Posted by Robert Half on 15 December 2014
It’s no secret that carving out a high-flying finance career hinges on more than just good grades.
In today’s fast-evolving workplace, accounting and finance professionals must demonstrate everything from razor-sharp analytical ability and stellar interpersonal skills to a sharp understanding of industry-standard software.
So, how do you know whether your resume will reach the top of the pile or is destined to fall short?
A formal accounting qualification
In some industries, sparkling talent combined with real-world experience is enough to land your dream job. But in finance – a sector ruled by rigorous processes and standards as well as commercial best practices – a glowing resume simply isn’t enough. According to our recent research, 49 per cent of all employers expect finance hires to hold formal accounting qualifications from organisations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA), CPA Australia and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). That means your education is at least as important as your expertise when securing that finance job.
There once was a time when finance professionals were bound to cubicles, but that era is long gone. These days, any perception that the finance sector involves simply crunching numbers has been replaced by the reality that positions require workers to deal with clients every day. For accounting and finance professionals, the ability to build successful relationships with customers is critical if you want to excel. When looking at two equally qualified hires, interpersonal skills are often the point of difference.
Ability to communicate
For aspiring accounting and finance workers, strong written and oral communication skills are important, but it’s just as imperative to be able to explain financial jargon in simple terms. Many companies choose candidates who can make complex industry language legible to clients who have limited knowledge, as opposed to potential hires who simply regurgitate what they’ve learned.
There’s no denying that financial-reporting skills are key to a competitive edge. Survey results indicated that 47 per cent of public- and private-sector businesses make recruiting decisions based on a candidate’s ability to produce detailed and accurate financial reports.
Most companies know that lateral thinking and the ability to analyse scenarios and draw suitable conclusions are central to a finance professional’s role. That’s why 37 per cent of the survey’s respondents believe that a capacity for analysis and solid financial-planning skills are key criteria for new hires.
These days, it isn’t enough to have watertight knowledge of systems and processes – it’s also essential to be able to tackle complex problems as they arise. Whether it’s addressing the financial implications of a complicated business structure or coming up with a personalised solution for a client’s tax dilemma, a record of solving problems will see your career grow in leaps and bounds.
Knowledge of IT software
Clearly, technology has overturned the way financial systems work – 29 per cent of respondents would recruit a prospective candidate based on IT skills and knowledge of standard accounting programs.
Although it’s not essential, management experience is often highly desirable for employers looking to hire a financial professional for a new role. If you’ve proven your ability to manage teams during your career, you’re bound to excel in a leadership position in the future.
It’s important for financial professionals to understand the relationship between a company’s fiscal behaviour and marketplace demands. Candidates that exercise commercial savvy as well as an interest in the trends shaping the industry are well-placed to get ahead.
Capacity for innovation
Finance and accounting may be associated with routines and systems, but that doesn’t mean that innovation doesn’t have its place. Whether you’ve invented a data-collection method that streamlines productivity or a recording process that drives accuracy, candidates who are innovative are likely to stand out.
From brushing up on your financial-reporting skills to cultivating the ability to think outside the box, broadening your skill set is paramount to establishing a finance career that lasts. Indeed, if you can tick most of these boxes, you just might be one of finance’s most sought-after professionals.