High performers will be much sought after, and are expected to command multiple job opportunities and counter offers, in Malaysia's "candidate-driven" market in 2015.

With a growing number of multinational corporations looking to set up base here, combined with a limited pool of candidates to recruit from, Robert Walters' new annual report anticipates pay hikes of 10 to 20% for job hoppers.

These increments could go up further, given the current skill gaps in niche areas, such as risk and compliance. Compensation and benefits specialists, as well as branding and marketing managers are also expected to be in high demand.

"Malaysia enjoyed healthy growth due to expansion within the shared services industry and the entrance of multinational hubs. This was largely attributed to the government’s policies which allow ease in setting up business operations," said Sally Raj, country manager of Robert Walters Malaysia.

"As a result, we also saw more intense competition between organisations for top talent."

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Another anticipated trend is the return of Malaysians based overseas, with the government's Returning Expert Programme. In 2014, such candidates were particularly in demand in the IT, finance and banking sectors.

"To address the demand for quality Malaysian professionals in a limited candidate pool, companies have turned their attention to attracting local overseas talent to strengthen the domestic workforce."

Within the human resources function, recruitment remained constant through 2014. The report found ongoing demand for strategic HR business partners and talent acquisition candidates in both multinational and local entities.

"A number of regional HR positions also opened up as foreign organisations looked to set up offices in the country. This gave Malaysian candidates the opportunity to gain international exposure," noted the study.

"We expect to see increased demand for candidates in the compensation and benefits space as companies seek to source and retain key talent by improving their remuneration structure in 2015."

HR directors were the best paid within the function, expected to earn between RM 296,000 to 485,000 annually (SGD 110,200 to 181,000).

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