As an employer, you want a highly skilled workforce, and, as a human resource professional, your job is to find those highly skilled workers. Very few jobs require an employee to simply do one task alone in a cubicle. Work requires more from us than that.

HR has the daunting task of figuring out which skills are most desirable in a multi-functional and collaborative work environment. There are ways to determine the specific skills for a specific job, and one of those ways is job analysis with skills assessments. Buy what is the universal skill most employers look for?

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There are over 6,000,000 open jobs in the United States right now, and, although unemployment is at a record low 4.2%, this number does not take into account the people who gave up looking for work and took themselves out of the job market. Plus, many employers, recruiters, and hiring managers complain about the Skills Gap (the shortage of necessary skills to perform a job versus the available skills in the workforce or talent pool). Though we’ve talked about the Skills Gap (talent shortage) many times on the eSkill Blog, identifying which skills are lacking still plagues us today.

Frequently Listed Skills

Many articles, reports, and studies on the “Top Skills Employers Want” repeat the same skills. We decided to take the top skills mentioned in many of these articles and explain why they are truly the universal skills employers want.

Here are the most commonly listed skills:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Interpersonal Skills
  3. Problem Solving Skills
  4. Organizational Skills
  5. Leadership Skills

All of these are important skills to have, but what if you could only choose one or, at the most, two? Which would you choose? The answer widely depends on the position you are hiring for, your organization, and your goals. Skills assessments and training can help you determine which skill is the most necessary for your company.


Tech companies may have a very different list. Most tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, Google and others look for coding skills, such as JAVA and Python. But even those companies list leadership and customer service as desirable skills.

Narrowing the List

Interpersonal skills (also known as “people skills”) include how you interact and engage with others. To do so effectively, you must be an excellent communicator. We believe skills #1 and #2 (communication and interpersonal skills) should simply be called “interpersonal skills” together because you can’t have one without the other.

To be a problem solver you must have great reasoning skills, organizational skills, and critical thinking skills. Some call these analytical skills – the ability to examine a problem and find a solution. For the sake of this article, let’s combine problem-solving and organizational skills and call them “analytic skills.”

This leaves us with leadership skills. Leadership skills are important; however, you don’t need the majority of your employees to be leaders. Have you ever heard the old saying, “Too many generals and not enough soldiers”? Having an abundance of alpha personalities could be disastrous. Again, leadership skills are great, but not a universal skill for most employees.

The Universal Skill(s)

We are down to just two skills: interpersonal and analytical. Honestly, both of these are vital to the success of any business, and they are also the two most desired skills across nearly all industries, which means we have a tie. The two universal skills that most employers need and look for in employees are interpersonal skills–the ability to connect, interact, engage, and communicate with co-workers, teammates, bosses, and customers–and analytical skills–the ability to resolve problems, think outside the box, reason, and find solutions to complex issues. eSkill‘s standard and custom assessments support training across a wide set of skill areas, and with options that provide for multiple versions of a test, multimedia support, and extensive reporting, we make testing easy.

Tell us what skills you look for in the comments below.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: and , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including and . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.


  • Avatar Camillio says:

    To gain a boss’ confidence, employees must be willing to go above and beyond what is typically required of them on the job. I think this is what everyone wants.

  • Avatar Sharon says:

    I believe you should always hire somebody who has passion. When an employee believes strongly in the company’s mission, their job is no longer a job. It’s a calling.

  • Avatar Max says:

    I would hire somebody who is conscientious. Time and time again, conscientiousness proves to be among the top indicators of job performance.

  • Avatar Kristina says:

    I like this list you’ve narrowed down Chris! I also look for someone who is self aware in a lot of roles. Most of the work I do recruiting for is to join an existing team and I’ve seen that someone who is self aware (and observant in general) will find a way to work well with the group where someone who does not have that will end up facing challenge after challenge to integrate into the work.

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