Security threats are a huge concern for tech leaders, but those skills are also the most difficult to find when recruiting new employees, according to the 2016 IT Leaders and the Employment Market tech trends survey from Modis.

Modis surveyed 500 CTOs, CIOs, and other technology professionals responsible for hiring decisions. Nearly half of these tech decision-makers ranked cybersecurity and privacy as their top concern in the tech field.

Some 22% of CXOs said security and infrastructure skills were the most difficult to find in job candidates. This is a problem, as 40% of tech leaders surveyed said external threats were the biggest security worry for their company. Other security threats included big data storage (20%), internal threats (17%), and point of sale breach (14%).

“Cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand and hardest to find skillsets,” said Jack Cullen, president of Modis. “Companies want people that have hands-on experience, as opposed to just educational skills in this area.”

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Part of the problem is that the field has not been around for that long compared to other tech areas, Cullen said. As more universities add cybersecurity programs, and companies continue to want to hire security professionals, the field will only grow, he added.

More than a quarter of CXOs said that salary was the most critical perk for attracting top talent. And, these tech decision-makers are willing to pay: 32% of respondents said they would offer a 10-15% salary increase in order to attract the best candidates, the survey found.

Some companies are going beyond that, especially for candidates with specific skills in Java and .NET application development. “The more expertise and particular niche skillset area you can bring to a future employer, the more they’re willing to pay,” Cullen said.

Flexibility also plays a large part in job offers, with 54% of IT decision makers said they believe employees have greater interest in the ability to work remotely or have flex hours. Since unemployment rates in tech are just 2.6%, employers must find creative ways to attract talent, Cullen said. “Companies realize that they have to pay to get the right talent in place, but that creating a work-life balance is equally important,” he added.

Companies are even willing to look to talent that has left the company: 35% of hiring decision makers said they would rehire employees who had recently resigned. “When you leave an employer, it’s important not to burn that bridge, because you might someday want to go back,” Cullen said.

Millennials move more rapidly from job to job than did past generations of workers, Cullen said. But, IT employers reported that they value loyalty: 58% said they would prefer to hire a candidate with at least five years of experience with their previous employer. “If you’re bringing in somebody who’s been jumping from company to company, what’s going to keep them at yours?” Cullen said. “They are looking for trends in predictability, and what the worker will bring to them.”

About a quarter of tech employers said they value work experiences and certifications more than education when considering a job candidate. Teamwork and interpersonal skills were ranked as the most difficult soft skills for tech companies to find in job candidates by 31% of respondents, followed by communication skills (26%).

One way to ensure you are hiring the most talented individual available for a position is to expedite the interview process, Cullen said. “In the environment we’re in today, there’s no shelf life on talent,” Cullen said. Many candidates are looking at multiple jobs at the same time. If you get all of the decision makers to meet the candidate during a first interview, you can spend less time deliberating and risking the candidate choosing another employer, Cullen said.

The healthcare, government, and energy industries are expected to have the greatest demand for tech jobs in the next five years, the survey found.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. While 40% of tech leaders say external security threats are the largest security worry for their company, 22% report that security and infrastructure skills are the most difficult to find in job candidates, according to a survey of 500 CXOs by Modis.
  2. Part of the problem is that cybersecurity has not been a career field for as long as other tech areas, though more universities and certification programs are now attracting students and workers.
  3. To attract top talent to their companies, 32% of tech leaders said they would offer a 10-15% salary increase in order to attract the best candidates, the survey found.