November 13, 2022

The 6 Most Important Accounting Skills According to Business Owners

Jordan Gibbs

We conducted a single-question survey that asked 40 business owners and executives the same question: What are the most important skills/traits that make a great accountant? We conducted this survey to illuminate the most marketable accounting skills and traits to provide you with impactful knowledge. 

We listed 12 of the most critical accounting skills and asked each responder to choose their top three (in no particular order). The list of traits was:

  • Specialized experience
  • General business knowledge
  • Technology savvy
  • Strong communication
  • Flexible workflow
  • Accurate analysis
  • Highly organized
  • Great time management
  • Willingness to collaborate
  • Leadership
  • Accounting standards knowledge
  • Efficient prioritization

The traits with the most cumulative votes received high rankings, and those with few received low rankings. After getting the results, we wrote a detailed overview of each one, complete with a detailed guide to improving your abilities in every area. You can find this after the raw data below. 

The results of this survey might surprise you; it certainly did us! Whether you are an accountant currently looking for a job or already have one, you’ll find this guide very helpful. 

Accounting skills survey results

The data point to the right of each skill is the percentage of respondents who considered these skills to be in their “Top 3” traits. For example, this means that of the 40 people who responded, over half of them considered “highly organized,” “accurate analysis,” and “strong communication” to be “Top 3” traits. Here is the raw data: 

Highly organized - 62%

Accurate analysis - 52%

Strong communication - 52%

Technology savvy - 31%

Efficient task prioritization - 23% 

Knowledge of accounting standards - 23%

Interesting statistics to consider

  • 69% of respondents agreed that high organization is a top accounting trait
  • 0% of respondents put leadership as a top trait (this was a huge surprise to us)
  • The top 3 accounting skills/traits were all soft skills. Don’t overlook them!

Here is the ranked list of skills in order of importance, along with strategies you can employ to build these skills: 

1. Highly Organized 

According to our survey, the most essential trait was, by far, organization. Business owners value precise organization because they know it’s one of the core drivers of success. Without a clear and direct approach, there is no way to sort through clouds of complex tasks. This directly applies to the accounting industry as well. If you cannot juggle countless everyday duties, chances are your employer won’t trust you with their books. 

How do I improve my organizational skills? 

Before attempting to improve your core organizational skills, you must examine the tools you are using. Organization is only as sound as the techniques that guide it. If you’re not using a proper calendar, for example, you can never keep track of all the deadlines that come and go. Here are a few software solutions to help you improve your accounting organization: 


Todoist is a planner software app specializing in task prioritization, project management, and progress tracking. In addition to its workplace abilities, Todoist allows you to implement your daily life tasks, letting you create highly structured, efficient life schedules. If you’ve ever wanted a cross-platform key performance indicator tracker that has built-in calendar features, Todoist is the software for you. It also can connect to other software packages, such as Google calendar and Microsoft Outlook, just in case you don’t want to change your entire workflow.


You may have heard of Calander.com, but this is your signal to start using it. It's a one-stop shop for all of your planning and tasking needs. It is the most used third-party calendar tool and has the best external integration out of any other package: it has team scheduling, an integrated video meeting scheduler and platform, and an AI schedule helper. 

Organizational book recommendations

We realize that no matter how many intelligent organizational tools you have, there is no way you can utilize them well if you don’t have the core skills of organization. Here are a few of our favorite books on organization, and why you should read them:

2. Accurate Analysis

Number two shouldn't surprise you; accurate analysis is closely related to organizational skills. You can't provide value to any business owner if you cannot complete efficient, accurate accounting analyses. You should focus your energy on completing every task with surgical precision. 

Business owners put a lot of trust in their accountants; their companies' entire viability and legality ride on your ability to provide accurate insights on their books. If you have issues with accuracy or precision, maybe you need to slow down. Most business executives value accuracy over speed, so the choice is obvious if it comes down to one or the other. 

Finding the balance between speed and accuracy can be difficult, but that skill comes with experience. One thing is for sure, if you underestimate its importance, you need to reevaluate your priorities. Luckily for you, analytical skills are a muscle; they can be trained and grown. 

How do I improve my analysis skills?

Improving your analysis skills may seem like an enormous task, but there are many straightforward ways to quicken and hone your analysis. 

Always be learning 

Believe it or not, building your well of knowledge is a great way to improve your analytical skills. Analysis is the ability to synthesize results out of data. To do this, you must be able to associate causes and effects. Learning more about anything and everything is the simplest way to improve your associative skills. 

Association is one of the most powerful tools in your kit, but most people take it for granted. Suppose you are familiar with many complex topics, especially data-heavy ones such as statistics, mathematics, or general science. In that case, you’ll be able to pick out trends, red flags, and other vital indicators that require your attention. This is a highly indirect method, but the results could be tremendous if you apply yourself well. 

