (this could meaning adding positions or trying to backfill) and roughly two-thirds are anticipating a difficult hiring environment in 2015.
One potential hurdle for employers might be geography. It goes without saying that the challenges in finding talent differ from big city to small city.
"One piece of advice may be companies do have to potentially look beyond their immediate area and even if their hope is the position is someone who will be working at their primary office, they may have to open that up and consider locations that may be outside their immediate area, just to tap into workers who are maybe in markets where there's less demand," Herbert said.
Another challenge will be cutting through the noise and clearly communicating to the candidate how the job will benefit them.
"This market isn't about finding candidates their next job. It's about serving as a conduit to the next opportunity in their career," said Matt Brosseau, director of information technology at recruiting firm Instant Alliance.
The best way to do that is to understand that and try to match them with projects and environments that make sense for them.
"Don't draft requirements based off template HR jargon. Include details about the position, what systems will be used, what is expected of the role in the first 6 months, etc.," Brosseau said.
Dice president Shravan Goli also pointed out that many of the perks and benefits that were once unique -- long vacations or flexible work hours, are now common place.
"For smaller companies or companies outside of major tech hubs, they need to start to think creatively in order to lure top tech talent. Whether that be by offering professionals development opportunities or more work from home hours, these companies need to start to get creative," he said.
And really, this starts to play into retention. Goli cited a Dice survey that found 37% of participants were anticipating changing employers.
Attracting and retaining tech talent go hand-in-hand.
It would also be prudent for recruiters and employers to be open to different platforms and strategies to find candidates.
"This ranges from job boards to traditional job postings, social media, seems like most companies, they are aware that they have to take a multi-faceted approach," Herbert said.
Goli also offered the idea of not just relying on a job posting board.
"Turn to local schools, set up a coding camp, organizing a hackathon, etc. -- these are low cost ways of building your reputation in the community and stand[ing] out. In essence, farm the talent as much as trying to hunt for the talent," Goli said.
It also might be time to ease up on the focus on finding the absolutely perfect person and explore other options.
"Companies or recruiters shouldn't be setting their sights on trying to find the 'perfect' candidate," Goli said.
But that doesn't exactly mean settling. Rather, it might mean training existing staff, or finding someone who could grow into that great fit through some additional training, Herbert said. In essence, it's a matter of trade-offs.