How To Gain A Competitive Edge In The Shifting Accounting Job Market

After a downturn in the market, hiring typically goes down, and when the market improves, employers begin to ramp up their hiring exponentially.  After some time, this up-and-down trend stabilizes, and the market evens out as organizations finally catch up.  Within the accounting/finance industry, we are starting to reach this equilibrium now that the Great Recession is behind us.

“A few years ago, there simply weren’t enough qualified candidates to fill open positions,” says Laura Gutierrez, a Senior Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division.  “However, we’ve recently seen a shift in the market.”  Accounting professionals are becoming more confident in the economy, and have become more willing to look for jobs as a result.  “Since there is this flood of talent in the marketplace, employers feel more comfortable in taking their time when hiring, and they will hold out for the best candidate possible,” says Laura.

It’s important to note that any perceived slowdown in hiring is not a sign of another economic downturn.  It may just indicate that the market is leveling out.  For job seekers in the industry looking to find a competitive edge in this shifting market, Laura suggests taking these steps:

  • Start looking now: Because the field is more competitive and employers are taking longer to hire, Laura suggests that you don’t wait to start your job search. “Be ready for a slower process, and do your best to cooperate with the timetable of the employers,” she says.  “For example, a Tax CPA who just finished their September 15th deadline may normally wait until December to look for their next role.”  But, Laura says, you may miss out on a job for the next busy season if you wait that long.  “It could potentially take a few months to find that next role, so plan ahead to make sure you’re not stuck in your position until after the April 15th deadline,” says Laura.  By being proactive and giving yourself more time to look for your next role, you can more effectively keep your options open and avoid landing in a tough situation.
  • Get your CPA certification: If you’re looking to keep your skills up to par to remain competitive among the talented pool of candidates, Laura suggests pursuing the CPA designation, as it is the industry gold standard. “A CPA certification can definitively prove that you have a grasp on the technical skills necessary to do the job,” notes Laura.  “Additionally, it shows your dedication to the field.  Not only have you put in time and effort to pass the exam, but you also show that you’re committed to advancing in your career.”
  • Emphasize soft skills: While the proper certifications and experience are crucial to success, It’s your soft skills that will push you ahead of your competition. “What’s really putting good candidates over the top is their personality,” she says.  “Employers aren’t just looking for someone who has the technical skills needed to do the job; they want the right cultural fit for the organization as well.  A friendly demeanor and a grip on soft skills like communication and teamwork are what will set you apart from the competition.”