As the Asia-Pacific’s most competitive information technology (IT) industry (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's IT Industry Competitiveness Index, 2011), Singapore is well on its way to becoming a major global IT hub.

As a result, demand for talent in the local IT industry has been steadily rising.

Indeed, almost 80 per cent of Capita Staffing & Search’s placements are for IT system integrators, vendors and solution providers.

Although job hunters may rejoice at this rosy outlook, hiring managers are facing a talent shortage for skilled technology staff, with more than half of employers in Singapore facing difficulties due to a combination of factors.

Roles in the IT industry can call for a very niche set of skills that is often in short supply, especially given the limited pool of talent in Singapore. The rapid evolution of technology also means that it takes time for IT professionals to update their skills and knowledge of new systems and programmes, further exacerbating the situation.

Additionally, the latest directives from the Ministry of Manpower have placed restrictions on the hiring of overseas candidates, resulting in employers vying for the same pool of skilled local professionals.

Organisations have since turned to outsourcing their IT function to cope with the talent shortage.

According to a recent survey by Networks Asia, three-quarters of Singapore IT decision makers will outsource the majority of their IT infrastructure by 2021, reducing the headcount needed for support and maintenance. This also has the additional benefit of significant cost savings in the long run.

Despite the high demand for IT talent, competition for roles in the industry remains stiff. More firms are hiring contract staff, as with more outsourcing, the need for round-the-clock IT support within the firm drops.

The number of permanent roles has thus been greatly reduced, which means that competition among candidates for a limited number of long-term vacancies is now more intense.

Clearly, there are certain steps that organisations and candidates need to take to meet business and individual career needs.

Employers typically look for a combination of skills, experience as well as the right cultural fit when hiring for a role in any industry. The IT sector is no exception, but with technology constantly evolving, candidates with knowledge of the latest systems and programmes will have an edge over the competition, as they will require less training.

Further, in today’s constantly evolving IT landscape, the most successful candidates will be those who are not only technically skilled, but also have a good understanding of how technology can meet business needs.

Stand out from the crowd

Earning the relevant certification for your preferred path in the industry can go a long way in helping you stand out among the sea of applicants.

For example, candidates interested in project management can increase their value to prospective employers with a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

This qualification demonstrates that they have the competency to lead and direct complicated IT projects, which often require a solid understanding of the technology involved as well as the business implications.

Finding a suitable candidate for a role can also be very costly in terms of time and money spent, more so when there is a short supply of talent.

To expedite this process, it may help if the recruitment consultant and the project managers in the IT department are in direct communication with one another.

Consultants should regularly speak to the project managers in their clients’ organisations to better understand their needs. The HR department can get involved for administrative issues such as salary and staff benefits.

This streamlined process not only reduces the risk of miscommunication, but also enables consultants to identify suitable candidates quickly, thereby speeding up the search process.

The search for a suitable employee or the right job can be long and arduous, but with initiative, open communication and investment in good candidates, both companies and individuals will be able to meet their business and career goals.