Posted June 06, 2013 by

Employers Say General Business Knowledge Most Important Attribute for Accounting Job Candidates

In addition to accounting skills, employers are looking for accounting job candidates who possess general business knowledge.

Today’s job market is more than a numbers game for accounting and finance professionals, a new Accountemps survey finds. When considering job candidates’ qualifications beyond traditional accounting skills, one-third (33 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said they value general business knowledge most. One-quarter (25 percent) of respondents look for expertise in information technology (IT).

CFOs were asked, “When hiring finance and accounting professionals, which one of the following attributes or areas of expertise is most valued, in addition to traditional accounting knowledge?” Their responses:

General business knowledge


Information technology


Communication skills


Leadership abilities


Customer service orientation


Don’t know/no answer



* Responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.


Max Messmer

Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International

“Accounting and finance professionals are playing a broader role at work — they help develop strategy, inform key decisions and serve as business partners for multiple departments,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of the recently released Human Resources Kit for Dummies®, 3rd Edition. “Employers seek individuals who have the business acumen necessary to see the big picture and understand how a strong accounting function influences the success of the entire organization.”

Messmer also noted that proficiency with the company’s enterprise resource planning platform and spreadsheet application is a prerequisite for many accounting positions. He added, “New hires who already possess IT knowledge face a shorter learning curve and can contribute more quickly.”

Here are five tips to help job seekers highlight their full range of knowledge and skills in an interview:

1. Be prepared. Before the interview, research the organization and position so you can tie your skills directly to the company’s business goals. By practicing your responses to common questions, you’ll be able to offer concise, confident answers.

2. Review your resume. Select two or three key achievements listed on your resume that relate most to the job, and look for opportunities to highlight these during the meeting. Cite quantifiable results so the hiring manager understands how your skills may benefit the organization.

3. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity. Show your commitment to keeping your skills current by mentioning any recent professional development courses you’ve taken.

4. Listen carefully. Avoid thinking about your next point while the interviewer is still speaking, or you may miss important information. Let the hiring manager finish, then gather your thoughts before connecting your skills and experience to what was just said.

5. Follow up. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer reiterating why you feel you are right for the role. Reaffirm your expertise in key areas or address any concerns about your background that the hiring manager may have had.

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