How to Craft the Best Accounting Job Description

By Robert Half February 13, 2017 at 8:30pm

Let’s face it. Hiring for accounting and finance positions is competitive. Think of all the companies like yours posting the same ad with the same accounting job description to the same small pool of skilled candidates who spend the same few seconds considering whatever it is you’re after.

You could write an accounting job description like this and get no response: We need someone to input numbers on a computer program, rearrange them, and do whatever it is numbers people do.

Or you could write this and have top-notch candidates lined up at your door: Innovative retail company seeks entry-level staff accountant proficient with Microsoft Excel, who possesses killer organizational, analytical and communication skills, with a keen eye for detail and a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. Duties include ...

Or maybe not. Remember, it’s a candidate’s market.

Where do you start?

Summarize the position and expectations

In a few sentences, describe exactly what you are looking for in this role. Try to define what you’d regard as exceptional performance or criteria for success. That can help you determine whether the description is accurate and thorough enough.

Be sure to include these elements in the accounting job description:

  • The job title and a brief summary of the job’s function within the company
  • The supervisory structure — who reports to whom.
  • An overview of the essential duties and expectations, using easy-to-digest bullet points (keeping in mind you’re not making a comprehensive list)
  • The specific knowledge, skills, work history, or other experiences required for the job
  • The educational requirements for the job, such as degrees and certifications
  • Qualities or attributes that contribute to superior performance in the position

Prioritize the essential qualities you’re looking for  

What is it you’re looking for in this billing clerk you want to hire? Time-management skills above all? On-the-job experience? Familiarity with your software? Trustworthiness? Think about your needs and try to weave them into the job description.

Depending on the position, you may have different priorities, but consider these key areas when writing the job description:

  • Experience — For full-charge bookkeepers, businesses often seek candidates with at least five years' experience, although expectations differ significantly by firm. For a payroll clerk, you may just need someone with just a high-school level of education and proficiency in Microsoft Office to be considered a good entry-level candidate.
  • Education and certifications — For a cost accounting manager, a professional certification such as a CPA or certified management accountant (CMA) is highly valued, while for a senior cost accountant, you’ll likely look for an MBA.
  • Technical expertise — This, again, depends on the role. Audit directors, for example, must have strong technology abilities, in addition to advanced knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS).
  • Soft skills — For any accounting job, be sure to consider non-accounting skills, including analytical, written and verbal communication, and presentation proficiencies.

‘Sell’ your company and what makes it unique

Share your company’s strengths and its mission in the job description, and paint a picture of your workplace culture. Do you promote work-life balance, with flexible work arrangements or employee perks? You want to bring on people who make a perfect fit, and one way to do that is to be honest about your company and what it’s like to work there. Otherwise, your new hire may quickly become your hiring mistake.  

Read How to Overcome Challenges in the Small Business Hiring Process.

Be competitive with your compensation

You don’t have to include a salary range in your accounting job description, but you should be able to say whether the position offers competitive pay. To be sure of that, research salaries in your market for the position you’re staffing. You should also be clear about whether the role is exempt (not eligible for overtime pay) or nonexempt. And if you offer benefits, highlight that.

Visit the Salary Center, where you'll be able to adjust salaries for finance and accounting jobs in your city with the Salary Calculator, and get your own copy of the Salary Guide.

Write the job description in plain English

Cut the jargon that may only be recognizable within your company. Don’t overstate or understate what the position entails, and do your best to communicate clearly and concisely.

The best job descriptions can also help small businesses set the stage for a candidate's success. By clearly communicating expectations and outlining roles and responsibilities, you can enable new hires to "hit the ground running" from day one.

Finally, keep in mind that the job description can be a valuable and objective evaluation tool when measuring a professional's performance come review time.

Need more help?

Still working on that accounting job description? A specialized staffing firm like ours can also help you write it and find temporary or temporary-to-hire staffing support.

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