Dot-com bust a mixed bag for IT staffing

Traditional companies are having an easier time filling long-empty IT staffing positions as former dot-com employees return to the corporate fold. But corporate IT managers report that not all of those returning are the cream of the crop.

"We figured people coming from dot-coms would be top-end and that we'd be working with the latest and greatest," said Bryant Fong, MIS manager at Advanced Research Laboratories, a shampoo and personal care products manufacturer in Costa Mesa, Calif. "When we interview them, their mentality is, ‘I can learn as I go.' But we have rules and procedures that we have to follow."

Others also cite the freewheeling nature of young technology workers who got their start in Internet companies, many of which were known for nontraditional office environments and work habits. Though willing to go the extra mile, these developers aren't accustomed to following structured methods for software development.

"There's a lot of innovation among some of the dot-commers," said Jim Hughes, CIO of Cleveland-based National City Corp., a bank with US$92 billion in assets. "But there's also a kind of hacker mentality."

Hughes manages an IT staff of 1,300 and has hired a dozen or so workers from closed dot-coms in recent months.

"We've had to make sure that these people can deliver the kind of stability and code that they perhaps didn't before," he explained. "We're transferring large sums of money, and it has to be right."

The Right Stuff

Internet-related job cuts in April totaled 17,500 -- an increase of more than 80 percent from March, according to a study released last month by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"We had a full-time recruiter working for IT last year," said Ergin Uskup, CIO at United Stationers Inc., an office supplies and equipment wholesaler in Des Plaines, Ill. "We've discontinued that service because the hiring process is less difficult."

Uskup said he's also receiving an influx of résumés from systems integration firms such as Chicago-based MarchFirst Inc., that conducted development work for dot-coms. But Uskup said he looks for the right skills instead of dot-com experience.

Indeed, dot-com and Internet integration experience doesn't ensure a good cultural or skills match.

Lorraine Balum, IT hiring manager at Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, Ill., agreed with Uskup.

"We've had more candidates contacting us, but they're not necessarily the right fit, and some of the skills sets are not aligned to what we're looking for," she said.

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