7 essential accounting skills you need in 2017

  • career advice
  • January 26, 2017
From changes in regulations to evolving business needs, the finance and accounting world is always changing. To be successful, today’s finance and accounting professionals need a skill set that covers everything from advanced Excel skills to implementing major enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to understanding big picture business needs.

What critical skills do accountants need most to keep up with the industry and do their jobs well? We asked some of our recruiting executives what they’re hearing from employers right now. Here are the seven skills you need in 2017.

1. Tech savvy 

These days, it is a given that employers want candidates who have advanced Excel skills. Companies also look for finance and accounting professionals with expertise in major accounting software programs, as well as first-hand knowledge implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

2. Getting certified and staying updated 

Professionals with a certified public accountant (CPA) certification, a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s in business administration (MBA) have a leg up over their finance and accounting peers.

Star performers have a thirst for knowledge. These people stay current and invest in themselves by pursuing training and professional certifications, according to Bob Demac, Randstad’s managing director in Boston.

For tax professionals, it is important to understand new tax regulations by taking continuing professional education (CPE) courses in taxation, for example.

“Things are constantly changing and professionals need to demonstrate that their skill set is current. The best professionals always want to learn. Go after education and training. It’s a must-have.”
-Ivonne Simon, Randstad practice director, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 

3. Relationship-building capabilities 

Companies want finance and accounting professionals who can reach out and initiate relationships throughout the organization. These relationships help build consensus in the company when implementing key initiatives.

4. Big picture knowledge 

In today’s fast-paced environment, employers seek professionals who understand their company’s big picture objectives and challenges, adds Demac. Reaching management levels typically involve the development of a broader sense of the company’s business. The most in-demand accountants understand why they’re doing something and how what they do impacts others within the organization.

5. Demonstrated leadership 

It’s imperative that finance and accounting professionals are willing and able to deal with challenging business situations. Has an individual stepped up in challenging times? Or volunteered to take on a new project? Companies want to work with professionals who aren’t afraid to raise their hand.

“Employers want to hire people that have the desire to move up and grow their careers,” Simon added.

6. Communication and interpersonal skills 

Being a great accountant isn’t just what you know. Pay attention to the soft skills that matter in your work relationships. Communication skills, flexibility and friendliness make you an excellent colleague and professional.

It’s not enough to be able to crunch the numbers. The most in-demand professionals need to be able to explain the “why” behind the numbers to non-financial stakeholders. More and more, public speaking is a major plus for accountants and finance professionals.

“People must be able to speak naturally and be able to relay a story, presenting information in a compelling manner,” Simon says.

7. Flexible and deadline driven. 

The most successful professionals can easily multi-task and shift priorities when necessary. The best accountants are extremely comfortable with regular deadlines and busy periods, such as month-end close.

“Candidates that have problems are the ones who struggle to see the forest through the trees. A hot-button issues for employers now is the ability to shift priorities quickly and juggle four or five balls at once.”
-Adam Fisher, Randstad manager, Central Pennsylvania
Whether you’re looking for a new job in 2017 or simply would like to boost your career, focus on soft skills, as well as the technical capabilities so important in the finance and accounting profession.

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