Hiring a Staff Accountant? The Job Description Is Key

By Robert Half April 24, 2017 at 10:31pm

When your department is down a staff accountant, everyone has to work harder.

From handling accounts payable and accounts receivable to taking care of journal entries and general month-end accounting duties, the extra financial tasks begin to add up in a hurry. That means management will need to find a replacement as soon as possible. How can you search for the right person most efficiently? It all rests on a solid staff accountant job description.

When an accurate job description is used as the basis of the job posting, it will make the hiring process and subsequent onboarding go much more smoothly. The job description offers a snapshot of an open position: the general duties involved, the experience and educational requirements needed and the personal attributes necessary for success. It also:

  • Gives candidates a clear idea of what's expected of them if hired
  • Helps the hiring managers review resumes and evaluate candidates
  • Offers a performance benchmark after candidates are hired
  • Helps prevent hiring mistakes

When hiring a staff accountant, the job description becomes especially important because the role can vary considerably from one company to another, depending on its size, corporate culture and industry. The secret to creating a solid job description is to make sure it accurately describes the position and your company — a generic job description won't do.

Here’s how to prepare a solid staff accountant job description.

Cover your bases

A great job description will immediately answer most of the questions potential hires have about the position and prepare them to make an informed, targeted application. Use this checklist to make sure you've included all of the important components of a good job listing:

  • Job title — This should be in language potential employees are searching for — just "Staff Accountant," not "Level 4 Senior Staff Accountant / Party Planning Committee Director."
  • Job summary — Before listing the key responsibilities, give a very brief summary of what you're looking for that really grabs the reader.
  • Key responsibilities — List the most important duties; if you can, note frequency in percentages that add up to 100. For example:
    • Daily bookkeeping, 50%
    • Maintain weekly budgets, 20%
    • Process department expenses, 20%
    • Audit quarterly financial reports, 10%
  • Department and supervisor — Such as "Supports the sales department, reporting to the CFO."
  • Required skills and qualifications — Share what accounting experience you expect a successful candidate to have, including any degrees, certifications and technical skills. 
  • Additional desired skills — List other desired traits management would love to see, such as good written communication skills or management experience.
  • Salary range and benefits — Even if you don't make pay information public, it's important to set a salary range before you start recruiting so you're prepared for salary negotiations.
  • Location — An important little detail that is often overlooked — be sure to share where the employer is located. Job applicants want to know what kind of commute they’d have.
  • Type of employment — Specify whether the position is full-time, part-time or temporary.
  • Company overview — Give a one-paragraph summary of your company, what you do and what makes you different. This is the chance to sell your firm as a place to build a career!
  • Recruiter contact information — Note who interested accountants should contact to apply and how best to reach that person. Specify if you require any information beyond a resume and cover letter.

Keep it focused

The best job descriptions are easy to understand and reflect a sense of priorities. Aim to capture the primary and essential duties, rather than giving a laundry list of occasional duties. Present duties in a way that enables candidates to visualize the role and determine whether they can see themselves truly fitting into the position. 

Don't recycle

In the rush to staff key financial positions, managers sometimes fall back on existing job descriptions or previous job ads. But consolidation of duties and technology advancements may have caused some accounting duties and requirements to change. Keep in mind, too, that you want the job description to be forward-looking. You're not just filling a vacant position but are trying to strategically satisfy your company's changing needs. Be sure to seek input from key employees who will work alongside the new hire. They can help you fine-tune the job description as far as including primary requirements and responsibilities.

Be realistic

A staff accountant job description shouldn't read like one for a C-level finance executive. Hiring mistakes are often the result of job descriptions that overstate or understate what a position entails, or that state expectations that are out of line with the typical skill set of candidates for a particular role. For instance, it might be nice, but not essential, to hire someone who has earned the CPA credential. The truth is, you may have a difficult time attracting someone with a CPA for a staff accountant job, but it's totally in line to require a bachelor's degree. You could, however, say something like, "Ideal candidate will be motivated to acquire further accounting education."

Also, make sure you present a candid picture of the position, whether it sounds positive or negative — for example, "good potential for advancement" or "periodic deadlines require long hours."

A job description is a lot like a building blueprint. If you take the time up front to carefully construct it, you'll make the rest of the project — in this case, the hiring process — go much more smoothly and efficiently. And that means you may be able to bring a new staff accountant on board long before a vacancy can harm team productivity or morale.

See more accounting and finance job descriptions that Robert Half commonly places.

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