Essential job skills in the accounting profession encompass more than the ability to crunch numbers.
While technical skills are obviously critical, the accounting field is constantly evolving, and your tasks include more than completing expense sheets and accounts payable reports. You could be working in compliance, tax or risk management, among many other subcategories, each of which has demands that go far beyond the figures.
According to a survey by Accountemps, employers seek several important nonaccounting job skills when evaluating candidates for accounting roles. Chief financial officers were asked which skills, besides traditional accounting knowledge, were most valuable. General business knowledge (33 per cent) was cited as the most marketable skill, followed by expertise in information technology (25 per cent), communication skills (14 per cent), and leadership abilities and customer service orientation (both 13 per cent).
Here's a deeper dive into each of these areas:
General business knowledge
Job skills related to business are in demand because many accountants have diverse responsibilities at their organizations. The roles of accounting and finance professionals are expanding. Given the frequent interaction with other departments, today's accounting professionals need sound decision-making, negotiation and strategic-thinking skills. It's also important to be able to see the big picture and understand how your accounting role impacts the overall organization.
Information technology expertise
Accounting and technology job skills can go hand in hand. The use of a number of finance-specific software programs in your role, such as Hyperion and QuickBooks, is a given. Furthermore, cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular at many organizations and accounting firms.
As an accountant, chances are good that you work with different departments and communicate with a wide array of colleagues or clients on a daily basis. The people you speak with may not be as savvy with the numbers as you are, so you need to be able to present information in an easy-to-digest manner.
On a daily basis, you could be communicating with others via email, phone conversations, in-person meetings or presentations you give. Relaying information clearly and concisely in these instances goes a long way toward supporting your credibility.
Accounting professionals need to be ambitious self-starters who can develop new insights and motivate and engage team members. While the partners at your firm or leaders in your department are managing the business side of the organization, you may need to serve as a source of aid when colleagues need help navigating a particular program or managing their first busy-season audit.
Additionally, your managers may look to you for fresh ideas regarding how the organization can ensure continuity of service to clients, improve compliance procedures or address a host of other issues.
Customer service orientation
If you work in a public accounting firm, it's essential for you to be able to retain current customers and bring in new clients. If you work in corporate accounting, you must meet the needs of the organization's other departments and managers. Either way, solid customer service skills are critical.
Accounting professionals can demonstrate good customer service by truly listening to the needs and concerns of your clients, whether they're internal or external. A positive attitude can also go a long way, especially when stress levels are high. And be careful not to overpromise when it comes to deadlines or deliverables.
The need for these five skills underscores the fact that accounting roles are expanding. As you take on more responsibilities, freshen and utilize your soft skills to remain a valuable member of the accounting team.