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For those interested in accountancy or already training to work in the industry, understanding what employers look for is crucial to landing your dream job. With over a quarter million members of accountancy bodies in the UK, it’s clear that competition is high. So, while your qualifications are important, it’s also necessary to consider some the skills that will be relevant for a career in accountancy.

If you’re early on in your pathway towards accountancy or haven’t yet started, you also need to consider what kind of career in accountancy you are best suited to. Different accounting roles need different skill-sets, from those involving communication and teamwork to those requiring self-motivation and a willingness to work irregular hours.

Soft Accounting Skills
There are many branches of accountancy, all of which require similar technical skills, but incredibly varying soft skills. Soft skills are those which aren’t related directly to one field of study but more about your personality traits and style of working – they often dictate how a person interacts with both their day-to-day tasks and with the people they meet as part of their career. Because they’re not specific to one area, soft skills are often called transferable as they can be applied to many situations. In a world that is frequently changing, especially concerning technology and IT systems, these skills are incredibly highly valued. So, despite being called soft skills, they’re hugely important to employers and can make the difference between who gets the job.

The importance of soft skills in accountancy
You might think being an accountant is all about being good with numbers, but the soft skills needed for a career in accountancy are actually just as important. A numerical ability, proficiency in IT and analytical mindset are all important technical skills. However, it’s with soft skills that you can really impress a potential employer at interviews and assessment days.

Different accountancy roles require a different combination of soft skills. For example, an audit accountant will work with different teams week in, week out. This means their skills with people need to be sharp. Communication is, therefore, extremely important. This includes listening as well as speaking!

On the other hand, financial accountants who work directly for one company are not as required to be great speakers and listeners. As their job revolves around the same team, they don’t need to be able to communicate perfectly within a minute of meeting somebody new. What’s most important is that they work well in a team and can effectively follow processes.

All soft skills are valuable for every accountancy role, but you should focus on developing those which you believe are most suited to your preferred role.

1. Communication:
Accountancy is a client-led industry. You’ll either have numerous clients you look after, or you’ll work as part of a team dedicated to one group. So, while it’s not overly important to be the biggest ‘people person’ for certain roles, you’ll still need to be able to work positively alongside others.

2. Innovation and Adaptability:
“Creative accounting” has come to have a pretty negative connotation, but it is nevertheless extremely important for accountants to be innovative. Innovation in this sense means the ability to tackle problems in new ways. If you can recognise how to improve a process or adapt to potential problems, employers will be impressed.

3. Reflection:

Monitoring and improving your performance is important in any line of work, but it can be particularly helpful in accountancy. You’ll often be given your own long-lasting projects and tasks to complete, sometimes without close oversight. Being able to reflect on your work and respond accordingly is an accounting skill that’s highly prized.

4. Organisation:

Organisation is a key accounting skill. You’ll oversee numerous portfolios and have reports that will frequently need updating. With clients having a legal responsibility to submit their reports on time, you need to ensure you work to deadlines and manage your day to day tasks impeccably

5. Integrity:

In such a high-stakes industry, where there are so many legal requirements, integrity is crucial. Honesty and willingness to speak openly are necessary. By sticking to high standards, you lend yourself credibility, which builds your reputation, making you more successful. 

6. Positivity:

Enthusiasm is a key skill for any employee. Having a can-do attitude will set you apart and make you the person people want on their team. Attitudes are infectious and having the right one has an impact on the whole office, not just yourself. It will also help you make the right impression at job interviews!

What accounting skills do different accountants need most?

Because accountancy roles require several skills, it can be difficult to decide which to focus on for a job application or during an interview. We recommend looking into your own work and personal experiences to find examples of what you are best at and telling those stories. However, employers will be looking for the following specific soft skills for each role, so try to think of examples where you have shown the qualities for the accountancy role you prefer.

Financial Accountant: You will need meticulous attention to detail, high levels of organisation and the ability to manage multiple tasks at the same time.

Management Accountant: You should be good with strategy, planning, interpreting trends and leading people.

Tax Accountant: You will be expected to interpret complex information, solve problems and work well with new people.

Forensic accountants: You should demonstrate an interest in law, an honest and moral attitude to work, as well as a logical and analytical mindset.

Interested in furthering your own soft and technical skills for accountancy? AVADO offer industry-accredited courses that will develop both your abilities in all areas of accountancy.