What Do Employers Look For in an Accountant?

The competition for all jobs is quite tough, so those with an accounting background might want to refresh themselves on what employers look for in an accountant before they begin applying for their first job or for a new one. The good news for accounting professionals is that this industry remains both competitive and fast-growing, with expected stable job growth through the end of the current decade. As a result, accountants need to be versatile and proficient, educated and certified, and give employers a compelling reason to choose them over the numerous applicants who will inevitably apply for each open position. Here’s a list of what today’s tax, accounting, and corporate firms are looking for most predominantly among new applicants.

Education and Certification

Loosely speaking, an accountant with greater education will be more likely to land the job for which they are applying. It’s not uncommon to see accountants with two-year, four-year, and master’s degrees, all working side-by-side. It’s worth noting, however, that accountants are simply more likely to land their first position with a bachelor’s degree than with a two-year degree. Likewise, those with graduate-level work in accounting might have a slight edge over other applicants. Also worth noting is that accountants who have taken and passed the CPA examination will be far more likely to land a position than those who have not done so. This exam certifies the proficiency, ethical knowledge, and expertise of the accountant, and is a key differentiator among applicants.

Knowledge of GAAP and Ethical Principles

Accounting is highly regulated by government legislation, including the likes of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Furthermore, state accounting boards and numerous corporate, internal auditing departments, oversee accounting activities to ensure that they’re properly reporting and disclosing company financial information. As a result, businesses are concerned chiefly with an accountant’s GAAP proficiency and their understanding of the legal and ethical requirements that govern the occupation. An accountant with this knowledge is likely to be less of a risk and be far more productive than one who does not know the various laws and best practices that make corporate accounting accurate and honest.

Technology Proficiency

While accountants of old might have been proficient in binders, log books and calculators, the modern accountant must instead know how to use various accounting software suites and tools. Most businesses conduct accounting entirely electronically, since today’s software often comes with built-in checks, balances, and ethical enforcement software, which can safeguard the company from investigation or ethical problems. Accountants who wish to have a competitive edge should make sure that they’re proficient in multiple popular software suites for the accounting profession. Some might want to make sure that they know how to e-file personal and corporate tax forms, while others may want to double-check their knowledge of financial reporting software or budget analysis programs.

Business and Collaboration Skills

Accountants should be prepared to become a central part of the business world. They should be ready to work unsupervised, lead a team, collaborate with other departments, and engage socially with coworkers. These skills, typically measured in interviews, are a key component of long-term job performance and satisfaction.

Key Skills Make the Difference for Accounting Jobseekers

Computer proficiency, ethical knowledge, and education, are just a few of the most important skills for today’s accountants. The skills that employers look for in an accountant will determine their job performance, their job satisfaction, and the accountant’s ability to advance into new roles over time, so be sure to fulfill each of the above requirements when applying for a new position.

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