An accounting job description that's thorough and well-written helps attract qualified candidates to your company — and helps deter unqualified applicants. An accurate accounting job description can serve as a basis for your employment posts and, later, as a template against which an employee's performance can be measured.

Here are some tips on what to include in your job description:

Key areas to address in job descriptions

In an accounting job description, requirements can differ significantly among specialties (e.g., tax vs. cost accountants) and between senior- and entry-level positions. The key areas to address are the following:

  • Experience — How many years of experience does your position require? Accounting managers, for instance, should have at least five years of experience, while senior accountants need at least three.
  • Education — Does the job you’re posting require an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance, for example, or is it also open to business administration majors? How much of an edge will having an MBA give a candidate?
  • Certifications — Does this position require a professional certification such as CPA or Certified Internal Auditor designation?
  • Technical skills — Do candidates need specialized technical know-how, such as proficiency with automated payroll processing services or operating databases?
  • Soft skills — In addition to detailing the skills and experience you're seeking, your accounting job description should list the soft skills a new employee will need to fit in with your team. Valuable soft skills for accounting jobs include being analytical, critical reasoning, communication and presentation proficiencies, and multicultural awareness.

Describe the job

Once you've established the basics of the position, flesh it out to give potential applicants a better sense of the role and what it's like to work at your organization. Here are some points to consider adding to your accounting job description:

  • Compensation — Be as specific as possible about the range you will pay. You can also use the accounting job description to highlight the benefits that come with the job. The Robert Half Salary Guide provides guidance on appropriate starting pay for more than 190 positions in the accounting and finance fields. The guide also has information on customizing salary ranges for more than 135 U.S. cities. You can also use the Salary Calculator to search job salaries by ZIP code.
  • Responsibilities — State the immediate and long-term objectives for the position. Detail the new hire's daily work responsibilities, as well as his or her role on any less-frequent — though still critical — programs or initiatives. For example, responsibilities for an experienced tax accountant might include researching tax laws and regulations, completing corporate tax returns, assisting during tax audits, and responding to notices from taxing authorities.
  • Logistics — Specify to whom the new hire will report, where work will be performed and the other people in your organization he or she can expect to work with regularly. If the new recruit will have people reporting to him or her, the accounting job description needs to indicate this clearly. Other topics to address include attendance requirements and telecommuting options, if any.
  • Your organization — Promote your company culture and strengths. At small businesses, employees often have broader responsibilities than they might in a larger firm, as well as opportunities to learn new skills and get promoted more quickly. If you're a larger company, you can emphasize the pride employees take in being part of a well-known business.

Don't forget the fine print

Most accounting positions are in the exempt category — meaning they are not eligible for overtime pay — but some can be nonexempt, and you need to state this in either case. Also make it clear the list of duties include in the accounting job description isn't exhaustive and may change over time. Just to be safe, you may want to get legal advice when categorizing the position.

Sample job descriptions for accounting jobs

Below are a couple of sample accounting job descriptions to help get you started. Keep in mind that these are just a starting point and should be customized to better fit the exact position you're hoping to staff.

General or internal auditor jobs

Companies seek self-starters who possess attention to detail and solid communication skills for staff accountant positions. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Strong technology skills are critical, particularly expertise with Microsoft Excel. Typical duties vary by practice area but may include:

  • Reviewing general ledger accounts and correcting journal entries
  • Performing account analysis and reconciliation, including bank statements and intercompany general ledger accounts
  • Maintaining the general ledger chart of accounts
  • Conducting initial internal control evaluations
  • Ascertaining whether company assets are properly accounted for and safeguarded from loss
  • Posting monthly, quarterly and yearly accruals

Entry-level staff accountant jobs

Companies hiring entry-level staff accountants seek individuals who are proficient with Microsoft Excel and possess strong time-management, analytical, communication and interpersonal skills. Candidates need a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Typical duties vary by practice area but may include:

  • Preparing journal entries
  • Assisting with audit fieldwork for both operational and financial audits
  • Reconciling and balancing general ledger accounts
  • Researching and correcting account discrepancies
  • Providing written summaries of statistical sampling findings for review by senior staff

How do your accounting and finance job descriptions stack up? Could you use help with hiring temporary accounting professionals?