Whether you have recently graduated with an accounting degree, are looking for an accounting position, or already have a solid job, you need to prioritize being the best you can be.
Standing out is especially important for accounting job seekers; approximately 75,000 graduates each year join the workforce of over 11 million accountants in America.
This article is in two main sections, one for standing out as an accountant during your job search and the other for standing out in your current accounting job.
Standing out as an accountant during the job search
When competing in the sea of thousands of accountants looking for work, you must find ways to differentiate yourself. You must also know what sector you want to work in and which companies are hiring for those positions. This guide is a great starting place for anyone who wants to know what they can do to be a great candidate.
What can you do with an accounting degree?
Before we jump into how you can be a memorable accounting candidate, we must first explore what kinds of things you can do with an accounting degree. Here is a short list of the most common accounting jobs:
Bookkeeping is what most people’s minds jump to when they think of entry-level accounting. It’s the simple process of transactional tracking. As a bookkeeper, you must have extensive attention to detail; you can't let anything slip through the cracks. Bookkeeping isn't for you if you don’t like being in the weeds.
Accounts payable jobs
As an accounts payable specialist, you are in charge of paying the bills for a large company. You own all of the short-term debts for the company and are responsible for coordinating with the people within the company who initiate purchases.
Internal auditor jobs
An internal auditor is responsible for being a “third set of eyes” that objectively examines the internal financial processes of a company. IAs must be unbiased and identify potential issues and risks about specific company processes.
Forensic accounting jobs
Forensic accounting is an exciting field; rather than being solely tied to finances, it is deeply aligned with the law. You ensure that a company’s financial practices are consistent with the law and advise them on how to maintain this legality.
Landing an entry-level accounting job
After choosing what field within accounting is the best for you, you can focus on dialing in your job search strategy. Read J2T’s guide on creating a targeted job search campaign for a more in-depth look at this.
To create the best chances of landing an entry-level accounting job, you must know what you’ll be doing and how you can succeed.
What will I be doing on a day-to-day basis?
Whichever field within accounting you choose, you must be deeply informed about what you’ll do daily. For example, if you’re going to be bookkeeping, ensure you know how to use transactional tracking software such as Quickbooks or Xero.
Before you even begin interviewing, you must understand what people in your field do. If you’re unsure and struggle to find comprehensive resources, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone.
Find a company that you respect, and search for its employees that match your targeted job description. Reach out to them, and ask if they’d be willing to do a quick call, or if they’re local, ask them to lunch or coffee. In just a few minutes, you’ll understand their duties and responsibilities, which will equip you with the knowledge to craft high-quality interview questions.
What do I need to be successful?
You must also consider the skills and knowledge you need to succeed past going through the motions within your job. To launch your career to the next level, you must know what qualities your employer desires in its employees.
The best way to do this is by being present and aware in your job. Examine the company’s reward and recognition culture, are employees praised for long hours? Great reports? Fast turnarounds? Push yourself to go above and beyond in your entry-level accounting position, and you’ll reap the benefits in the future. Luckily, there a several accounting skills that you can learn to elevate yourself to new levels of accounting competency.
Learn unique accounting skills
There are many accounting skills that most employers don’t expect incoming candidates to have. You should take a deep dive into each of these skills so you can advertise them on your resume and during your interviews.
General business acumen
A great way to stand out to your future employers is by demonstrating a thorough understanding of business acumen. Business acumen defines how a company makes money and its general growth strategy.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t understand how the company you want to work for makes money, you’ll embarrass yourself in an interview. You should never confine your business acumen knowledge to particular companies; you should also have a good repository of industry knowledge.
Excellent general business acumen knowledge will also help you identify what type of work you’ll be doing within the company. Some industries may be more complex than others, but it is always imperative that you understand how you will fit into the overall company operations.
As an accountant, you should also be well-versed in legal issues surrounding money. This knowledge vastly increases your hireability for several reasons:
- You can advise for or against certain strategic decisions
- You can provide them with critical tax advice that could save millions
- You can keep them up to date with the newest legislation and mandates
Employers are well aware of these benefits and are much more likely to consider you if you express a large amount of legal knowledge.
Stand out in your interviews
Basic interview skills
You should have a set of basic interview skills that will help you stand out. Here are some obvious yet critical tips that will get you started:
- Research the company: what it does, how it makes money, and how it is structured
- Ask killer questions: try to ask intelligent, thought-provoking questions that indicate that your potential insight
- Pay close attention to your body language
- Clearly describe your interest in the job and why you decided to apply
- Don’t be afraid to showcase your previous projects and work
- Always send out thank-you letters or messages to your interviewers
Accounting-specific interview skills
Now that you have some basic interview skills, you need to tailor them to the accounting space. Here are a few tips:
- Have a deep understanding of the financials of the company. If you’re interviewing with a public company, look at their financial documents. Look at the past year or two, and identify anything that looks interesting. Base one of your interview questions on your findings.
- Make sure your resume is detailed. You need to signal your ability for growth within a company. List your past positions, and don’t be afraid to highlight your promotions and the specific tasks you are great at.
