Everything You Need to Know About Accounting and Finance Jobs

As job seekers, you probably have some burning questions you'd like answered about the skills you need to work in accounting and finance jobs, the kind of networking you need to do, and best practices for getting hired.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, addresses these six questions from job seekers.

Spruce up your online presence

Q: How can I convey a professional online identity?

Paul McDonaldA: Managing your online presence is hugely important in getting hired and advancing your career. Make sure your LinkedIn profile — you have one of those, right? — is complete, up-to-date and professional looking down to the smallest details. Most hiring managers will go there first. Clean up your personal social media accounts as well, or at least make them private.

Reach out for some networking

Q: I’m trying to relocate to another state. What’s the best way to network?

A: First, start with any contacts you have in the state you’re moving to. Reconnect with them if you’ve been out of touch. If you don’t have any contacts there, others in your network might; reach out to them for recommendations and introductions. Second, plug yourself into your industry and the business environment in the new state. See if you can attend a conference or seminar there, join networking groups and meetups when you visit, and explore online connections in the area, such as LinkedIn groups. In other words, act like you’re there now to ease the transition later.

Highlight your accounting skills

Q: How do I market myself if I have an accounting or business degree but no job experience?

A: Don’t confuse job experience with work experience. You may not have the first, but you almost certainly have the second. Highlight in your application materials and in interviews your work ethic and the value you brought to past employers, such as how you saved the organization time or money. Have you had any internships? Employers really value those, especially when hiring entry-level talent. Make sure you include your intern work on your resume. Another great idea is to highlight how you’ve used your accounting skills in other parts of your life — maybe in volunteer fundraising or serving as a treasurer for a student group.

Start studying for your CPA

Q: I have the experience required for accounting positions, but I don’t have a CPA. How can I avoid being passed over?

A: OK, bad news first: Sometimes you can’t. Some firms and companies require a CPA designation to be hired. Be ready for that. You may want to consider studying up and taking the Uniform CPA Exam. But if you can’t do that at the moment, emphasize your experience and skills in your cover letter and resume. Let hiring managers know that you have the skills they need and that the only thing missing is the actual CPA designation.

Catch up on the technical skills

Q: I’ve been away from the finance field for a while, and I’m behind on technical skills. How can I catch up quickly?

A: Catching up is very doable. Catching up quickly is harder. It will take focused practice to master the new technical skills required in today’s market, and this takes time. Don’t rush or get discouraged. Set yourself up for success by learning what specific skills employers are looking for (networking is great for this) and learning those skills first. Also, recall how common hiring temporary staff is becoming. Consider taking on a few interim assignments before you go full time — these can serve as intensive retraining experiences.

Check out our online accounting training programs, which includes access to thousands of online course, books, articles, videos and research reports.

Don't curb your enthusiasm

Q: I don’t want to appear overly enthusiastic. How much are employers looking for a positive attitude in their accounting and finance staff?

A: Having a positive attitude is invaluable. It tells hiring managers you’re excited about the work you’re doing, you can get along with coworkers and you will represent the department and company well to clients and customers. Also, hiring managers will perceive you as easy to manage.

Learn about the Non-Accounting Skills in Demand and How to Build Them and check out The Seven Most Annoying CoWorkers — something you don't want to be.

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

The Robert Half webinar, “What You Need to Know to Hire and Be Hired in the New Year,” inspired this post. Earlier, McDonald addressed employers Answers to Their Burning Questions About Recruitment.