CFOs Seek Finance Professionals With Mix of Hard and Soft Skills

September 20, 2016

Survey Finds Functional Expertise More Often a Greater Priority

Toronto, ON — Are you a natural number cruncher, or are you more at ease talking shop with colleagues across your company? Today’s accounting and finance professionals need to be comfortable with both, a recent survey from Robert Half Finance & Accounting found. When it comes to a favourite though, more CFOs prioritize technical skills.

 

 

Forty-three per cent of CFOs interviewed said they give equal weight to both specialized and nontechnical, or soft skills, when evaluating candidates for either staff-level or upper-level accounting and finance positions. Of those with a preference, technical skills were the favourite with three in five CFOs surveyed prioritizing functional expertise over soft skills.

 

“As collaboration across business disciplines becomes increasingly common, accounting and finance professionals are more frequently called upon to communicate key financial information to different departments within the organization,” said Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, International Staffing Operations. “While technical skills are an expectation, career growth is dependent on soft skills and the ability to articulate how financial insights impact other business functions and the bottom line.”

 

Companies shouldn’t neglect the importance of cultivating soft skills amongst their staff, added Scileppi. “As employees advance within a company, technical skills are assumed; strong soft skills become the defining feature of successful business leaders, through their ability to communicate goals and motivate their financial teams.”

 

CFOs were asked, “When evaluating professionals for staff-level accounting and finance positions, which carries more weight – the candidate’s technical skills or his or her soft or nontechnical skills?” Their responses:

 

Much greater weight on technical skills

6%

Somewhat greater weight on technical skills

51%

An even split on hard and soft skills

43%

 

100%

 

 

CFOs were also asked, When evaluating professionals for senior-level accounting and finance positions, which carries more weight — the candidate’s technical skills or his or her soft or nontechnical skills?” Their responses:

 

Much greater weight on technical skills

8%

Somewhat greater weight on technical skills

49%

An even split on hard and soft skills

43%

 

100%

 

 

Here are five essential nontechnical skills for accounting and finance professionals and how these attributes can be developed:

  1. Business acumen: Step outside of finance and learn as much as you can about your company’s big-picture objectives and challenges. Ask for cross-departmental assignments and project management opportunities.
  2. Leadership: Volunteering to take on a new project or fill in for a manager are experiences that can help you develop your leadership skills and prove you’re ready for more responsibilities.
  3. Communication: Hone your ability to tell the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with financial principles. Take every opportunity to develop your written, oral and visual communication skills.
  4. Relationship building: Foster genuine relationships with other professionals in your company — long before you need help from these contacts. One way to start is to invite them for coffee to discuss how you can help them with their priorities and challenges.
  5. Intellectual curiosity: Pursue trainings offered by your company as well as external learning opportunities. Earning a professional certification is another way to stay on top of industry trends.

 

About the Research

The survey was developed by Robert Half Finance & Accounting and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on telephone interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies Canada.

 

About Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half, is the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 325 locations worldwide and offers online job search and management tools at roberthalf.ca/finance. For career and management advice, follow our blog at blog.roberthalf.ca. Follow Robert Half on Twitter at @RobertHalf_CAN for additional workplace advice and hiring trends

For further information contact: Naz Araghian, (416) 865-2140, naz.araghian@roberthalf.com