Finance and Accounting: What Do Employers Want?

Finance and Accounting: What Do Employers Want?

By Kerry Knapp
Monster Contributing Writer

If you’re looking for a job in finance or accounting, chances are you’ll find this formula a cinch: The right opportunity + the right skills = a great new job!

Okay, it’s pretty straightforward. If the right position comes up and you’ve got the skills employers want, the numbers are on your side.

But what skills are today’s finance and accounting employers looking for? If you’re not sure, take a few minutes to check your own skill set against this list and tally up your own professional assets and liabilities. It’s sure to be a profitable exercise!

Technical Skills

From finance technician to accountant and controller to tax analyst, every job has its own skill requirements. Those skills also vary depending on your level of responsibility.

While junior employees might focus on data entry, bookkeeping, issuing cheques and posting transactions, senior staff may be required to implement new accounting practices, prepare corporate budgets and financial statements, develop financial reporting mechanisms and work with regulators and external auditors.

Management-level jobs require specific skills like supervising, training and evaluating staff, managing projects and schedules, ensuring compliance with policies, and so on.

Check the postings on to see what you’ll have to bring to the table.

Soft Skills

Like other jobs, finance and accounting positions require a whole slew of soft skills. Just about every posting in the field lists planning and organizational abilities, multi-tasking, analytical and problem-solving skills, communication skills, the capacity to work without supervision and under pressure, and the ability to work well in teams and on your own.

Particularly relevant for workers who manage company funds are qualities like attention to detail, accuracy and a highly developed sense of discretion and confidentiality.

Computer Skills

No matter what the opening, you won’t get far without proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite, particularly Excel. But you may also have to be familiar with industry-specific software like Great Plains, QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, SAP, CaseWare, tax preparation software and Audit Command Language. Find out which are most useful in your line of work.

Industry Certifications

Perhaps more than in any other industry, professional designations are critical in finance and accounting. Even people with no knowledge of finance have heard of Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations. These qualifications are absolute musts for many jobs.

Membership in provincial bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta may also be required. Remember too that employers appreciate additional credentials and courses like CICA In-Depth I, II or III.

Other Qualifications

Given the intense scrutiny that finance and accounting staff are under these days, it’s no surprise that some employers require applicants to be bondable and able to pass a criminal background check. Keep your nose squeaky-clean!

Presentation Skills

Of course, all these skills aren’t worth much if you can’t deliver them in an appealing package.

Make sure your resumé highlights skills specific to the position you’re applying for. And since making your living in a numbers industry is no excuse for spelling or punctuation errors, get a qualified person to check over your application if your language skills are lacking.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve audited your own “professional balance sheet”—your resumé—you’ll know how your skills add up. If you come up short, go for additional training. If not, you’re good to go. Just remember to tailor your resumé to each job to make sure employers see you as a valuable asset!

And if you do everything you can and they still don’t pick you, well, sometimes there’s no accounting for taste!