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Positioning Yourself for Success in the Candidate-Driven Accounting Market

Since the 2014 fiscal year ended on such a positive note, employers in the Accounting/Finance industry are now bracing for an active new year as the economy continues to strengthen. In fact, at the time this article was written in December 2014, The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the general U.S. unemployment rate of 5.8% was at the lowest it had been since the Great Recession began– something that implies a positive 2015 for accountants. Why? An increasing number of employers have used this positive trend as a reason to reevaluate their attraction and retention strategies in order to secure top talent for their organization.

According to results from a recent survey we conducted with our clients for our 2015 Regional Hiring Outlook, one way employers are attracting and retaining talent is through increased compensation. In fact, 80% of respondents from the Accounting/Finance sector stated that they plan on increasing compensation in 2015. “In an attempt to remain competitive in light of the current marketplace where the demand for accounting professionals is greatly outnumbered by the supply of qualified candidates, employers are extending strong offers to top prospective candidates as well as offering their most valued employees nice raises, and in some cases, counter offers to dissuade them from leaving,” explains Samantha Parris, Senior Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division. “In this sense, it is truly a candidate-driven market where the most skilled accounting professionals can receive multiple offers.”

In order to position yourself as one of these top candidates, Samantha recommends emphasizing the technical skills that you have attained from your area of specialization. To demonstrate your ability to make a strong contribution to a prospective employer, Samantha advises accountants to stay up-to-date on industry trends and proactively take the steps necessary to attain any certifications relevant to your specialty. “Certifications – such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – demonstrate your commitment to the field and that you hold yourself to the highest industry standards, which can mean the difference between you and another candidate who doesn’t have any applicable certifications.”

However, though they are certainly important, employers aren’t only looking out for your technical skills. “The technical skills and experience that you list on your resume will get you an interview, but the soft skills that make you a good personality fit for the role and the organization as a whole will get you the job,” says Samantha. As a result, during an interview, it’s important to let the prospective employer see your personality and emphasize how your soft skills (i.e., communications skills, ability to multi-task, organizational skills, etc.) have allowed you to contribute and succeed in past roles.

Finally, to negotiate the best offer possible, know your worth. Take the time to educate yourself on the types of compensation packages that accountants with your level of experience and similar skills are making in order to leverage an offer that is comparable with the current strength of the candidate-driven market.

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