6 soft skills to hire for in accounting and finance jobs

By Robert Half on 10 November 2018

If you're looking to fill accounting and finance jobs at your organisation, you'll be searching for candidates with the necessary education and qualifications.

But degrees, diplomas and designations aren't everything.

Your ideal hire will have great interpersonal skills and some general knowledge about the business world, too.

Whilst making your decision, look for accounting and finance professionals who possess these six soft skills.

1. Business knowledge

Accounting and finance jobs are expanding. Candidates need astute business understanding if they are to successfully help develop strategy, inform key decisions and serve as business partners across multiple departments within your organisation. They should also be able to see the big picture and understand how their job impacts the company as a whole.

As the roles of accounting and finance professionals grow within companies, so does the need to work with other departments. 

2. Leadership capabilities

When you hire for accounting and finance jobs, look for professionals with strong leadership skills. These individuals can step into more senior roles when the time is right. Look for ambitious self-starters who can adapt well to change and who embrace continuous learning and personal development. You will want to find out whether a candidate is likely to be able to share new insights, generate fresh ideas, and motivate, engage and eventually mentor other members of your team.

You can identify these soft skills by asking open-ended questions during the interview. Inquire about how candidates have worked with others or times when they've led project teams. Interviewing is your best chance to evaluate a candidate — don't waste the opportunity. 

3. Technical prowess

Accounting and finance jobs and technology skills often go hand-in-hand. Proficiency using finance-specific software programs, such as Hyperion and QuickBooks, is a prerequisite in most cases. Cloud computing is also becoming increasingly popular at many companies. Look for accounting and finance professionals who are proficient in the latest database applications and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs. Of course, there will be competition among employers for candidates who possess the most in-demand accounting skills.

Before entering salary negotiations with the candidate who has the technical skills you need, be sure you're up on current salary trends in your area. Download our latest Salary Guide for more information.

4. Communication skills

Accounting and finance staff need to be able to tell the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner, particularly when it comes to informing colleagues in other departments or clients that may be unfamiliar with accounting principles and jargon. For this reason, written, verbal and even visual communication skills are critical for success in accounting and finance jobs today. 

5. Customer service orientation

"How can I help you?" is a phrase that should never be far from the minds of accounting and finance professionals. It's essential for staff at most organisations to be able to retain current customers, bring in new clients or, at the very least, keep internal customers happy — making solid customer service skills important.

Although some job candidates are likely to have a stronger customer service orientation than others, this is a skill that can be taught. 

6. Other soft skills for accounting and finance jobs

Nearly all finance and accounting jobs today list among their requirements planning and organisational abilities, multitasking, analytical and problem-solving skills, the capacity to work without supervision and under pressure, and the ability to work well in teams and independently. Certainly, for accounting and finance professionals who manage company funds, qualities such as attention to detail, accuracy and a highly developed sense of discretion and confidentiality are indispensable. And, for your own particular workplace, other qualities such as a sense of humour may be priorities.

Be clear before you start the interviewing process about which soft skills are the most critical for your workplace, and you'll be more likely to end up hiring the right person for the job.

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