Ask bigger questions

This is another soft skill that is highly underrated, especially when it comes to analysis. If you cannot ask deep, cutting questions, you’ll never be able to analyze anything efficiently. You may ask, “how can I ask bigger questions in the first place?” Luckily, there are several ways you can build this skill:

  • Always think about the “why” behind things - the quickest way to get to the bottom of anything, whether it be the message of a poem, the moral of a story, or a number on a balance sheet, is by asking “Why?” It’s easy to think of the “how” and “what” of things, but asking “why” can illuminate aspects that the previous questions could never. If you’re lost on this, here is an excellent guide on how to ask “Why.”
  • Don’t be afraid of rabbit holes - If you’ve ever thought of asking a question, but don’t want to create a lengthy tangent, don’t fret; it’s a normal instinct. Rabbit holes can build strong, previously unseen connections between particular causes and effects, and sometimes these stones can remain unturned without deep exploration of the topic. Be careful; you can easily take this too far. 
  • Listen intently - Questions directed at yourself or others are always based on a stimulus. This stimulus could be a request, data, or concern. No matter the triggers, you must make it your prime directive to listen and absorb as much as possible. It’s important not to waste time asking the obvious; knowing what you’re dealing with is the best way to remedy this. 

3. Strong Communication

What is an accountant without communication? The most important deliverable of any accountant is their analysis results and insights for moving forward. If an accountant can’t clearly communicate these results to their employers or clients, all their time and work is for naught. 

Communication is a two-way street; it’s more collaborative than you’d imagine. The bottom line is that your communication can only be as good as your employer’s. However, you can’t let this limit you; you must ensure that you put as much energy into attentive communication as possible, regardless of how your employer or client operates. After all, your organizational and analytical skills can never shine through without excellent communication. 

One underrated aspect of communication is your ability to listen. If you aren’t precisely attentive to the needs of your employer, they won’t be satisfied with your performance. When employers say they value excellent communication, they often mean that they appreciate good listeners. A great way to improve this is by under-promising and over-delivering on small details. If you see a small request in an email, treat it as a big deal. People love deep attention and respect for detail, over deliverance on the small things can speak volumes about the work you do. As an added benefit, it improves their perception of your accuracy skills. 

How do I improve my communication skills?

Remember to listen

Listening is (at least) 50% of communication. If you don’t put in enough effort to thoroughly understand what your employer or coworker is telling you, they’ll know immediately that you don’t care. You’ll end up wasting your and their time by asking questions and clarifications that have been said before. If you read this whole article, you’ll notice that listening is a skill that can kill many birds with one stone! Don’t be afraid to take notes; it shows that you are attentive and will help keep your employer’s wants and needs organized. 

Know how to bring up pressing issues

The ability to know when, where, and how to bring up pressing issues is a tough one to master. However, it is one of the most crucial and subtle communication skills. Here are some general guidelines for you to remember next time there is an issue:

  • Call, don’t email: People hate dealing with complex issues or topics over email or text. It takes up to 5 times longer to communicate what is happening, and thus it takes even longer to come up with solutions. Talking face-to-face or over the phone is the fastest, most reliable, and most efficient way to tackle problems. 
  • Timing is critical: Don’t drop a huge bombshell at the end of a company meeting. Learn to feel out situations in a way that enables you to talk to the right person at the right time. It's always better to tell one person at a time; huge pressing issues can stress out large groups of people and is a fast track to creating unhealthy workplace conflicts

Remember the 5 C’s

If you’ve been a professional for any time, you’ve likely heard of the 5 C’s of effective communication. However, we’ll take this chance to give you a quick refresher: 

  1. Clear - Don’t hesitate to speak directly; you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. You'll only waste time and create confusion if you’re nebulous in your wants, needs, or questions. 
  2. Concise - Keep it simple and short. Nobody likes a big block of text or a rambling conversation! Here’s a bonus: this article by Terminus is a good resource for formatting great emails.
  3. Correct - You need to ensure that your communications are accurate. Double and triple-check your work, sources, and claims! Incorrect information is the fastest track to distrust. 
  4. Courteous - Remember the golden rule, talk and communicate with others just like you want to be talked to. Don’t try to discuss important topics if you are overly stressed or frustrated; it can bring out the worst in your communications. 
  5. Considerate - Be empathetic. Don’t ask too much; put yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to.

4. Technology Savvy

Number five is an increasingly desired trait of accountants, especially now that software tools are streamlining every aspect of business. Every day new transactional/payment software and new fintech are released, and it's here to stay.  Being technology savvy is a huge requirement for almost any employee in the modern day; it is a crucial skill for developing your career. 

Everyone is capable of learning technology. If you’ve thought, “I am just bad with tech,” chances are you’ve never given enough effort to learn. 

