The Most In-Demand Soft Skills in America

Are you great at working with other people? Conjuring up new ideas and solutions? Or drawing the best out of your colleagues with your patience, empathy and humor? You probably have high ‘EQ, or emotional intelligence.

In a job market that seems dominated by high-achievers and hi-tech solutions, EQ is “the other kind of smart.” Businesses are prioritizing sensitive, creative employees who can do things that machines and regular brainboxes can’t. Match your particular strengths to what employers are looking for right now, and you could really go places.

We scoured over 45,000 job listings to see which soft skills employers mention most often. We checked where these skills are needed, and which industries value certain types of emotional intelligence more than others. Before you continue your job search, slow down, look into your heart and check out our guide to the most wanted soft-skills in America!


Key Findings

  • The top 5 soft skills in demand in America are Collaboration, Innovation, Confidence, Patience and Creativity.
  • Variations on the term Collaboration featured in 22% of job postings we surveyed.
  • California is the soft skill state, with 4,945 job ads containing one of the top 5 soft skills.
  • New York City is the American capital city of EQ, with more than double the soft skill-oriented ads of second-place Washington, DC.
  • The sector that most values emotional intelligence is Business Services – followed by Science & Engineering.
  • The soft skill most disproportionately valued in a particular sector is Storytelling, which appears 15 times more frequently in Marketing & Advertising against the national average.

Top 20 most in-demand soft skills in America


Ever feel like you weren’t made for the state you’re in? It’s true that personality strengths are valued differently in different parts of America. Use the color key in the map below to see which states have a disproportionately high regard for which soft skills. For example, imagination is big in North Dakota, New York’s employers are far more interested in curiosity than those in any other state and California employs storytellers at 3.7 times the national rate.



10 U.S. Cities That Value Emotional Intelligence

The interactive below shows the cities with the most job postings that mention one of the top five soft skills. Click on the skill buttons at the top or hover over the chart for specific data on each skill type.


New York may be the city that never sleeps, but you better be feeling confident, creative and patient when you show up for work in the morning. We found that NYC values EQ more than twice as much as any other city, and values creativity around three times as much as its closest job market competitors.

We also found that Los Angeles employers put a special emphasis on innovation skills and that Boston is the patient city. There are nearly as many job listings mentioning patience in Boston as there are in NYC, even though NYC has nearly 800 more soft skill-oriented openings in total.


Which Sectors Are Hiring Employees with Strong Social Skills

This chart shows the industries that value emotional intelligence the most, according to job ad mentions of the top soft skills. The colored sections indicate the balance of soft skills that is desirable in each sector.

Top sectors hiring with a focus on soft skills


Business may be a money-oriented concept, but it is people skills that keep it functioning. In particular, the Business Services sector – which includes HR and Customer Service professionals, among others – stands out as the most soft skill-hungry job market. But what might seem unusual is that of the top 5 skills, creativity is the one most disproportionately sought after by Business Services employers.

Another finding that may surprise some readers is that the second-placed industry for soft skills is Science and Engineering. Of course, experienced engineers will recognize the importance of being able to collaborate as well as the centrality of innovation to the sector.


The Most Job-Specific Soft Skill by Sector

Our next chart reveals the soft skills that are required by each industry at a higher level than the cross-industry average. For example, a listing for a job in Business Services is 2.9 times more likely to mention emotion management as a required soft skill than an listing not for a job in Business Services.

Most disproportionately popular soft skills by sector


The stand-out figure among these results is that Marketing & Advertising firms value storytelling 15.2 times as much as the rest of the job market. Why? Marketing revolves around two types of storytelling: placing the audience in their own narrative (who would buy this product and why?) and creating actual stories to feature in marketing materials and across campaigns.

However, every sector uses storytelling – just sometimes by another name. For example, the most disproportionately popular soft skill in Retail is inspiration, and Retail workers constantly need to draw on their inspiration to do just what Marketing professionals do: place the customer within a human narrative.


The Top 10 States Hiring Employees with Soft Skills

Our interactive guide to the states with the most soft skill-oriented job postings works just like our guide to the top cities. Click the skills buttons or hover over the graph to access the figures.


We found nearly 5,000 job ads featuring one of the top 5 soft skills in California, a figure nearly twice that of second-placed Texas. These are the states that most value your sunny personality and sensitive approach to work. Creativity is a stand-out feature of Californian listings, which makes sense when you consider California is the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

Confidence is highly rated in Texas, which makes sense when you think Texas is the home of Matthew McConaughey. There is a Texan way of getting things done! Confidence is also a desirable attribute in Florida, the fourth top state for soft skills.


How to Use Your Soft Skills to Get That Job

So, we know that soft skills are a great route into your ideal job, and we even know which soft skills you need and where. But since there’s no such thing as a degree in empathy or a diploma in optimism, how can you demonstrate your high EQ to potential employers? Work through our infographic below to find out!

How to highlight your soft skills in a job interview


Soft Skills: A Very Human Success Story

A happy workplace with friendly, sensitive, imaginative employees makes for a successful business. And as an individual, you are likely to enjoy your work more if you concentrate on developing and using your natural emotional intelligence. If you’re looking for a meaningful step-up in your career, invest in the soft skills that employers are looking for and use our guide to America’s EQ landscape to identify your best next move.



We collated our list of soft skills from lists on sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Data on job listings, including job descriptions and city/state location of the role, was gathered sector-by-sector from to ensure an even spread of job postings across the industries. We mined the job descriptions in these listings for mentions of the shortlisted soft skills, accounting for variations of terms and phrasing, e.g., “adaptability” was also checked for variations like “adaptable,” “able to adapt,” “can adapt,” etc.


To determine which soft skills were most uniquely popular in each sector, state and city, the percentage of job postings in each area that mentioned a given soft skill was compared to the percentage of postings mentioning that skill across the board. The greater that percentage was over the national average, the more uniquely popular a given skill was considered in each sector, state and city. For our city analysis, we looked at the top 250 cities (by the number of job postings).


The final dataset includes over 45,000 job postings. Data was gathered in June 2020. For the full research behind this visualization, visit

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