The competition for specialized accounting talent is heating up across the country, including Houston. A shrinking talent pool coupled with growing demand is making recruitment more challenging for companies, driving some to offer higher salaries and more competitive benefits. If you’re looking to parlay your skills into a new position with a higher salary, there’s no time like the present.
Having the right skills and experience, however, is just part of the equation. Think of Liam Neeson’s classic line in Taken: “What I do have is a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career.” Neeson certainly wasn’t afraid to use his skills as leverage for a better offer, and you shouldn’t be either.
While your specialized skill set may not be quite the same as Liam Neeson’s, just like in Taken, what matters most is how you leverage these skills. Effectively showcasing your skills can make the difference between multiple competitive offers and fewer, less attractive options.
Job candidates with strong auditing and analysis backgrounds can position themselves for success by doing the following:
1. Highlight how your skills, certifications and experience benefit your employer.
Companies are actively seeking professionals with public accounting experience at a mid-tier or Big 4 firm along with specialized experience in manufacturing or health care. Certifications like the CPA or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) are a must. Listing these skills is just the first step, however. You need to explain how you’ve applied these skills and certifications to benefit your current employer and add value to their business.
Have you reduced a process time, identified a cost savings impacting EBITA or started or grown a division? Put these accomplishments front and center on your resume. Even if you have less experience, you can still highlight examples of how you brought value to your team and organization. For example, maybe you created a new Excel template to streamline internal processes that other departments adopted. Connect the dots for hiring managers so they can easily envision the value you’ll bring to their companies.
2. Benchmark your successes.
Whenever possible, quantify and contextualize your success. How much did you save in terms of reduced time or reduced costs compared to previous time or dollars? How quickly did you grow a startup or new division to profitability? For example, maybe you automated a process that reduced the month-end close process by one day; or applied a GAAP principle that resulted in a three-cent increase in per share earnings. Quantifying and contextualizing success gives hiring managers a benchmark for evaluating your accomplishments and how you might impact their business.
3. Tell your story.
Successful interviewing is the art of great storytelling: keep your anecdotes short, specific and memorable. State the problem, your solution, and then quantify your success. Practice telling your story out loud and time yourself. The story should take no longer than two minutes to relate and still cover all the main points. Accountants are pretty detailed by nature – it’s our job, after all, to pay attention to those details – but sharing extraneous information during an interview can actually detract from your main message.
4. Don’t overlook intangible skills.
It’s not just accounting skills that are in high demand. Hiring managers are seeking accountants with strong leadership and communication skills– and they’re willing to pay top dollar for talent with a proven track record. Approach both your resume and the interview process as opportunities to demonstrate these skills. Finally, consider the company culture of the firm where you’re applying: how do your intangible skills speak to the company’s values? For example, if a company is known for its team-oriented environment, address how your leadership will not only drive success for that company but also empower everyone on your team to succeed.
Today’s competitive market favors job seekers with specialized accounting skills, but these skills will only get your foot in the door. If you want to maximize your earning power, you need to show hiring managers how these skills will benefit their companies, and then back up this assertion with a clear track record of success.