Knowing what qualifications you need to get your dream career as an accountant is only half the battle, you will also need to know what skills graduate employers look for beyond your qualifications.

So what skills do graduate employers look for?

In this article, we look at the different skills graduate recruiters want you to demonstrate, from soft skills to the more technical to help you secure your dream actuarial role.

What skills do employers seek in their graduate recruits?

Naturally, the skills you need for a job vary from industry to industry and from job to job, but there are skills that are valued by employers across the board. These are referred to as soft skills, and while in the past they have been considered secondary to hard skills they are now considered more important than ever.

The core soft skills that employers look for include:

  • Literacy and numeracy
  • Time management and organisation
  • Oral and written communication
  • Teamwork
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Initiative and enterprise
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Ability to apply discipline, knowledge and concepts
  • Information gathering, evaluation and synthesis
  • Emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability

How do I demonstrate soft skills in an interview?

As you can see, many of the above skills are quite abstract and therefore can be hard to demonstrate in an interview.

Some of these skills can be measured through testing, such as through personality or aptitude tests, of which are becoming quite common in graduate interviews. However, other skills will be measured through competency-based questions.

For example; ‘Give me an example of when you worked well in a team’

The best way to answer these questions is by using the STAR Principles, and you can read more about the STAR Principles here. This method will ensure that you answer the question clearly and concisely, emphasising on how your soft skills led to your success.

What skills do accountancy employers seek in their graduate recruits?

When applying for graduate accountancy roles, there are more specific skills that you will have to demonstrate to graduate recruiters. These are a range of soft and hard skills, of which are more specific to the accountancy sector.

What qualifications do accountancy employers look for?

You don’t have to be a super maths whizz to become an accountant, you just need to be comfortable with numbers. You should have a B at GCSE Maths, but you do not need to have it at A-Level.

Degree requirements vary from employer to employer, with some looking for a 2:1 in any discipline, to a 2:2 or some requiring you to have a numerate degree such as economics or accounting. It does really depend on the individual employer. Our guide to Chartered Accountancy details what each company requires, you can find a PDF of the guide here.

If you are a school leaver, then again the requirements vary.  However, many do require you to have 3-A levels at grade B, with some preferring A-levels in Maths or Business Studies.

What hard skills do accountancy employers look for?

As well as qualifications, you will also need to demonstrate other hard skills that you may have learnt either through your degree or through internships or work experience.

Skills such as;

  • Good business knowledge
    • This includes knowledge of finance and accounting
  • IT skills
    • The desired level of expertise can vary from employer to employer. From basic Excel skills to be proficient in business intelligence software. If there are any programmes you used or skills you learnt on any work experience or internships be sure to mention them in your interview. While you may not be using the same programmes or software, basic understanding of how they work is a huge advantage.

Of course, graduate employers don’t expect you to be able to master all of these skills, and you will learn many of the more specialist skills on th job. However, any specialist knowledge that you have picked up through your degree or work experience should be highlighted. Don’t forget, your skills do not equate with your qualifications, and should be treated separately.

What soft skills do accountancy employers look for?

There are specific soft skills that will be more helpful than others when applying for accountancy graduate roles.

For example;

  • Good communication skills and team work
    • Accountants often work in teams and will have to convey information to people who may not be proficient in accountancy jargon, so the ability to explain concepts in a digestible manner is an advantage.
  • Time management
    • Accountants often have to work to tight deadlines, so time management is a must.
  • Project management
    • You may also find yourself juggling multiple projects with multiple deadlines.
  • Commercial awareness
    • Recruiters want to see that you have demonstrable knowledge of the accountancy profession and how current events are affecting the sector. Subscribing to websites such as AccountancyAge will help you with this.

Hopefully this has given you some idea of what skills graduate recruiters look for, and the more specific skills accountancy employers look for. Both soft and hard skills are equally important; particularly as a graduate you may not have acquired some of the more specialist hard skills quite yet. When looking at the skills asked for by employers, take some time to think about the skills listed above and try writing down some examples of how you have put these skills into practice during your studies, through work experience or socially. Use this as a basis for the examples you will no doubt be asked to provide during the application process.

Most of all, you will need perseverance – be prepared for the fact that you might have to make several applications before being accepted onto a graduate scheme and don’t give up!

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