How do I improve my technological abilities?

It may seem like a huge mountain to climb, but trust us, it is possible to become more tech-savvy! The best part is general tech and software skills are quite cross-functional; they can apply to a wide variety of tech you use in accounting. Here are a few ways you can pick up general technology/software skills:

  • Sign up for newsletters
  • Read technology and software books
  • Download and try out tech demos of new software
  • Talk to others about tech and software that they love
  • Take specific online classes (after you’ve identified your weaknesses) 

The most crucial aspect of any of these tips is practice. If you are not willing to put in the time to learn through trial and error, you’ll never reach the tech-savvy level you want.  

Show your employer new software

If you already have a high degree of software performance, there are still ways you can stand out to your employer. You should show the initiative to optimize the business practices of your company as much as you possibly can. One way to do this is by offering your employer quarterly or yearly software news updates.

Take an active role in trying out new packages that can streamline the way you work. If you’re subscribed to any accounting newsletters, you’ve probably found plenty of fantastic new software. If you show your employer that you’re looking for new ways to improve the company and your work, it’ll show that you care. 

If you have no idea where to start looking for new software, here are a few good resources for you:

5. Efficient Task Prioritization  

As you already know, accounting has many facets and complexities, and it can be tough to sift through the tasks. One caveat to this is the “self-starting” aspect of it. While this skill majorly plays into your organizational abilities, it's separate enough that our survey respondents rated it highly. Your employer or client will appreciate your ability to tackle the most important, urgent tasks before diving into the weeds. 

Executives never want to spend their time rigorously outlining the order of importance of specific tasks; they just want results as fast as possible. If you can independently prioritize action items, you’ll stand out to your client or employer. 

Can I improve my prioritization skills?

This skill is one of the most systematically simple to improve. Here is a general road map to help you out:

The order of operations

The most crucial aspect of project management is choosing an order of operations; this also applies to accounting. Before you begin anything, think about how the beginnings match the ends. What needs to come first, reporting or invoicing? Which leads itself best to the other? You must focus on the intelligent order of everything you do to prioritize any array of tasks best. 

One of the best ways to visually lay out the order of operations for a project is by using a Gantt Chart. You’ve likely seen or heard of these before; they are an excellent system for organizing complex projects. If you have multiple team members and complex orders of operations, you need to try out the Gantt system. The best part is that you can use tons of free Excel or Google sheets versions. 

Start with results

Reverse planning is an underrated tool, but it can change how you tackle projects. It may sound weird, but you must get comfortable thinking backward. This thought process plays well into the last point - identify the end product before you start anything. If you don’t have a solid grasp of the task at hand, you’ll waste a ton of time figuring it out along the way. Break down your list of deliverables into particular task types, and identify the best way to order and silo them to increase your efficiency as much as possible. 

Identify the "unnecessaries"

To prioritize effectively, you must identify the least important things in the process. The easiest way to see if a task is unnecessary is to once again look at the order of operations. If a task is separate from or at the end of the “tree of events,” it can almost surely be put off in favor of something more substantial. Frequently, particular processes are unnecessary, especially when a project is significant. Always ask yourself before beginning a task, “Is this critical to my end goal?”

6. Knowledge of Accounting Standards

You may be surprised to see this one so low, but in a way, it makes sense. Most business owners and executives consider this a “shoo-in” trait, which is implied with the title of an accountant. While this is most likely true, this doesn’t mean that you should overlook this trait. If you’re not comfortable with your knowledge and need to brush up a bit, no problem; here are a few places to start:

Read, read, read

Unfortunately, there isn’t any trick or tip that can help you improve this skill. As with any knowledge-based skill, plunging yourself into the source material is the best way to become comfortable. If you lack accounting standard knowledge, you may not be too excited about jumping back into the books. However, there are a few resources that may be able to help you out!

Financial Accounting Standards Board

If you need to read up on accounting standards, the very first place you should look is fasb.org. The Financial Accounting Standards Board is a fantastic online resource that contains every written standard in a convenient, easy-to-read, and searchable format. FASB has a consistently updated list of standard updates and a helpful library page that lists the references for the manual. 

Free online courses

If you need to hone your knowledge in a more structured environment (we get it, self-learning is tough), there are a plethora of excellent online courses that you can learn. Here is a short list of our favorites:

We hope some of these courses will be helpful to you; just know that your time will be very well spent on them. 


We hope that this article has been helpful to you, whether you’re a student, jobseeker, or employer. You may have been surprised by some of these results, but this is the reality of the current accounting job space. If you’re looking to be placed as an accountant or are seeking a position filled, please contact us today, and we can help you begin your journey. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jordan Gibbs

Jordan Gibbs is a content writer for and SEO specialist for J2T Recruiting. 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.