When you're looking to staff accounting and finance jobs at your firm, you search for candidates with the necessary education and certifications. That's to be expected. But degrees, diplomas and designations aren't everything. Your ideal hire will need great interpersonal skills and some general knowledge about the business world, too.

In making your decision, look for accounting and finance professionals who possess these six soft skills:

1. Business knowledge

The scope of accounting and finance jobs is expanding. Candidates need astute business understanding if they are to successfully help develop strategy, inform key decisions and work on cross-departmental collaboration within your organization. They should be able to see the big picture and understand how their job impacts the company as a whole.

2. Leadership capabilities

When you hire for accounting and finance jobs, look for professionals with strong leadership skills, who can step into more senior roles when the time is right. Look for ambitious self-starters who adapts well to change and embraces continuous learning and personal development. During the interview, assess whether a candidate is likely to be able to share new insights, generate fresh ideas, and motivate, engage and eventually mentor other members of your team.

You can identify these qualities by asking open-ended questions. Inquire about how candidates have worked with others or times when they led project teams.

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3. Technical prowess

Accounting and finance jobs often require strong skills in accounting technology. Proficiency using finance-specific software programs, such as Hyperion and QuickBooks, is a prerequisite in most cases. Cloud computing is also becoming increasingly popular at many companies. Look for accounting and finance professionals who are proficient in the latest database applications and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs. 

4. Communication skills

Accounting and finance staff need to be able to tell the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner. This is particularly true when it comes to informing colleagues in other departments or clients who may be unfamiliar with accounting principles and jargon. For this reason, written, verbal and even visual communication skills are critical for success in accounting and finance jobs today. 

5. Customer service orientation

"How can I help you?" is a phrase that should never be far from the minds of accounting and finance professionals. It's essential for staff at most organizations to be able to retain current customers, bring in new clients or, at the very least, keep internal customers happy — making solid customer service skills important.

6. The best of the rest

Nearly all postings for finance and accounting jobs today include these abilities on their list of requirements:

  • Planning and organizational abilities
  • Multitasking
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • The capacity to work without supervision and under pressure
  • The ability to work well in teams and independently

Certainly, for accounting and finance professionals who manage company funds, qualities such as attention to detail, accuracy, and a highly developed sense of discretion and confidentiality are indispensable. For your own particular workplace, other qualities such as a sense of humor may be priorities.

Be clear before you start the interviewing process about the right soft skills for your workplace, and you'll be more likely to end up hiring the right person for the job.

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