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IT job market to improve, but hiring questions get trickier

Dec 30, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Applicants looking for IT jobs should have better luck in 2011 than they did this year, says CareerBuilder, yet small business hiring is likely to lag, according to a Discover Small Business Watch survey. Meanwhile, tech companies lead the way in asking job applicants tricky, sometimes bizarre, questions, says, with query topics ranging from basketballs to elephants.

For those who have put "finding a new job" at the top of their New Year's resolutions, a wee bit of good news: The prospects are likely to improve to some degree, according to CareerBuilder's annual job forecast.

The CareerBuilder study says that more U.S. employers plan to add full-time, permanent headcount in 2011 compared to 2010 with a continued emphasis on hiring in technology and revenue-producing fields, according to a story in our sister publication eWEEK.

The top ten functional areas for recruitment include sales (27 percent) information technology (26 percent), customer service (25 percent), and engineering (21 percent), says CareerBuilder.

Other findings in the survey include:

  • 24 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2011, up from 20 percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 2009.
  • 13 percent of employers expect to hire part-time employees in the next 12 months, up from 11 percent in 2010 and nine percent in 2009.
  • 34 percent of managers reported they will hire contract or temporary workers to supplement leaner staffs in 2011, up from 30 percent last year and 28 percent in 2009.
  • 30 percent of employers with more than 250 employees plan to increase full-time, permanent headcount in 2011, followed by 27 percent of employers with 51 to 250 employees, and 14 percent of employers with 50 or less employees.

The CareerBuilder survey was conducted by Harris Interactive from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2. It included more than 2,400 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes in the U.S. 

Small biz slow to warm, says survey

The CareerBuilder finding that larger businesses plan to hire new permanent employees at twice the rate of small businesses is backed up by Discover's most recent Small Business Watch survey. As reported in another eWEEK story, the survey finds that confidence is waning among small business owners in the U.S.

According to the Discover survey, economic confidence among the nation's small business owners continued to improve in November, but then reversed course in December. Some 25 percent of small business owners said the economy was getting better in December, down from 33 percent in November.

In addition, the survey found 51 percent of small business owners said the economy is getting worse, up from 46 percent in November. According to the report, 25 percent of small business owners expect economic conditions for their businesses to improve in the first half of 2011, a drop from 28 percent a month ago, while 26 percent expect conditions to remain the same, up from 24 percent, says the survey .

Forty-three percent of respondents said they expect conditions to worsen, down from 44 percent in November, says Discover. Twenty-one percent of small business owners will increase spending on business development in the next six months, down from 25 percent in November. In addition, 42 percent were said to be planning to decrease business development spending, up from 40 percent.

Tech job interviews get trickier

With the IT job scene expected to largely remain a buyer's market in 2011, jobseekers can expect more difficult and unusual questions from prospective employers, according to, which today is releasing a list of "Top 25 oddball interview questions from 2010".

Some of the trickiest questions on the list came from major tech employers such as Facebook, Apple, Google, and IBM, according to a third eWEEK report.

Some of the toughest questions are said to include:

  • Google — "How many basketballs can you fit in this room?"
  • IBM — "How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine?"
  • Intel — "You have 8 pennies, 7 weigh the same, one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the one that weighs less in less than 3 steps."
  • Facebook — "Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum numbers guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint 'higher' or 'lower' for each guess you make?"
  • Apple — "There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?"

Based on employee reviews posted on the site, found that many of the top tech companies boasted the highest interview difficulty ratings. Amazon and Google in particular were listed as "Difficult," with respective ratings of 3.5 out of a possible 5, edging ahead of Microsoft (3.3), eBay (3.3), Facebook (3.1), Adobe (3.1), and HP (2.9).

Of those companies, Google employees were the most satisfied with their employment, while HP employees were the least satisfied, says

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