This month's U.S. Labor Department report showing zero U.S. employment growth in August makes it appear that hiring has fallen flat.
However, a lot of technology companies say they are in the midst of hiring sprees -- in some cases looking for hundreds of new workers.
Computerworld contacted 10 tech firms that are hiring, and officials at each explained what skills they are seeking and what they are doing to find candidates that can meet their needs. The officials also explained what it takes to get a job at their companies.
The openings at the firms contacted ranged from a couple of dozen to as many as 2,000.
The job openings come as President Barack Obama tries to draw new attention to the need to create jobs, and to convince Congress to spend money to hasten the process.
Many of the IT companies that are hiring are being creative about it.
Some are sending employees to conferences to recruit top workers, and/or are offering bonuses for referrals. Some are searching for so-called passive candidates -- people who may have posted a resume on sites like LinkedIn but aren't applying for jobs -- that have the skills they are seeking.
Companies are also advertising job openings widely and broadly.
Foote Partners, which analyzes labor trends, has found there is a demand for atypical, difficult-to-find people who have specific subject matter expertise and technical skills, said CEO David Foote. "The moment IT got ingrained into the business or product, that's where you get to a very narrow group of possible candidates that you can choose from."
The list that follows represents just a sampling of the firms that are expanding technical staffs.
San Francisco-based Kontagent makes what it describes as "new school" user analytics tools that incorporate social and mobile data, as well as tools that help companies acquire customers and then engage and monetized them.
Kontagent has 55 employees today and expects to hire 50 more in the next two quarters.
The company says it is looking for experienced software engineers with skills in big data and "DevOps," as well as data visualization engineers and data scientists. Kontagent is also looking to hire account managers and sales executives.
"We tend to be extremely selective," said Dan Kimball, Kontagent's chief marketing officer.
To work at this company "you have to be very open in terms of wanting to learn from others, and wanting to share your knowledge with others," said Kimball. "We try to avoid people with big egos, people who don't feel there isn't more learning to do, and people who are very protective of their domain expertise."
The hiring process includes behavioral testing with several hundred questions with no right or wrong answers. There's also an intelligence test to gauge an applicant's ability to think on his feet.
For those that are hired, there are catered lunches every day, staff parties and the ability to pick your own equipment.
Kontagent's careers page is here .
Irvine, Calif.-based Kareo is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm that hosts practice management, medical billing, insurance and records storage systems for physicians. The company has 60 employees and is hiring at least 10 software engineers, three product managers, a project manager and two user interface designers, said CEO Dan Rodrigues.
"Our experience has been, even throughout the broader economic problems in the U.S., that it's still difficult to find really good technical talent," said Rodrigues.
To help separate Kareo from other companies advertising for employees, Rodrigues takes a different approach to his job ads.
And as part of the application process, candidates are asked to answer a number of questions -- such as: What are three websites whose design you most admire? What makes them remarkable? -- that "filter out candidates that either don't have the skills or aren't serious about the opportunity," said Rodrigues.
In filling the initial application, candidates can "demonstrate their skills, and their creativity and critical thinking really early in the process," said Rodrigues. "The ones that tend to be real rock stars really bubble up to the top really quickly. It allows us to prioritize our recruiting activity toward those individuals."
This approach also means fewer resumes are sent to the company because there's more preliminary work for the applicants, said Rodrigues. Those applicants that go through the full process but aren't hired are sent emails or called on the telephone to let them know that their work was given a thorough review.
Kareo's careers page is here
Black Duck Software
Waltham, Mass.-based Black Duck Software has over a dozen openings for technical positions in California and Massachusetts. It has filled 32 positions so far this year and has more than 125 employees.
Black Duck helps its customers use free and open source software as part of a standard development process. It also provides a merger and acquisition services by conducting audits of software assets.
Black Duck is seeking both multiple senior level software engineers as well as recent college graduates.
The company also has an opening for what it calls a "spider," Black Duck's term for an open source data collector who helps the company maintain a comprehensive open source database. Among the skills sought for the "spider" position is familiarity with Perl, PHP scripting, Linux, and Java.
The software developers should be experienced in Java, and in some cases in Spring, Hibernate and Ruby.
"We need people who are highly technical and know how to program in an application environment with these types of skills," said Tammi Pirri, vice president of human resources. He added that the applicants should also have customer service skills.
The biggest hiring challenge for Black Duck is competition for top people from large firms like Google and Microsoft.
To compete, it relies heavily on employee referrals, which account for about 30% of new hires. Of the 100 or so resumes the company gets each day, less than five are likely to include the skills it seeks, Pirri said.
Candidates are given a coding test and whiteboard exercise to "show us how they can trouble shoot and problem solve in a technical environment," said Pirri
"We're fortunate to be an in a business that has cool technology, a cool market space, great customers and growth - that's a good combination to help attract people," said Peter Vescuso, executive vice president and marketing and business development.
Black Duck's careers page is here .
Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai Technologies, which runs a global network of thousands of servers to accelerate content delivery, is looking to fill about 400 positions this year, including more than 100 engineering jobs, said Harald Prokop, senior vice president of Akamai's Intelligent Platform Group.
Overall, Akamai employs more than 2,200 workers.
"Innovation" is driving the need for new workers, Prokop said. "We need to continue to innovate to stay current in the market and stay relevant to our customers," he said.
Akamai seeks highly motivated and self-directed software developers who can solve customer problems, said Prokop. The technical skills sought include hard core coders in Linux, Unix, C++, C, Java, as well as user interface design.
