January 05, 2001, 1:30 PM — To peer into the heart of the information technology hiring scene today, look no further than Applied Signal Technology Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif. At this manufacturer of signal processing equipment, salaries rose by as much as 18 percent for existing employees this year, while new hires' salaries went up by 15 percent to 25 percent. That doesn't include sign-on bonuses for all new IT employees and stock options for some existing ones in key positions.
"That's what they've been asking for," says Eric Nelson, IT manager at the firm. "They're a lot braver than they used to be -- they know they can find a job on their lunch break."
In addition, "every job candidate usually has two to three offers in hand before we even see them, and probably 50 percent are no-shows," Nelson adds. "It's really competitive."
As in the past couple of years, companies are going to great lengths to attract, keep and motivate talented IT workers. At Lisle, Ill.-based Tellabs Operations Inc., which designs, manufactures and supports telecommunications equipment, a $1.8 million program gives employees a chance to win $4,500 if a referral gets hired. Just for submitting a resume, applicants can win a DVD player or new car.
Meanwhile in Dallas, a small Internet consulting company is moving to attract employees. "We're in a part of town that we have been told recruits do not want to work in," says the manager of e-business, who asked not to be identified. "They say, 'Why should I have to come west of downtown?' "
Call it pandering to prima donnas, but this is what it takes to hire the best and brightest IT talent today. And these moves are in addition to double-digit salary increases and ever-more-generous bonus plans.
But there are a couple of differences this year. For one, while companies will spend what's necessary to attract IT talent, they're not about to let IT workers lead them around by the nose.
"Some people are making outrageous demands in terms of looking for several hundred thousand for two years out of school," says Cathie Kozik, vice president of global information systems at Tellabs. "To those folks we say, 'Thanks very much, but we'll move on.' Prior to the fallout in the dot-com sector, I think they were finding it. But now the dot-coms don't have money to throw at them, so corporations like ourselves are not at as great a disadvantage."
"People are exploiting the situation right now," agrees Nelson. "I've seen junior-type Unix administrators asking for $80,000 to $90,000 who we'd offer $65,000 to $70,000 at the most if they were pretty good."