US Executives Reveal Third-quarter Professional-level Hiring Plans

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) executives surveyed for the quarterly Robert Half Professional Employment Report said they anticipate no changes to the size of their teams in the next three months. Five percent of respondents plan to add full-time, professional-level staff in Q312, while another 5% indicated they will make personnel reductions. Recruiting challenges continue to surface for executives – 69% of those interviewed said they are having difficulty finding people with the skills they need, up eight points from the second-quarter survey.

The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 US-based C-level executives and other senior managers in a variety of fields who are asked about their hiring plans and general level of optimism for the upcoming quarter. Survey respondents include more than 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs); 1,400 chief information officers (CIOs); 500 senior human resources managers; 100 lawyers at law firms and 100 corporate lawyers; and 125 advertising executives and 375 marketing executives, all of whom have hiring authority. The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is the first quarterly executive survey of its size and scope to concentrate exclusively on professional-level hiring.

Key findings include:

  • Eighty-eight percent of executives expect to make no changes to the size of their full-time, professional-level teams. Five percent of executives anticipate bringing in additional staff in the third quarter, and 5% project personnel reductions. The resulting net hiring increase is down two points from last quarter’s survey.
  • Sixty-nine percent of executives reported recruiting challenges, up eight points from the previous quarter.
  • More than three-quarters (79%) of executives expressed confidence in the growth prospects for their firms in the next three months.
  • Businesses in the mid-Atlantic states anticipate hiring most actively, with a net 6% of executives in the region planning to add professional-level staff.
  • Respondents in the transportation sector are most likely to make personnel additions in the third quarter; a net 6% said they anticipate hiring. The transportation industry has led in hiring projections for three consecutive quarters.
  • The legal field is expected to see the strongest hiring activity, with a net 30% of lawyers planning to increase staff levels in Q312. Advertising and marketing executives also are expanding their teams, with a net 11 percent anticipating adding personnel.

“One factor affecting hiring activity is a shortage of specialised talent – especially in technology and finance,” said Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Robert Half International. “While general unemployment remains high, unemployment for key positions in these fields is low, leading to recruiting challenges for many firms.”

Professional-level Hiring – By Region

Survey respondents in the mid-Atlantic states expect the most active hiring in Q312, with a net 6% of executives planning to add staff. “Much of the job growth in the mid-Atlantic region is concentrated in the retail, healthcare, pharmaceutical and financial services sectors,” Messmer said. “Senior accountants, financial analysts and business systems analysts are in particular demand. Companies also are seeking to fill positions in business intelligence, web and mobile development, and network security.”

Professional-level Hiring – By Industry

Third-quarter professional-level hiring is anticipated to be strongest in the transportation industry, where a net 6% of respondents said they expect to make staff additions. The transportation industry has led in hiring projections for three consecutive quarters. This was followed by a net 5% of executives in both the manufacturing and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors who indicated they will increase personnel during the upcoming quarter.

Professional-level Hiring – By Field

The legal profession again topped the survey in anticipated hiring, with a net 30% of lawyers planning to add staff. A net 11% of executives in the advertising and marketing fields indicated they will hire during Q312. The IT and accounting and finance fields reported the greatest difficulty finding skilled professionals, as cited by 70% and 69% of executives, respectively.


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