The majority of workers hired by Akamai are in the U.S.,though it is also seeking to add positions at a recently opened an office in Prague. The company also has an office in India.
Candidates who are called for interviews will be asked to show examples of their work. "The key is seeing what you have done," said Prokop.
Akamai works to win over candidates by satisfying what Prokop believes engineers want from a job. This includes an ability to work on fun problems with a top team. Compensation is also important, he said.
"We are focusing on making sure that everyone is really working the core of the platform and not just a worker bee," said Prokop.
Akamai's careers page is here .
Cloud services firm Appirio has 20 job openings, and another 20 in the pipeline to add to its workforce of nearly 400, said Narinder Singh, Appirio's chief strategy officer.
Filling the new slots isn't easy, he added.
"If you look at the job situation in the middle of the country it's as bleak as everybody paints it," said Singh, who is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. "But if you look at the two coasts, we're having a hard time finding the right kind of skills and talent."
The company is recruiting across the nation and is seeking a blend of technical and customer service skills.
Technical skills sought for the new posts include Salesforce.com or Workday skills, as well as familiarity with Java, and/or Apex. People who have experience in applying those technologies to solve business problems are also sought.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Appirio advertises its openings, and attends events where the right "people are gathering," such as the Salesforce.com Dreamforce user conference earlier this month.
Appirio sent some 100 employees to this conference, and told each get at least three recruits. It also did some guerilla marketing to promote the brand, and to show "that we are a fun company," said Singh.
The effort at Dreamforce included rolling out the Appirio Bacon Truck that distributed bacon-themed food, along with the message you can "bring home the bacon and have a career in the cloud," said Singh.
Earlier this year, Appirio started a cloud development community called Cloud Spokes, where engineers can compete in contests around different cloud technologies for prizes. "That's been a great way for us to see up and coming talent," said Singh.
Appirio careers page is here .
Chris Galy, director of recruiting at Intuit, said the company is seeking people with multiple kinds of skills, including C++, Ruby on Rails, mobile, social networking and user interface development.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit has 350 to 400 technical positions in its product development and IT departments.
The company employs about 7,000 workers.
"I think we're in competition with everybody for talent," said Galy. "What's great about Intuit is we know who we are."
The company creates a own start-up atmosphere in some business units with beanbag chairs and white walls for coding.
In many ways, Intuit is a grouping of companies, said Galy. "Inside of each one, we have organic growth opportunities being invented in really small kinds of start-up environments."
The company issued its first "Founders Innovation Award" just last month.
The $1 million prize went to Hugh Molotsi, who, according to the company, as a young software developer led a start-up that created QuickBooks Merchant Service business. Half the award was in cash and the balance in stock.
Carbonite, a hosted backup service provider, is creating new positions in the U.S., in part, by transferring jobs that were previously located in India.
The company currently has 260 employees.
The company expects to increase the workforce at a customer support facility in Lewiston, Maine, from 70 to 150 by year's end. Those workers should have strong knowledge of the Windows and Mac operating systems and enjoy working in a customer service oriented position.
The Lewiston facility opened in June with 25 employees.
Boston-based Carbonite is also seeking programmers, relationship database experts, and others at its headquarters.
Tom Murray, vice president of marketing, said Carbonite believes that moving its customer service from India to the U.S. will help it "deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction." While the India support operation was "quite acceptable," there was a clear enough difference in customer satisfaction levels between it and the U.S. operation to make the change, he said.
Carbonite's careers page is here .
CDW is hiring between 250 and 300 people in the U.S. and Canada this year, for positions that require a broad range of technology expertise, particularly strategic solutions and services.
The company employs 6,400 workers.
Its recruiting initiatives target hardware engineers, technical leads and architects, project managers, professional services managers. Its core technologies include Microsoft, Cisco, EMC, IBM, VMware, NetApp, and Hewlett-Packard.
Marisa Zona, senior manager for talent acquisition, said the company looks to help bridge the challenges of finding the right skills in specific areas by, among other things, searching out passive candidates, particularly if they have a hot skill.
"Folks that are highly skilled are employed and typically, we assume, happily employed," said Zona. But that doesn't mean they might not be interested in other opportunities, she added.
CDW's careers page is here .
Dell expects to add anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs in the U.S. this year, including positions at its new Silicon Valley Research and Development Center in Santa Clara.
David Frink, director of corporate affairs, said in an email that the company "is hiring for innovation-based jobs contributing to the development of enterprise solutions. This includes hardware and software engineering, solutions sales specialists, IT development, software developers, IT consulting and services."
Frink said that the company has "found that the talent pools in our strategic growth areas of Austin and the Bay Area are excellent. The biggest challenge is finding candidates that have both the skills and the entrepreneurial spirit that is so important to our culture at Dell. In the Bay Area in particular, demand for developers is at an all-time high, which makes it a very competitive job market."
Dell's career page is here .
Shopping site Wayfair LLC is seeking to fill more than 30 positions in in engineering department, and says it wants people interested in working in a "continual deployment" environment.
Steve Conine, chairman and co-founder of the Boston-based Wayfair.com, said the "biggest incentive [for potential workers] is to be part of a team that is building the next big ecommerce site.
"You might have missed the opportunity to join Amazon in 1999 or eBay in 1996. We're at a similar point in our company's life and we have goals that are as ambitious. Beyond our pre-IPO status, and our compensation packages that include competitive salaries and equity, Wayfair has a great work-life balance and the opportunity to be around inspiring peers," he said.
Wayfair's careers page is here .
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .
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