Arizona Employers Report High Demand for These 6 Skills

Written by Joanna Morrow

Joanna Morrow, Principal and Founder of Employer Benefits & Advice, is an employer consultant and advocate who has worked in the employee benefits industry for over two decades. She works diligently to help employers overcome obstacles in their business by sharing her expertise in Human Resources, Benefits & Compensation, Process Mapping, Risk Management and ERISA/DOL/IRS compliance. She is a licensed life and health insurance professional in the State of Arizona and is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Arizona Employers Report High Demand for These 6 Skills

Working closely with employers every day I learn a lot about what’s working and what’s not, particularly when it comes to recruiting quality employees. If employer complaints are anything to go by, then it would appear the old saying “good help is hard to find” still holds true today.

Despite advances in technology that enable employers to now screen hundreds of job applicants with a click of a mouse, a large number of companies report that often new hires lack the “soft skills” necessary for success.

What are soft skills?

To understand soft skills let’s first define “hard skills” in relation. “Hard skills” are teachable and measurable, such as one’s ability to balance a checkbook, type, write, read instructions, use a computer or operate equipment.

“Soft skills” by comparison are traits that are more reflective of a person’s character, such as a strong work ethic, good communication and listening skills, ability to work harmoniously within a team, strong leadership skills, etc.

What are the most desired soft skills for Arizona employers?

According to a 2018 study conducted by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the most desired soft skills sought by local employers are:

1. Verbal and Non-verbal Communication

2. Strategic Thinking – refers to a person’s motivation and ability to solve problems

3. Ability to Accept Feedback and Criticism

4. Leadership

5. Emotional Intelligence – refers to a person’s ability to effectively manage their emotions

6. Relationships – Ability to foster and maintain successful relationships

Why are soft skills important?

People with strong soft skills tend to be solid characters. They possess traits like integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty, fortitude, and other important virtues that promote good behavior.

These character traits not only define them as people but also influence the choices they make in both their personal and professional lives.

Such people are more likely to be invested in the successful operation of your company, and often will take better care of your customers. This all paves the way to a competitive advantage. Look at some of these statistics:


  • 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge. (Research conducted by Fortune 500 CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation)
  • 67% of HR managers said that they would hire an applicant with strong soft skills even if they were lacking in technical skills. (International Association of Administrative Professionals, OfficeTeam and HR.Com)
  • 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally, or even more important, than hard skills. (LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report)
  • A survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that although MBAs were strong in analytical aptitude, quantitative expertise, and information-gathering ability, they were sorely lacking in other critical areas that employers find equally attractive: strategic thinking, written and oral communication, leadership, and adaptability.

How do companies screen for soft skills?

Most job postings will include language fishing for certain soft skills among candidates. Unfortunately, most applicants will also claim to have all the ones you’re looking for.

If your recruiting process relies heavily on an online application process, request that candidates include in their resumes and cover letters, specific examples of the soft skills you’re seeking. You can gain some indications based on how they respond. For example, do they give themselves all the credit, or do they cite things like teamwork?

Some companies use online services in order to help filter out candidates before beginning the interview process. Applicants are required to go through an online assessment using software programmed to analyze, among other things, soft skills.

What are ways to get at soft skills during the interview process?

The truth is that the best way for a potential employer to assess soft skills is still through a good old-fashioned, face to face interview.

The interview process is where it becomes most apparent which candidates have the soft skills you’re looking for, provided you design the interview in a manner that sets you up for success.

Here are 5 steps employers can follow to better identify soft skills during the interview process:

1. Design Standard Interviews

Use standard questions for all candidates interviewing for a position in order to eliminate unconscious bias.

2. Ask Questions That Reveal Character

Many applicants arrive at interviews with rehearsed answers, so try to ask behavior-based questions that not only apply to real-world scenarios, but give you insight into their character such as:

  • Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem? (Gets at strategic thinking)
  • Give an example of a time when you made a mistake. How did you handle it? (Gets at ability to receive feedback and constructive criticism)
  • What do you do if you disagree with someone at work? (Gets at emotional intelligence & communication skills)
  • Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers? (Gets at leadership)

3. Test Problem-Solving

Give candidates a hypothetical project scenario that puts them in charge of a typical project one might undertake at your company. Now throw them a curve-ball such as a budget cut or denial of a particular building permit for example, and require them to adjust the project management based on those constraints.

4. Avoid Similarity Bias

You might be naturally drawn to a candidate who is similar to you and therefore think they have certain soft skills. Ask for feedback from other members of your team who have met the candidate to get their opinions.

5. Match Soft Skills to Position Requirements

Of course, not every soft skill is of equal importance for every position. For example, communication skills might be more important for a client-facing position, while problem solving and conflict resolution are necessary for those in management.


One could argue that soft skills can be taught but let’s be honest. As an employer you hope job candidates have learned their character-building traits early in life long before applying to work for you.

Despite that, many business schools, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia, are now offering courses that focus specifically on teaching soft skills to a new generation.

For a full list of behavior-based questions that can better assist you in identifying soft skills during the interview process, contact me at or 602-903-4047.