You’re ready to apply for that accounting role you’ve been searching for. You’re not sure what to expect, but you know you want to put your best foot forward by getting prepared and knocking this interview out of the park.
I used to work as one at a Big Four accounting firm. And before becoming a career coach, I spent years handling recruiting efforts at a public accounting firm for five offices spanning up and down the East Coast. I worked directly with leadership to identify top talent, built recruiting processes and screened candidates for accounting opportunities. Based on my experience, I have some advice on what qualities recruiters are looking for in a candidate.
According to recruiters in the accounting industry, the most desirable candidates have experience working in public accounting for a large firm. But if you don’t have that, don’t let it deter you! There are many other skills and experiences that you can demonstrate to set yourself apart.
When interviewing for accounting roles specifically, it’s important to demonstrate a healthy mix of both technical acumen and essential skills. One of the biggest myths I hear about accountants is that they sit behind a computer for hours, looking at numbers and ridiculous formulas in Microsoft Excel with no human contact, ever. On the contrary: Accountants must demonstrate skills in a variety of areas to be successful in the job hunt, such as communication, client engagement, data analysis, and time management.
Here are the five main skills that I found most valuable as a recruiter:
- Written Communication: Hiring managers will want to know that your writing skills are on point—after all, you may be drafting audit reports, creating workpapers, developing and editing financial statements, and providing updates to your internal or external clients as needed.
- Verbal Communication: Strong verbal communication skills are important to your success in accounting as you’ll be speaking with clients, internal or external, in just about every aspect of your work.
- Time Management and Prioritization: Accountants take on a great variety of tasks, especially during month-end, quarter-end, and year-end accounting. Just in one day, you may be in and out of client meetings, drafting workpapers, reviewing financial documentation, and walking through your clients’ accounting processes. It’s important to be able to work well when there are many things going on at once and know how to organize your work so your tasks get done on time.
- Technical Experience: There’s no doubt that accounting is a pretty technical role. Aisha Holt, a corporate accounting recruiter at Tradesmen International, makes sure to gauge candidates’ experiences with various accounting tools and software. Accounting programs are used to prepare financial statements, make journal entries, perform account reconciliations, and complete other important accounting procedures. You’ll find yourself working with these tools every single day, so recruiters want to see that you’re knowledgeable and up-to-date on the latest emerging technologies of the profession.
- Attention to Detail: Maintaining accurate reporting with zero errors is crucial in accounting. Can you imagine the financial implications if an account was overstated or understated by $1 million dollars and an auditor didn’t pick up on the error? The work of an accountant is to maintain high integrity, as the public is dependent on ethical reporting, and there is also a slew of regulations that accountants must uphold. As such, candidates need to show that they do sweat the small stuff and aren’t likely to make or miss an error that leads to a massive loss.
Now that you know the skill sets recruiters are looking for in an Accountant, be on the lookout next week for questions you’re likely to get in your next accounting interview.
Editor’s note: Content from the above post originally appeared in The Muse article 10 Questions You’ll Get in Your Next Accounting Interview—and How to Answer Them