In-Demand Accounting Skills to Help You Get the Job You Really Want

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Business growth is driving healthy demand for accountants in both the corporate and public accounting sector. If you want to compete for the most coveted positions, you’ll need to specialize and acquire in-demand accounting skills.

The good news for accounting professionals is that national and regional firms are hiring at all levels, and there are ample opportunities for both experienced and entry-level workers. Companies are seeking senior-level professionals to take on leadership roles. And recent graduates are needed in the talent pipeline.

It’s still important, however, to make sure you possess the most sought-after accounting skills if you want to land a role at your top-choice firm. The most recent Accounting & Finance Salary Guide from Robert Half identifies the most in-demand accounting skills. Below, we’ve divided them into three major categories and offered some advice on how to acquire them. We also discuss other skills that provide the foundation for advancing in your career.

Up-to-date technology skills

Forty-one percent of CFOs polled in a Robert Half survey said the need to stay current with technology is the greatest pressure facing accounting and finance teams. The following technical skills are the most in demand when it comes to technology:

• Advanced Excel skills

• ERP experience (e.g., SAP, Oracle)

• Expertise in data analytics, advanced modeling techniques and SQL

• Knowledge of business intelligence software (e.g., IBM Cognos)

• Aptitude with Hyperion (for analyst and financial reporting roles)

• Microsoft Visual Basic skills

• Cloud-based software experience

• Knowledge of QuickBooks (for positions with small and midsize firms)

If you want to advance in your current position, consider asking your manager for on-the-job or outside training, or enrolling yourself in a course in one of these areas.

Risk and compliance expertise

To ensure regulatory compliance, institutions are hiring risk, compliance and internal audit professionals, especially in the financial services industry. Many firms seek candidates with expertise in areas such as:

• Anti-money laundering (AML)

• Know your customer (KYC)

• Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

• Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR)

• The Dodd-Frank Act, particularly rules related to capital adequacy and consumer protection

Revenue recognition

Companies are launching new revenue-generating initiatives and are hiring financial and business analysts to help them identify growth opportunities. They also seek accountants with specialized experience in revenue recognition. To skillfully handle revenue recognition, you must have excellent analytical skills, good judgment and the ability to keep up to date with business activities and stay tapped into future revenue streams. Organizations like AICPA offer courses on revenue recognition to help you better understand and implement the current and new revenue recognition principles, and make appropriate revenue recognition decisions.

Other important accounting skills

Even though specialized skills are in highest demand, you won’t get far without also honing these abilities: 

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

GAAP should still be the foundation of an accountant’s professional toolkit. Make sure you keep your certifications current in these areas.

Communication and organization

Candidates who lack communication and organization skills may be passed over for those who do possess these must-have attributes. Hiring managers cited strong communication abilities, project management skills and multilingualism as the most important for accountants.

If you’re lacking in one of these areas, consider taking a business communication course, asking for more project management responsibility or gaining a working knowledge of a new language.

Soft skills

Finally, never underestimate the importance of soft skills. Although the technical skills on your resume might land you an interview, your soft skills will help you land – and succeed in – the job. Companies are looking for accounting professionals with a collaborative personality, an executive presence, conflict-management skills and adaptability. Of course, these aren’t the kind of skills easily taught in a classroom. But you can enhance them simply by paying attention to how others handle professional situations. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Now that you know what accounting skills are in demand, check out the most in-demand accounting jobs, or take a look at our job listings.