The top skills to look for in your next employee
We've asked New Zealand’s top recruiters to reveal the five skills employers are demanding - and how you can spot if a candidate has what you need.

Technology has transformed the traditional definition of ‘work’. Transactional roles are becoming increasingly automated and there is greater emphasis on ‘human’ qualities, such as creativity and adaptability. Workplaces are also becoming more flexible and the gig economy is growing in scale. New skills are required to keep pace with all this change.

We’ve asked leading recruiters to share the skills in highest demand across New Zealand and how you can identity if a candidate has what you’re looking for.

A customer focus

Thanks to advances in technology, consumers have unprecedented access to information – they know what they want and have higher expectations for how it’s delivered. As a result, more organisations are placing the customer is at the very centre of their operations.

Ben Pearson, General Manager – Wellington at Beyond Recruitment, says ‘Customer Experience’ is an emerging role that calls for a blend of skills, including digital, marketing and business intelligence. While employers should focus their questions on these key skills, he also recommends looking for “passion, interest, enthusiasm and authenticity.”

“Employers who are getting the best hiring outcomes are very flexible on required skill levels as long as the candidate shows they have the innate traits evident in high performers,” he says.

Employers are now competing for candidates who thrive in a rapidly changing workplace. They value those who are quick at switching strategies, swift with new technology and responsive to new market trends.

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand, says adaptability is a highly valued skill. “Employers want their people to be able to pivot to a new role or area of responsibility as things change and to upskill to remain on top of new trends relevant to their job function or industry,” he says.

Deligiannis says behavioural interview techniques can help employers determine if a candidate has the required skills, such as adaptability.

“An employer can look for examples of past behaviour that demonstrates these competencies. Examples of questions include ‘Describe how you led a team through a difficult project and how did you improve their work?’ or ‘On time pressured assignments, how have you made sure the job was done within budget?’.”

Project management

New Zealand’s infrastructure spending is estimated to reach $129 billion between 2019 and 2029. This unprecedented level of capital works is leading to high-demand for project management skills, says Iain MacGibbon, Managing Director of Farrow Jamieson.

“These include a range of soft skills, such as communication skills, and hard skills like budgeting and risk management,” he says.

While prior experience can show the required hard skills, MacGibbon recommends using the interview process to get to know your candidates to assess their communication skills. “To assess their soft skills, don’t be afraid to ask about their life outside of work,” he says.


As the nature of work continues to evolve, even the most experienced employers can feel overwhelmed by change. However, those involved in the hiring process are looking for candidates who can roll with the punches and approach transformation with a positive mindset.

Kelly Ashford Marketing Manager at Adecco New Zealand, says this soft skill set is often underestimated. “Soft skills are personality traits, personal habits and interpersonal skills that impact the ability to do a job,” she says.

Ashford says positivity will be evident when candidates feel relaxed, so strive for a comfortable, friendly interview atmosphere. “Focus on capabilities as well as cultural fit and bring in a second opinion from a separate team,” she says.

Agile skills

‘Agile’ is a term with various business applications. It first describes set of principles for developing and delivering software and digital transformation and has now expanded to include a nimble and collaborative approach to problem solving.

Bianca Jones, Country Manager – NZ of Talent International, says agile skills are in high demand as the digital revolution continues to sweep across the country.  “There is strong demand for people with these skills from organisations going through transformational change,” she says.

To ensure a candidate has the required agile skill, Jones recommends conducting technical or personality testing. “A solid process should include an initial screen or informal catch up and a formal interview,” she says. “An employer should also ensure there are multiple people in the organisation involved in the recruitment process.”

Should you hire or reskill?

While new employees can bring vital new skills to the workplace, employers may also need to consider reskilling existing team members to ensure they have the depth required for the workplace of tomorrow.

Deligiannis says are benefits for both strategies. “Hiring in the skills you need ensures you overcome skills gaps immediately with a skilled professional who will add value to your team or department,” he say. “However, upskilling existing staff allows you to develop the skills of employees into areas that are candidate-short.

Deligiannis adds that there are other benefits to building the skills of your existing team. “It helps attract and retain talent,” he says. “Professionals want to work for an employer where their skills will advance and remain relevant.”

Whether you hire new skills or build up those of internal team, competition for these sought-after qualities looks set to be strong.