Australian job candidates with cyber security skills could enjoy a pay increase of nearly 30 per cent, according to new workplace research.

According to a survey by specialist recruiter Robert Half, Australian employers are willing to pay significant salary premiums to job candidates that have the most in-demand skills.

The survey of 300 business leaders, including 100 CFOs, 100 CIOs, and 100 general hiring managers, found that employers will pay more than 35 per cent above market salaries for candidates with the right skills, certifications or experience.

From the survey, 15 per cent of employers said they would be willing to offer a 27 per cent salary premium to candidates with cyber security skills.

The skill that can receive the most significant salary premium is project and program management, according to the survey, which can land up to 37 per cent above the market rate.

But only 11 per cent of employers said they would be willing to offer a higher salary to these candidates.

The most in-demand skill is leadership or management expertise, with nearly 40 per cent of employers surveyed saying they would pay a candidate more if they possess these. Candidates with leadership skills may be able to land a salary more than a quarter above the average rate.

Robert Half director Nicole Gorton said Australian companies are on the hunt for candidates who stand out from the pack.

“Employers recognise that candidates who hold these highly sought-after skills bring a unique edge to their organisation and enable it to thrive in times of rapid change,” Gorton said.

“These types of premiums and salary increases are not on offer to everyone. Business leaders are looking for staff who can propel innovation and swiftly adapt to changing conditions.

“They are willing to pay a salary premium because of the pivotal role the candidate will play in steering companies towards growth as well as maintaining a distinct competitive edge.

“Employers see the salary premiums as investment in amplifying efficiencies, reshaping outcomes and securing a prosperous future.”

Employers willing to overlook lack of certifications, experience

The research also found that employers are willing to overlook some missing certifications and experience if the candidate has the right skills.

According to the survey, just under 30 per cent of employers were willing to look past specific missing industry experience, and 28 per cent were flexible when it came to the required number of years of experience.

“Employers recognise that the right skills not only enable employees to fulfil the basic requirements of the position but can invigorate a team and elevate projects,” Gorton said.

“Therefore, employers are open to hiring candidates who hold the right skillset, even if their experience in the industry is relatively limited.”

The top tech fields where employers say certifications are still necessary include security, privacy and compliance, cloud architecture and operations, and network and systems admin.

“Certifications still provide tangible proof that a candidate has expertise in key areas, which is particularly necessary for industries such as finance and technology, as they require a high degree of accuracy and regulatory compliance,” Gorton said.

“These credentials validate a candidate’s ability to navigate complex frameworks, as well as assure employers that they possess the in-depth knowledge and proficiency necessary for success in these demanding sectors.”

Another recent study found that people skills are still in high demand among job seekers, particularly those applying for remote working positions.

The analysis of more than 12 million job advertisements in recent years found that the COVID pandemic accelerated already-growing demand for workers who are good with other people.