Though there are countless technical skills and certifications required for success in public accounting, many audit and tax professionals forget to convey the crucial set of soft skills that accounting firms are looking for in their employees.
“Today’s increasingly complex business landscape has required the role of an accountant to change,” explains Gary Grossman, President of The Execu|Search Group’s who oversees the Accounting/Finance division.“While this has led to an influx of hiring, it has also changed the way employers define top accounting talent. Evolving rules and regulations require accountants to be more strategic, make key decisions, and understand how their work impacts the business. As a result, employers are looking out for professionals who have the less-tangible skills and personality traits that imply they can carry out these important tasks.”
In other words, the most successful accountants possess more than the skills necessary for performing the technical aspects of the job. They also have a unique set of qualities that allow them to take true ownership of their role and succeed in moving business forward.
Whether you’re currently job searching or are interested in pursuing growth opportunities at your current firm, these 5 skills can help you stand out against the competition:
Problem solving and analytical thinking skills: Since the business landscape can be unpredictable at times, accounting professionals need to be able to quickly digest data, address challenges as they arise, and offer potential solutions. As a result, firms value employees who exhibit an ability to adapt to change and express a willingness to offer new ideas.
Leadership capabilities: From entry-level to experienced professionals, the ability to lead is a quality that all accounting professionals should possess. Since most responsibilities—ranging from completing an audit to overseeing the work of an entire department—require some degree of autonomy, employers value professionals who will step up and take initiative when necessary.
Self-confidence: Long gone are the days when accountants could perform the majority of their job duties behind the scenes. Now that you are responsible for an array of tasks that involve working with other people and informing business decisions, having the confidence to lead a group or present your work is key to long term career success.
Communication skills: Communication skills are vital to any accounting role. They include excellent grammar and language fluency, but are not limited to the mechanics of communication. In fact, the communication skills most employers look for are the abilities to communicate professionally, quickly, and efficiently. For example, if you are in a client-facing role, you’ll need to be able to explain your work in a manner that is easy to understand for someone who is not as familiar with accounting principles.
Interpersonal skills: Similar to communication skills, interpersonal skills describe the way a professional interacts with his or her colleagues, employer, and clients. These are the types of soft skills that are hard to measure and often include such intangible characteristics as friendliness, cordiality, and an ability to connect to others on a more personal—though still professional—level.