The recruiting environment has become more uncertain in recent months, to say the least. However, the positive news is that many businesses still employ staff in both on-site and remote positions, including in their accounting and finance departments. If you have a well-developed set of accounting skills it can increase your chances of becoming a strong contender for the job you are targeting.
Essential accounting skills include more than just the ability to calculate numbers, complete expense sheets and depreciate fixed assets. Apart from traditional accounting knowledge, there are a number of hard skills and soft skills that every accounting professional needs, whether working in the office or remotely.
Here’s an overview of seven accounting skill sets – some technical, some not – that can help you advance your accounting job search, as well as your accounting career.
1. General business knowledge
The scope of accounting and finance positions has grown over time, and particularly in recent years. In particular, these professionals should more often collaborate and coordinate with colleagues in other departments.
So it is important to know what other functions and how the work of accounting and financial organizations helps support their initiatives. The better you understand how the business as a whole works, and how you and your team fit into the “big picture,” the more productive your relationships outside of your department will be.
2. The latest technology expertise
Financial leaders are often challenged to find professionals who have the latest technology expertise listed among their accounting skills. But you can be sure that working with a specialized financial software program will be a given in your role, as accounting firms and other organizations continue to expand their use of accounting automation.
Other examples of technology-related accounting skills that are in demand by many companies include:
- Advanced Excel capabilities
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) experience (eg, SAP, Oracle)
- Expertise in big data analysis, advanced modeling techniques and SQL
- Knowledge of business intelligence software (for example, IBM Cognos)
- Microsoft Visual Basic capabilities
- Aptitude with Hyperion (for financial analyst and reporting roles)
- Microsoft Visual Basic Skills
- Knowledge of QuickBooks (for positions with small and medium-sized companies)
If you want to advance in your current position, consider asking your manager about online accounting skills training options the company might be able to arrange. Or, if you are currently looking for a job, you can enroll in an online course in one of the skill areas listed above. Being proactive about your professional development can impress potential employers.
3. Communication skills
Stay-at-home orders have placed communication skills front and center among must-have skills as many workers have shifted to remote work . The good news is that accounting and finance professionals have had to hone one of these skills over the years: presenting information in an easy-to-digest way, especially to an audience who doesn’t really know numbers. Now, it’s time to hone your other communication skills.
The ability to convey information clearly and concisely by improving your verbal and writing skills is very important. The good news is, you and your colleagues who work from home may already have mastered these skills, as you’ll have to turn to email (writing skills) and video (verbal skills) platforms for every day-to-day interaction, from business requests for simple morning greetings.
4. Adaptability and flexibility
Adaptability and flexibility also topped the professional accounting and finance skills needed even before the pandemic. Technological changes, such as the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) as an important business tool, are the main drivers of this trend, and you can expect that it will remain so. But now, as businesses try to define and run their next “new normal,” the ability to turn and turn with change is an absolute necessity.
5. Creativity and willingness to help others
The best accounting professionals are ambitious newbies who can develop new insights. You may need to be a source of assistance when colleagues need help navigating a particular program or managing their first busy season audit.
Your manager may also be looking to you for fresh ideas on how the organization can ensure continuity of service to clients (especially during this time of outage), improve compliance procedures or address a number of other issues.
6. Customer service orientation
Whether you work in a public or private accounting, solid customer service skills are also important. If you work for a public accounting firm, you need to be able to keep current customers and bring in new clients. And if you work in corporate accounting, you’ll need to meet the needs of other organizational departments and managers.
Accounting professionals can demonstrate good customer service by listening intently to client needs and concerns, both internal and external.
7. Special experiences
Specialized experience, such as a focus on regulatory compliance, can be a strong complement to your accounting skill set. Many employers are also looking for candidates with an anti-money laundering (AML) background, getting to know your customers (KYC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) and the Dodd-Frank Act , especially related regulations to capital adequacy and consumer protection.
Companies are also looking for accountants with experience in revenue recognition. Organizations such as the American Institute of CPA (AICPA) offer courses on income recognition to help you better understand and apply current and new income recognition principles – and make income recognition decisions accordingly.