How Do You Measure Up In the Race for That Accounting Job?

By Robert Half January 16, 2018 at 5:30pm

Tiffany Arcaris is always on the lookout for top finance and accounting job seekers. If there’s one message she can impart about standing out in the job market, it’s this: Be sure to articulate the background, strengths and accomplishments you bring to the position.

As a Robert Half branch manager in Salt Lake City, Arcaris tells applicants, “You need to be able to thoroughly describe your experience and your knowledge of processes, laws and relevant software. When you’re in the interview, you should provide real examples in your responses to questions rather than hypothetical answers.”

To see how you measure up, here is a list of four qualities the best accounting job candidates possess in this field of accounting:

1. Accounting work history

One of the candidates Arcaris represented had 10 years of experience in the payroll field and was responsible for accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank and monthly reconciliations. She’d managed a payroll department, processed multi-state payroll and worked with tax returns and quarterly reports. She wasn’t in the market for long.

Not everyone applying for finance and accounting jobs has that much experience, but having stability and tenure in similar roles can be pivotal in securing your next position.

Take a look at the job description for the position you're interested in. If it’s for a billing clerk job, you may be expected to show some work history in creating and submitting invoices and credit memos, processing bills, preparing journal entries and communicating with customers about billing.

For other jobs, like that of an accounting manager, you’ll typically need at least five years of experience in the role, along with a bachelor’s degree and credentials.

See some of the temporary accounting and finance roles we place that can strengthen your work history.

2. Interpersonal skills

How can you leave a good impression on a potential employer? While technical expertise is valuable in an accounting job, you need both hard and soft skills for success. Communication is one of the most important soft skills, and it includes abilities such as articulating coherently, customer service, leadership, teamwork and adapting to change.

Managers are looking for someone whose outlook and habits are compatible with their company culture. They can examine whether your interpersonal skills are a good fit by asking behavioral interview questions and probing for deeper answers that show more aspects of your personality.

3. Precision and accuracy

Details matter in this profession, and it’s not unusual to see the words “detail oriented” as a qualification for a job.

Employers are looking for someone who can hit deadlines and not make mistakes. As Arcaris says, someone with a “strategic and analytical mindset and excellent organizational skills” would make an ideal candidate in accounting operations.

4. Passion for the work

In an Accountemps survey of the top job search blunders, CFOs cited a lack of enthusiasm on the part of candidates. They’re looking for someone who shows an interest in the company and the position.

Don’t be caught off guard with a question like this: “Why do you want this job?” This is an opportunity to talk about how much you enjoy the work, while demonstrating the strengths and value you bring. Do you take pride in managing bank reconciliations or performing month-end closings? Don’t be afraid to say so!

Finally, here's a good practice from our job-hunting tips to give you an edge over other job seekers: Create a resume and cover letter that’s customized for each position and employer. This requires you to study the job description and research the company. Address a real person, never “to whom it may concern.” And make sure the application materials you send are clean and error-free.

Robert Half has been helping job seekers find great career opportunities since 1948. Enlist our recruiters to find the right job for you.

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