How to Read an Accounting Job Description to Narrow Your Job Search

A magnifying glass highlights a: Job Seekers, tab on a web page for Robert Half

You expect an advertisement for an accounting job to give you the basics about the position a company is looking to fill: the duties, required skills and education, and the level of experience necessary to fill the role. But if you look at that posting closely, you can also learn much more about your potential employer.

Here's how to do a close reading of the next accounting job description you find.

Job duties

Employers who know how to write accurate job postings don't intend these as some kind of approximation or ballpark view of what they expect. They're serious. Take a close look at the tasks the accounting job description outlines. The company will expect you to be able to perform all of these duties with ease and competence. So before you apply, consider carefully whether the duties align with your skills and experience, and whether they seem appealing and doable.

Likewise, if the job includes a high level of, say, auditing, and you dislike performing audits, you'd probably be best passing on that position and looking for one that focuses on a skill you like using. You might be able to shape the job into something different, but most companies will probably expect you to fill the role as they have described it.


The words in the job description can help you ask — and answer — the right questions in the job interview. Terms like self-starter and initiative may mean that you'll have a lot of latitude in doing things your way as long as you meet goals and deadlines. They could also mean that everyone is so busy that no one is free to assist and direct you. Insightful questions during your interview can help you nail down what the actual situation is.

Other common terms can also tell a story. For example, job descriptions that require attention to detail likely mean that the employer expects you will exercise a reasonable amount of care in the performance of your job. A job description that embellishes on that theme, talking about the role of scrupulousness over and over, may indicate an excessively meticulous environment that you may want to steer away from if this isn't your cup of tea.

The order in which the duties appear can tell you a lot about what will be expected of you and what you'll spend most of your time doing. If client interaction heads the list, and you prefer to crunch numbers with headphones on, that job might not be a great fit for you.

Company culture

The way a company describes itself in a job ad can reveal a lot about the personality of the firm. What does the company use as its main selling points? Great benefits say, "We care about our people." "Best place to work" awards tell you their employees are happy and loyal. A picture of the team laughing together says, "We actually like each other."

The vague job description

The best accounting job description presents the duties of the position in a way that enables candidates to visualize the role and determine whether they would fit well into the job. But a vague accounting job description — one that doesn't offer many details about the duties, required skills or necessary experience level — can be a red flag or a sign the employer may be disorganized and indecisive. The job advertised may not be the same one that you land.

Unusual demands

Another warning sign is over-the-top requirements for the job. If what the company asks for in terms of skills, education or experience doesn't align with industry standards, what else in their organization differs from the norm? You may find the job you thought you were applying for isn't the same one that you land.

Reading between the lines in job descriptions can tell you a lot about the position and whether you should apply. Pay close attention to them, and you'll learn more than you might initially realize.