Your career in finance – 10 skills that really count

By Robert Half on 21st November 2018

It’s no secret that carving out a high-flying career in finance hinges on more than just good grades.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an executive with decades of experience, can you recall what led you to this career choice?

In today’s fast-evolving workplace, accounting and finance professionals must demonstrate everything from razor-sharp analytical ability and stellar interpersonal skills to a sharp understanding of industry-standard software.

So, how do you know whether your CV will reach the top of the pile or is destined to fall short?

1. A formal accounting qualification

In some industries, sparkling talent combined with real-world experience is enough to land your dream job. But a career in finance – a sector ruled by rigorous processes and standards as well as commercial best practices – a glowing CV simply isn’t enough. To become an accountant, you will need to decide which formal qualification is best based on your long-term career ambitions and the specific area of business you’d like to work in. That means your education is at least as important as your expertise when securing that finance job.

2. Interpersonal skills

There once was a time when finance professionals were bound to cubicles, but that era is long gone. These days, any perception that a career in finance involves simply crunching numbers has been replaced by the reality that positions require workers to deal with clients every day. For accounting and finance professionals, the ability to build successful relationships with customers is critical if you want to excel. When looking at two equally qualified hires, interpersonal skills are often the point of difference.

3. Ability to communicate

For aspiring accounting and finance workers, strong written and oral communication skills are important, but it’s just as imperative to be able to explain financial jargon in simple terms. Many companies choose candidates who can make complex industry language legible to clients who have limited knowledge, as opposed to potential hires who simply regurgitate what they’ve learned.

4. Financial reporting

There’s no denying that financial-reporting skills are key to a competitive edge. Hiring managers at both public- and private-sector businesses will make recruiting decisions based on a candidate’s ability to produce detailed and accurate financial reports. In some cases, candidates will be requested to perform these tasks as part of the recruitment process.

5. Analytical ability

Most companies know that lateral thinking and the ability to analyse scenarios and draw suitable conclusions are central to a finance professional’s role. 

6. Problem-solving skills

These days, it isn’t enough to have watertight knowledge of systems and processes – it’s also essential to be able to tackle complex problems as they arise. Whether it’s addressing the financial implications of a complicated business structure or coming up with a personalised solution for a client’s tax dilemma, a record of solving problems will see your career grow in leaps and bounds.

7. Knowledge of IT software

Clearly, technology has overturned the way financial systems work, and many hiring managers would recruit a prospective candidate based on IT skills and knowledge of standard accounting programmes.

8. Management experience

Although it’s not essential, management experience is often highly desirable for employers looking to hire a financial professional for a new role. If you’ve proven your ability to manage teams during your career, you’re bound to excel in a leadership position in the future.

9. Commercial acumen

It’s important for financial professionals to understand the relationship between a company’s fiscal behaviour and marketplace demands. Candidates that exercise commercial savvy as well as an interest in the trends shaping the industry are well-placed to get ahead.

10. Capacity for innovation

Finance and accounting may be associated with routines and systems, but that doesn’t mean that innovation doesn’t have its place. Whether you’ve invented a data-collection method that streamlines productivity or a recording process that drives accuracy, candidates who are innovative are likely to stand out.

Do you tick all the boxes for a career in finance?

From brushing up on your financial-reporting skills to cultivating the ability to think outside the box, broadening your skill set is paramount to establishing a career in finance that lasts.

Indeed, if you can tick most of these boxes, you just might be one of finance’s most sought-after professionals.

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