Career development

Sought-After Skills for Accounting and Finance Jobs

Job-hunting CPAs and future CPAs, which skills do you need to master to maximize your chances of landing that coveted job? Jean-Philippe Gauthier, CPA, CA, and Vice-President of Recruiting at Robert Half answered this and other questions.
Which hard skills do recruiters and employers seek, above and beyond those taught in basic training?
The market has changed so much that the most sought-after hard skills involve new technologies. Skills that were once considered “advanced,” such as analyzing data with pivot tables in Excel, for instance, are now called “basic.”

While accountants are not the only ones who stand to gain by acquiring the most important hard skills, they must master them to land jobs. All of these skills are used  in cloud computing, data mining and especially enterprise resource planning systems.

However, each industry or sector will have its own needs and particularities. Manufacturing companies will look for advanced cost accounting skills, while public corporations will want their professionals to know IFRS (international financial reporting standards).

In other words, the job market in this sector is heavily influenced by new technologies. Are the days of “traditional” accountants numbered?

New computer tools, artificial intelligence and systems automation have completely transformed the way people work in a number of sectors.
In accounting and finance, the strategic side is becoming more and more significant: Companies want to know what they must do to set themselves apart from the competition. Accountants have to act as advisors and strategists. In a way, the profession is becoming more human!

Exactly which soft skills are most important for CPAs and future CPAs?

Mainly communication skills, both written and verbal. But also bilingualism, because many clients and suppliers, and even divisions of Quebec companies, are located outside Quebec.

Emotional intelligence is also increasingly sought because corporate work is based on project management and teamwork.

Finally, due to the constantly changing market, professionals who are more flexible will see more success. You have to embrace change rather than try to work against it.

What about professionals who have a lot of experience or don’t necessarily have these hard skills? What do they have to do?

Continuing education is crucial. They have to anticipate change, sit down with their superiors and understand the demands so that they can take courses and catch up. The CPA Order offers many training activities and courses on new technologies.

They should not hesitate; anyone can learn to use new computer tools. And once they've got a handle on them, they won’t be able to do without them!

So it is also in the employers’ interest to keep up with technological advances?

They have no choice but to do so if they want to stand out in their sector and attract the right candidates. I have seen many applicants get rejected for positions because the company was not technologically advanced enough. Individuals from younger generations are not the only ones who are keen to work and grow in an environment with cutting-edge technology; this is also true of accounting and finance professionals.