Gone are the days when accountants are known as number crunchers. In today’s modern world where finance professionals need more than just technical competence, it is dangerously important that accountants are equipped with soft skills that are in high demand.
Soft skills are those rudimentary ingredients that make someone with finance expertise competent enough to face the challenges of modern day accounting. The problem that many young accountant faces is identifying what is classed as soft skills and what is classed as hard skills. In other words, soft skills are more of habits than qualifications.
The accounting course curricular is designed to equip prospective accountants with hard skills that no doubt is just enough to launch a new accounting graduate into getting his or first accountancy job.
In this article, you will discover what constitutes adequate soft skill that an accountant needs in order to excel as a business and finance expert.
10 Important soft skills required to be a competent accountant
- Interviewing skills: this is especially important if you are pursuing a career in forensic accounting. Without good interviewing skill, you will miss out on important aspect required in generating forensic accounting information.
- Communication skills: what use is accounting if accounting information cannot be effectively communicated? The whole process of collecting, collating, analysing and interpreting financial data will come to nothing if the information is not communicated in the right format in the language that is understood by the intended recipients. Remember that accountants are the only finance professionals that fluently speak the language of business, no wonder many people fondly call accountants ‘business communicators’.
- Possession of high degree of moral standard: accountants are the doctors of the business community. Your clients trust you with business confidential information. The financial health of your client is placed in your hands. People have to see you as a honest person with untainted reputation if they are to entrust you with their business secrets. If there is one thing you have to guide jealously, it has to be to be your reputation.
- Street experience: business owners now expect more from their accountants than ever. As an accountant of a small business firm for example, you are seen by the business owner as a part owner and not just an accountant. To be able to close this expectation gap, you should be street smart. Street smartness requires you to have highly developed business acumen. I highly recommend that every accountant have a small business of their own in order to develop the entrepreneurial skill that the market for accounting service now requires.
- Ability to listen to figures: to be a good accountant, you must be able to listen to and understand the language of figures. This is where most professionally qualified accountants are found wanting. Experience has shown that most business failures that occur should have been avoided if the handwriting on the wall had been understood. The role of accountants in preventing frauds and other irregularities can no longer be ignored. By possessing this soft skill of listening to and understanding the language of figure, accountants will be more equipped to discharge their duty of fighting both traditional fraud and accounting fraud. Accountants working as auditors strive to reduce audit risks in order to ensure that the wrong kind of audit opinion is not expressed. There are soft skills that help auditors apply professional judgement, for example the presence of neat pattern of figures in the financial statements of a business might be speaking to you directly about anomalies or error or corporate fraud.
- Positive work ethics: accountants should at all-time be seen to perform their duties in a positive manner. You don’t only have to meet the accounting ethics requirements, but you also need to have a personal positive work attitude.
- People management and networking skills: accounting has long moved away from being a back office function to taking one of the front seats in vibrant organizations. For example, accountants are now key players in customer care services in most successful companies. Being able to manage people and network effectively can be valuable especially when you are faced with difficult unique circumstance. This is why professional accountancy bodies like CIMA and ACCA encourage their members to join a local chapter of their organization.
- Time management skills: just like every other profession where time management is plays important role, one of the most important role of accounting which is to provide timely information will be defeated if accounting information is not timely. To be efficient at your work as an accountant, you must be able to manage your time properly so as to produce quality accounting information within budget.
- Ability to know when to go solo and when to work with team: in as much as many recruitment experts will advise that you must give the employer the impression that you are a team player in order to get a job, there are times when playing solo gives desired result. As an accountant, you must be able to decipher when it is most appropriate to be independent and when to work as a team.
- Possession of thick skin under pressure: accounting is definitely a rewarding profession but not without pressure and criticisms. You must be able to work under pressure and the critical fault spotting eyes of most partners (if you are working in an audit firm). This trait goes hand in hand with the experience acquired in the street. Yes, the street is always there to teach us things that will help us in our professional careers like accountancy.