It is frequently said that to secure the top accountancy and finance jobs you have to be a qualified accountant (ACCA/ ACA/ CIMA) but is that all you need in the 21st Century?
I argue no, it is not. I agree that it’s important to secure your qualifications, but it’s the softer skills which are equally as important for a modern day accountant. A large part of my role is to really understand what my client is looking for, and this extends beyond a list of bullet points of day-to-day tasks. So if you think your academics and certifications will see you perfectly, think again. Times are changing, and as an accountant you need to adapt and display these top interpersonal skills of successful accountants:
1) Commercial Awareness
Commercial awareness is all about understanding what effects a particular issue has on a business. So you’re an accountant working within financial services, but do you know about the financial services market? Are you aware of mergers, acquisitions, buy-outs etc that impact the business you’re working in? Can you explain trends you think will emerge and explain why you think this will happen? Can you effectively consider risks and opportunities and use these to strengthen your point? An accountant who can back up their thoughts and arguments showing commercial acumen is an accountant who is recognised as going beyond the standard remit of their job, and is a sure fire way to secure those sought after ‘brownie points’!
2) Stakeholder Management
This is one of the most crucial interpersonal skills I recruit against, and is often a reason many candidates are not successful after interview. It’s the ability to explain accounting and finance (be that technical accounting, business cases and results, plans, forecasts, the list goes on) to both finance and non-finance people and to senior managers. It’s the skill of ‘facing off’ to the business, resisting challenge and push back and handling it with poise and composure. If you can do this and command the attention of some senior stakeholders then you capture the attention of the audience you are delivering to and receive better buy in. Trust me, this will make your life a lot easier! How you convey this in interview is to simply be confident, and answer the questions in a logical, thought out way giving the right amount of detail necessary to answer the question, and most importantly sell yourself. In your CV, as a recruiter, I should be able to read that you are skilled in stakeholder management, and see the types of stakeholders you deal with.
If you do not know the answer to something or need assistance on a specific task, the ability to be honest and ask for help is admired.
It can be extremely busy being an accountant. With every month, quarter and year end comes a mad rush in workload on top of your normal day-to-day tasks, and it’s imperative that you can prioritise your work and manage your diary effectively. The ability to prioritise tasks, and delegate if necessary is extremely sought after in the modern marketplace.
Being a strong communicator is all about how you connect with your colleagues and those external from the business who you need to deal with. This is your ability to simply come over as friendly, clear and responsible as you can both over the phone and in person; having the gift to get people to ‘like you’ without trying. Often, you will need to pull on information from other areas of the business in order to allow you to complete your task, and without being a good communicator, it will just make your job far more difficult!
Part of Morgan McKinley’s offering to our clients is that we meet as many of our candidates as possible. The benefit of this, is that we can assess you on these softer skills in our meeting and use these to sell you to our client. Whilst your CV may be very strong, it can be hard to display these interpersonal traits until you get an interview, don’t get me wrong, it is possible, but meeting your consultant in person helps us to help you!