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A Guide to 3 Essential Soft Skills for Accountants

It goes without saying that accounting is not just about technical skills. To navigate your way successfully through the minefield that is landing your dream job, you’ll also need a heap of skills that have nothing to do with debits and credits. You know, the soft skills. According to Todd Kooiman, Tax Partner at Seattle based firm Moss Adams LLP (who spoke to AccountingWEB back in May this year), they are crucial in giving the best accounting professionals the edge.

1. Keep up to date with industry & general business knowledge
Sounds an obvious one but it’s good to remember that this needs to be a continuous process and effort on your part. As Todd explains;

"Our clients want their trusted advisor to have an in-depth understanding of their industry and their business. They want to know what implications are going to have a major impact on their business. They want to know what's going on in the market that is going to significantly impact them. If you don't know their industry, you won't be able to see those red flags”

2. Know your Twitters from your Tumblrs
Ok so we’re not suggesting you have to develop the Twitter presence of Justin Bieber but you definitely need to at least be seen embracing social media and understanding its benefit from a business perspective.  Todd underlines that you need to understand it thoroughly so you can answer clients’ questions;

“Are clients able to get their product out in front of people via social media? What is being said about their product on social media, how can they offset any negative social media press about their product, and how can they analyze that? If something negative is said, you want to make sure you can offset that with some really positive things and how to best utilize that product. By helping clients understand how to use that technology, we can more efficiently serve our clients, as well as help their businesses. This can also include the accounting software they use by advising them on what package is right for their business."

3. Communication:
The theory that left brained people are better at logical and analytical tasks, and therefore accounting type skills, than those that are more right brained, is an old one (and actually mostly disproved now by those in the know).  But how you engage the two sides of your brain to effectively communicate with your clients (and co-workers) is in the top three most important attributes for Todd Kooiman;

"Communication is such a vital part of what we do. We're either communicating by phone, in-person, or via email; writing an article; or presenting in front of a group. If you can't write well, speak well, or present well, all of that factors into the expectation and the confidence that your clients will have in you as their trusted advisor. If you're not able to convince them and relate to them exactly what they need or what their business needs, you're not going to be effective in this industry, and you're not going to have a good relationship with your clients.”

To us here at Going Concern Jobs, all of these softer skills seem obvious.  We’d be very surprised if any of you wrote to us exclaiming your wonderment at our insight and forethought. Although that would be nice.

Of course all these things are obvious, of course you all know that to be successful in the job hunting market you have to embody all this and more to your potential employer. It’s just difficult finding the time..right?

But if nothing else, do enough research and thinking BEFORE your interview to be able to answer questions on some of this stuff. Be able to clearly and succinctly describe your communication style and how you acknowledge its importance in working with clients. Be able to demonstrate some working knowledge around social media and how it can be best utilized for promoting a clients’ business.  You could be the most amazing accountant in the world, but if you can’t show these softer skills too, you’re less employable. And no one needs that do they?