- Make sure you know the common accounting interview questions. There are many ubiquitous accounting interview questions; make sure you are as familiar with them as possible.
- Be confident in your communication. Excellent communication skills are a crucial part of being an excellent accountant. Your job performance is defined by how well you explain your findings and recommendations, so you must exude confidence and clarity within your interview.
Work with a recruiter
Another great strategy you can employ in your accounting job search is working with a recruiter. Recruiters are deeply intertwined within their respective industries and have all the most critical connections. If you are unsure how to begin your search for a recruiter, read J2T’s guide, “How to Find and Partner with a Recruiter.”
J2T is a recruiting and staffing firm that solely focuses on accounting and finance roles. J2T Flex facilitates all operational accounting needs, including contract or contract-to-hire. On the direct hire side, J2T Recruiting specializes in Sr. Accountants/Analysts through CFO and touches everything in the corporate accounting and finance organizational chart. J2T is a women-owned business exclusively serving the Colorado and Montana markets with the overarching goal to help you in all areas of the hiring experience.
If J2T seems a good fit for your targeted job search, please contact us today about beginning a partnership with us!
Standing out in your accounting job
Don't get too comfortable if you’re already within an accounting position. It’s easy to sit back and go through the motions, but you should prioritize being as proactive, productive, and innovative as possible. Here are a few ways that you can stand out from the other members of your team.
Learn how to create excellent reports
As we mentioned earlier, communication is one of the most critical skills you have as an accountant. When you report your findings to management, ensure that you utilize impressive, cutting-edge reporting techniques.
Use compelling figures
The most crucial part of any financial report is high-quality figures. Numbers are best displayed visually, so we recommend you learn software packages such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI to heighten your graphic skills.
Make clear and concise reports
Concise reporting is another way to make management happy. Brevity is an underrated quality in accountants; you can use this to your advantage by being quick and efficient in everything you report.
Learn account reconciliation
Account reconciliation is a concept you may not have learned in your accounting classes in college. AR is the process of confirming that the transactions on two separate accounts, i.e., the general ledger and balance sheet, are equivalent.
AR may seem a tedious and useless task, but it is highly critical to accurate accounting. If you can show your employer that you are familiar with the AR process, you’ll make a good impression that could lead to higher chances of upward mobility.
Learn more software packages
As we delve deeper into the digital age, it becomes increasingly important to be knowledgeable in many software packages. If you have been in the accounting world for a while, you are most likely familiar with software like Quickbooks Enterprise and NetSuite, but you shouldn't stop there. It will impress your leaders if you learn new software, and it will mean even more if you formally suggest they look into implementing it into everyday business operations. Here are a few exciting software packages that you might not have heard of:
Resource planning software
ERP (enterprise resource planning) has been a hot topic as of late. These tools keep track of financials, supply chain logistics, and general project timelines to provide insights that drive intelligent business ops decision-making. Here are a couple of ERPs that would be valuable to explore as an accountant:
Mavenlink is a services automation suite with supply chain tracking, project accounting, and resource management. This tool is excellent for agile or growing companies and could be a game-changer for your company.
Resource Guru is a great ERP option if you want a fast, simple, clean interface. While Resource Guru is not quite as comprehensive as other platforms, it is a great place to start learning resource management.
Project management software
Some excellent project management software packages have been coming out recently, and they keep improving. Your employer will be thrilled if you learn and recommend a project management software, even if it's only used for finances. Take every opportunity to improve the efficiency of the business; it's one of the easiest ways to show that you are a valuable team member, regardless of your job title. Here are some cutting-edge packages:
Liquid Planner is a software package with many state-of-the-art predictive tools that create a fast workflow. Many large companies use it; as an added benefit, it offers a 14-day trial that you can learn worry-free.
Asana offers a more team-based approach to project management. You can set up and monitor KPIs for each team member and create inter-connected goals and tasks that build on one another.
Read accounting books
Finally, a great way to keep up with modern accounting trends and practices is to read in-depth books on the subject. It's probably been a while since you’ve learned anything about accounting on paper aside from in-job experience, so take this opportunity to learn some perspective-altering new things about your industry.
This book is a one-stop-shop for all your questions and concerns about innovation accounting. This is a relatively new concept; if you are working in a startup or business trying to scale through innovation, this book will enlighten you on modern accounting approaches that align with innovation strategy.
The Value Add Accountant
The Value Add Accountant is a great book to read if you’re interested in business strategy. Your employers will find you indispensable if you thoroughly understand strategy and its financial implications. You can give intelligent insights through the lens of finance that your leadership may overlook. This book will teach you how to implement lean accounting, avoid waste, and advise on corporate strategy.
J2T thanks you for reading! We hope this article has been helpful to you, whether you are looking for a job or currently have one. Use these strategies to shine in your workplace, climb up the hierarchy, and improve the efficiency of your company; they’re a win-win for everyone involved.
Written by Jordan Gibbs
Jordan Gibbs is a content writer for J2T. He has a Master of Innovation Management degree and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. Jordan loves to be creative in any medium, whether it be writing, music, or art. He is also passionate about nature; he’s happiest when he’s in the mountains.