Your Career in Finance — 10 Skills That Really Count

By Robert Half August 9, 2018 at 11:30am

It’s no secret that carving out a high-flying career in finance hinges on more than good grades.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an executive with decades of experience, can you recall what led you to this career choice?

In today’s fast-evolving workplace, accounting and finance professionals must demonstrate everything from razor-sharp analytical ability and stellar soft skills, to a sharp understanding of industry-standard software.

So, how do you know whether your resume will reach the top of the pile or is destined to fall short? Here are 10 finance must-haves that will put you in prime position for a promising career in finance.

1. Training and education

In some industries, sparkling talent combined with real-world experience is enough to land your dream job.

But for a career in finance, a sector ruled by rigorous processes and standards as well as commercial best practices, a glowing resume simply isn’t enough.

Successful candidates must have the necessary education, training and financial certifications to back-up any work experience they have.

2. Interpersonal skills

There once was a time when finance professionals were bound to cubicles, but that era is long gone.

These days, any perception that a career in finance involves simply crunching numbers has been replaced by the reality that positions require workers to deal with clients and workplace teams every day.

For accounting and finance professionals, the ability to build successful relationships is critical for success. When looking at two equally qualified hires, interpersonal skills are often the point of difference.

3. Ability to communicate

For aspiring accounting and finance workers, strong oral and written communication skills are important, but it’s just as imperative to be able to explain financial jargon in simple terms.

Many companies choose candidates who can make complex industry language clear to clients and workers in other departments who have limited finance knowledge, as opposed to potential hires who simply regurgitate what they’ve learned.

4. Aptitude for financial reporting

Financial candidates looking for a competitive edge would be wise to demonstrate a proficiency in financial reporting at their next job interview.

Financial reporting is the process of preparing documentation that discloses a company’s financial status to management, investors and the government. The skills involved in financial reporting are in demand in today’s workplaces, and the salary levels reflect it. According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance, the midpoint starting salary for an accountant working in financial reporting with one to three years of experience is $71,750, and a financial reporting manager can expect a midpoint salary of $112,7500.

5. Analytical know-how

Companies are looking to hire employees who have the ability to analyze scenarios and draw suitable conclusions. The trend toward a more strategic and analytic finance function requires skills involving strategic thinking, big data, information technology, collaboration and leadership, with real-world examples and performance-driven results.

For those who acquire and maintain the top financial analyst skills, there’s an abundance of opportunities for employment and professional growth.

6. Problem-solving skills

These days, it isn’t enough to have a solid knowledge of systems and processes. It’s also essential to be able to tackle complex problems as they arise.

Whether it’s addressing the financial implications of a complicated business structure or coming up with a personalized solution for a client’s tax dilemma, a record of solving problems will see your career grow in leaps and bounds.

7. Knowledge of IT software

The increased focus on digitization and automation has encouraged more hiring managers to look for financial professionals with the right IT skills to leverage new financial systems.

Candidates who can demonstrate knowledge and competency in predictive analytics, accounts payable automation, SAP accounting software or Oracle will find themselves in demand.

8. Management experience

Although it’s not essential, management experience is often highly desirable for employers looking to hire a financial professional for a new role.

If you’ve proven your ability to manage teams during your career, you’re bound to excel in a leadership position in the future.

9. Business savvy

It’s important for financial professionals to understand the relationship between a company’s fiscal behavior and marketplace demands.

Candidates who can exercise an understanding of the business world as well as an interest in the trends shaping the industry are well-placed to get ahead in the year’s top finance jobs.

10. Capacity for innovation

Finance and accounting may be associated with routines and systems, but that doesn’t mean that innovation doesn’t have its place.

Whether you’ve invented a data-collection method that streamlines productivity or a recording process that drives accuracy, candidates who inspire innovation in the workplace are likely to stand out.

Did you check all the boxes for a career in finance?

From brushing up on your financial-reporting skills to cultivating the ability to think outside the box, broadening your skill set is paramount to establishing a career in finance that soars.

Indeed, if you most of these 10 attributes, you just might be one of finance’s most sought-after professionals.

If you're looking for a career in finance, reach out to the team at Robert Half Finance and Accounting.

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