Are you looking for a job in accounting here in Pennsylvania? Whether you are a young person fresh out of college or a more experienced person making a career change, employers will be looking for certain skills and character traits in order to choose the best candidate for an entry-level accounting position. Those include both “hard skills” and “soft skills.”
The term “soft skills” generally refers to those qualities that are not taught in a classroom but are critical for human interaction and business success. For accountants, the following are particularly valuable and should be demonstrated in your resume, cover letter, and interviews:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving – Analyzing, conceptualizing, and evaluating are necessary skills. In addition, the ability to consider subjects from different angles and draw inferences from other areas of knowledge shows rare creativity.
- Attention to detail – Accounting requires absolute precision. You’ll want to find ways to demonstrate your attention to detail.
- Effective communication – As an accountant, you’ll need to communicate both within the company and with clients. You’ll want to show knowledge of common communication tools as well as the ability to express yourself and explain yourself confidently and clearly.
- Time management – Accounting is an industry of deadlines. Missing a deadline means more than just fines and penalties. It could include breaking the law – or at least losing a client.
- Networking – By getting involved in professional organizations such as PSTAP, you will demonstrate an interest in developing business relationships in your field and staying up-to-date on the latest developments in accounting and finance. Joining other industry organizations in addition to accounting organizations demonstrates your breadth and shows interest in networking in industries the company may do business in.
- Customer service – This skill is likely to be present if you have the above skills, particularly effective communication, networking, and problem-solving. Conversely, if you can demonstrate success in customer service in your previous experience, these other skills can be inferred.
Entry-level accounting positions are obviously going to require accounting skills. You should demonstrate them by specifying subjects taken in school, continuing education courses such as those offered by PSTAP, and previous experience that may have had accounting components. Additional hard skills hiring managers and recruiters will want to see include:
- Software proficiency – Proficiency in Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, is assumed. Familiarity with other parts of the Suite is a plus. Knowledge of some of the more common accounting software and Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) software is often expected. There are many programs used in accounting, financial management, auditing, etc. Demonstrating your knowledge in some programs shows your ability to learn others. However, depending on your area of focus, you should develop familiarity with the programs most likely to be used in your targeted companies.
- Industry-specific knowledge – If you have knowledge in a specific industry or a specific accounting specialty, you will definitely stand out. If you are making a career switch, consider looking for accounting positions that would benefit from your previous industry experience. If you are a new graduate, what high school or college jobs or internships did you hold? Is there any experience in a certain industry or specialty that you can highlight?
Two Years of Experience?
Yes, many so-called entry-level positions expect two years of experience, which hardly sounds like entry-level. But if you are able to highlight previous experience and you have many of the other skills they are looking for, you should not let this “requirement” stop you from applying. Recruiters rarely find all the qualities they list. They are just looking for the very best candidate. Make sure you demonstrate the hard skills and soft skills listed here in order to improve your chances of landing a great entry-level accounting position.