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Three skills you need to succeed in accounting and audit now

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Even as they face evolving demands, opportunities for audit and accounting professionals remain robust. In fact, most chief financial officers tell us that talent shortages are severe, including in professional and financial services. It’s not just about having the right qualifications – these are the skills that hiring managers want.

1. Risk and compliance expertise

Facing greater regulatory demands, businesses are looking for candidates with advanced knowledge of risk model validation methods, regulatory compliance, and mergers and acquisitions.

Compliance work is challenging, and the required skill sets run deep. Not only do you need to be detail-oriented, with the ability to analyze large data sets, but you must maintain a high level of integrity to make sure the company adheres to all regulatory rules.

Expertise in forensic accounting, statistical data mining and risk management is highly valued as companies seek specialists in various types of regulations, including know your customer (KYC) and Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR); business risk assessment oversight, such as anti-money laundering (AML); and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates broker-dealers and monitors trading on U.S. stock markets.

Companies still have some time before they must adopt the new standard for revenue recognition brought forth by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board. But as they look ahead to the diagnostic work that will be required to make the transition, they need professionals who can help with systems, controls, processes and policies.

2. IT savvy

Accountants and auditors have access to more and more sophisticated tools for business intelligence and data analysis. But staying current with technology is the greatest pressure facing accounting and finance teams, according to CFOs in a Robert Half survey.

When building their teams, managers commonly see a technical skills gap in financial analysis, enterprise resource-planning systems and advanced modeling techniques.

They need financial staff who have expertise in Excel and business intelligence software. For analyst and financial reporting roles, knowledge of performance management software Hyperion is a plus. Those working with small and midsize firms are expected to know QuickBooks.

3. Interpersonal skills

Beyond analytical skills and the ability to keep up to date with business activities and revenue streams, soft skills are among the attributes needed to succeed. Nearly all postings for financial positions list some sort of interpersonal skills, such as planning and organizational abilities, the ability to work well in teams and independently, and the capacity to work under pressure.

Accounting and audit professionals regularly interact with different departments and employees at all levels. As a result, companies need professionals with written and verbal communication abilities, project management skills and a collaborative approach.

DeLynn Senna, CPA, is the executive director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a financial recruitment service.

Photo credit: VStock/Thinkstock

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