Open for work: getting noticed as an accountant in the job market
By Steve Saah, Executive Director of Finance and Accounting Permanent Placement, Robert Half
Regardless of your accounting background, there are plenty of opportunities in today’s job market. Combined figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the latest Robert Half Salary Guide indicate that unemployment is low in the profession and demand for staff and senior accountants is high.
However, competition for the best accounting positions can be vigorous. Many employers are very selective when hiring new team members. Additionally, you may come up against candidates who work outside of your area. Now that remote and hybrid working are the norm, companies are expanding their network in their search for potential hires, often looking to other geographies for in-demand talent.
How can you stand out from other candidates on the accounting job market and increase your chances of being hired for the position you are aiming for? These tactics can help:
Maximize real estate in your accounting CV
First impressions are everything, especially when you’re competing for a hot accounting position. To grab the attention of a busy hiring manager, include the following in your accounting resume:
The top of your resume should feature a professional summary that gives hiring managers, at a glance, an idea of who you are and what you can bring to the table. The resume should be a short paragraph that summarizes your skills, background, and key qualities. (You can find many examples online of effective professional resume approaches.) If you’re applying for an entry-level position, this resume will likely focus more on your education and any relevant work experience to date.
Not sure which direction to take in your accounting career? Check out this article on entry-level accounting jobs for an overview of the different paths to consider.
Also, be sure to highlight your certifications in your accounting resume. If you have earned a specific designation, for example, include those letters after your name, as well as in your professional resume. If your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is in progress, be sure to state this.
You can also include a section in your resume to list your credentials if you have more than one to present. Examples of in-demand accounting certifications include the Certified Global Management Accountant (CGMA), CMA, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). If you have an MBA, you can also include it in this section.
An explanation of the delivered value
Here’s another tip: in every area where you describe your experience, highlight what you’ve accomplished and the value you’ve brought. For example, you can modernize an inefficient process, find an opportunity to cut costs, master data analysis and reporting tools, or learn and then teach. others to use new accounting software. Either way, relevant tech skills are great to highlight, as many employers want and need digitally savvy accounting and finance professionals.
Keywords and phrases
Also, don’t forget the keywords and phrases that can help your accountant resume pass through automated screening tools. Include the specific terms outlined in the job description – but only if you have those skills and experience, of course. Examples may include: “skills to work with ERP systems” or “experience with data processing applications” or “demonstrated ability to work in a team”.
Prepare to answer a wide range of questions
During your accounting interview, you will likely be faced with several technical questions, as hiring managers want to confirm that you have the skills and knowledge required to perform the job well. But many employers are also looking for high-potential candidates they can “train” and position for leadership opportunities. So, be prepared to highlight any foundational skills you have that you can build on to succeed in the future.
Most employers will also pursue a series of questions during interviews that can help them gauge the strength of a candidate’s soft skills – like communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. The hiring manager may ask you to detail work experiences where you had to use soft skills. “Describe a time when you made an accounting error and how you handled it.” and “Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma at work, and how did you handle it?” are examples of such questions.
Soft skills are more important than ever in today’s remote and hybrid work environments, where adaptability and a willingness to take on new challenges are essential for success. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you are asked questions such as: “What are the three qualities that make you an effective telecommuter?” and “What do you find to be the biggest challenges of working offsite?”
Note: You will likely need to do video interviews during your job search, especially if you are applying for remote jobs. Check out this article for eight video interview tips that can help you shine.
Know what your skills and experience are worth
You probably know people in your firm or professional network who have asked for – and gotten – higher compensation in this candidate-driven accounting job market. More than likely, these people were successful in negotiating a higher salary not only because they are in-demand professionals, but also because they did their homework and knew the value of their skills and experience.
Resources like the Robert Half Salary Guide are a great place to start to learn about the types of starting salaries employers are offering this year for various accounting and finance roles in public accounting, corporate accounting, business and financial services. Plus, our salary calculator can help you drill down on salary ranges for your specialization, job title, and location.
Do this prep work before your interview and you’ll have a great answer ready when a hiring manager asks, “So what kind of salary do you expect?”
What happens if you receive multiple job offers?
Receiving multiple job offers can make you feel like a star. It’s also a clear sign that you’ve done exactly the right thing to stand out in the accounting job market. But how do you choose between two interesting opportunities? Answering this question can help: What do I really want?
It’s easy to lose sight of your main objective when you’re under pressure to select an offer. Try to write it down. For example: “I want to be a salaried accountant earning X salary at a growing company that has a vibrant company culture, wants to invest in my professional development, and will allow me to work remotely a few days a week.” Then, determine which offer comes closest to this overall vision.
Next, evaluate the salary, benefits, and perks outlined in each offer. Pay isn’t everything, of course, but you’ll want to compare and contrast what’s in each package. On closer inspection, for example, you might find that the employer you ranked as “ideal” based on your vision does not offer health coverage, which is the benefit you want it to have. more. And while the other company offers a lower salary, it also offers medical, dental, and vision benefits.
Also, try to take a long-term approach when deciding between offers. You know what you want right now, but which job do you think will benefit your career the most in the long run? Continuing with the scenario above, you can compare the professional development options available. Perhaps the company that is your first choice has a more diverse range of offers than the other employer. But maybe the runner-up is a small business where you can get in-depth, hands-on training sooner.
There’s a lot to consider when weighing multiple job openings, and keeping your primary goals front and center will help. That said, be careful not to limit your choices. There are many avenues you can take in today’s accounting job market – and being open to exploring them can lead to unexpected opportunities.
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Be sure to register for our April 27 webinar with Becker to learn more about 2022 hiring and career trends for accounting professionals!