A new poll suggests that UK CIOs are more likely to sit tight and wait for signs of an economic upturn before switching jobs.

The latest annual survey by recruitment firm Harvey Nash with PA Consulting quizzed 360 CIOs and other IT leaders about their employment outlook. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) would welcome calls from headhunters or are currently looking for a new position, while nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) expect a move inside the next two years and nearly a third (35 per cent) foresee a change in the next 12 months. Just seven per cent had no interest in a near-term change.

Despite these seemingly high numbers, Harvey Nash said actual churn would be lower than indicated as previous polls have suggested that most respondents overstate the likelihood of a new employer. In 2007, for example, 34 per cent said they expected to change jobs within 12 months but only 15 per cent actually did so. Also, the proportion changing jobs was down from 23 per cent on the previous year.

The recruiter said that browsing may be sprinting ahead of actual movement and predicted fewer empty roles.

“There’s a big difference between being open to approaches and proactively looking,” said Matt Smith, Harvey Nash director of UK regions. “People are being more conservative; it’s better the devil you know. They’re not going to change jobs on a like-for-like basis or because the new job pays slightly more. In 2001/2002, IT lost its strategic profile and there weren’t many ‘sexy’ jobs. Since then there has been huge investment and [once again] there are not that many sexy jobs about.”

In the US, CIO magazine editor Abbie Lundberg suggests that the trend on the other side of Atlantic might be the reverse of here.