13 Essential Accountant Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 September 2022 | Published 19 July 2021

Updated 8 September 2022

Published 19 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Your CV can serve as your first impression with potential employers, so it's essential to use this document to show you meet the criteria for the job. The skills section is an excellent place to showcase the hard and soft skills that enable your professional success as an accountant. To optimise your potential as a hire, you need to understand which skills are the most essential to mention. In this article, we define what accountants do and what skills they need, and we provide an example of a skills section to help guide you as you write your own.

Related: Learn How To Write an Accountant CV in 6 Steps

What do accountants do?

Accountants manage and interpret financial records. They work in many industries and for a variety of employers, including large companies and individuals. There are several specialisms of accountancy:

  • Management: Management accountants work within organisations, analysing costs and budgets to help improve financial health.

  • Financial: Financial accountants oversee financial operations such as payroll and taxes to maintain accountability.

  • Tax: Tax accountants help their clients complete and submit tax forms.

The specific duties of accounts may vary depending on several factors, including their specialism, industry and employer. However, there are some typical responsibilities among them, including:

  • Reviewing financial reports such as balance sheets, tax forms and income statements

  • Ensuring the above documents are accurate, current and compliant with laws and industry standards

  • Reporting on financial status and making recommendations based on findings

  • Maintaining records of financial transactions

  • Overseeing taxes and ensuring they abide by regulations

  • Offering finance-related advice, such as how to cut costs and maximise revenue

  • Preparing and submitting financial reports

Related: Complete Guide: What Does an Accountant do?

13 essential skills to include in your CV for accountant jobs

When preparing a CV for a job in accountancy, there are many skills to consider that help prove your ability to perform the job's duties. Here are 13 essential skills you may want to include on your CV:

1. Numeracy

Numeracy refers to skills involving the use and application of numerical data. Mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division form the basis of numeracy skills, and these are essential for many accountancy tasks, including analysing and interpreting financial figures. Other numeracy skills involve knowledge of budgeting, understanding trends and analysing figures for insights.

2. Accountancy standards

Ensuring that corporations and other clients comply with regulations is a primary responsibility in this profession, so accountants should be familiar with the standards for preparing accounts. The Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (UK GAAP) is the regulatory body that determines these standards in the United Kingdom. This knowledge helps ensure that accountants consistently follow guidelines when reporting their employer's financial records.

3. Business knowledge

Knowing how businesses function, particularly concerning finances, allows an accountant to understand the context in which financial data exists. This understanding can help accountants improve the accuracy of their interpretations of an employer's financial health.

Related: Complete Guide: What Is Accounts Receivable

4. Technological aptitude

Accountants often use spreadsheets, word processors and specialised accounting software to carry out their duties. These computer applications help them manage accounts and create financial reports. It's beneficial to become proficient in using these applications, as they represent tools used almost daily in the professional life of an accountant.

5. Data analysis

Data analysis refers to the ability to gain insights from data. This skill directly affects an accountant's ability to create effective financial reports, as they must interpret raw data before they can derive meaning from it. More directly, strong data analysis skills allow accountants to verify that the financial data they examine is accurate.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definitions and Examples

6. Critical thinking

Critical thinking, referring to the ability to consider all the factors and potential risks surrounding a subject, allows accountants to foresee and preemptively address errors that can cause problems for their clients. Accountants must think critically when evaluating financial documents and devising solutions to issues, such as setting a budget that enables maximum financial growth. Critical thinking is particularly important for management accountants, whose job involves developing financial strategies and planning for the future.

Read more: What Are Critical Thinking Skills and How Are They Used?

7. Communication

After analysing financial data, an accountant must report their findings to their client and other relevant stakeholders. These stakeholders may have a cursory understanding of financial terms and ideas, so the accountant also needs the ability to convey this information in a way that anyone can understand. With this skill, accountants may learn to adapt their language to each audience member, simplify ideas and explain concepts patiently to provide clarity and ensure understanding.

Read more: What Are Communication Skills?

8. Organisation

A typical workday for an accountant may involve multiple tasks, many of which involve a significant amount of paperwork. Thus, accountants need to keep their documents in order, prioritise their activities and work within a structure that facilitates timely completion. This skill is especially important because timely reporting of financial records can prevent penalties from the government and regulatory bodies.

Read more: What Are Organisational Skills? (Types and Examples)

9. Time management

Time management represents the ability to allocate and use time efficiently. Accountants with strong time-management skills can balance their multiple tasks so that each receives an appropriate amount of attention and care. This skill is particularly important for tax accountants, who typically take on more work at the end of the tax year. As a result, they must tightly schedule their tasks to ensure they meet necessary deadlines.

10. Attention to detail

Attention to detail is the ability to view large amounts of data and notice minute details from which to draw insights. This skill helps accountants ensure the accuracy of both the financial documents they review and the financial reports they generate. It also minimises errors that could defy legal standards, thus helping prevent problems in the future.

Read more: How to Improve Your Attention to Detail

11. Adaptability

Adaptability refers to the ability to handle new situations and circumstances as needed. The regulations and standards within accountancy often shift in response to various social and political changes, so the ability to adapt to new dynamics, technologies and protocols is an essential accounting skill. In a narrower view, many accountants, particularly those who work on a client-to-client basis, must adapt to the unique needs of every new client. Thus, accountants may need to change how they relate to new clients, speak with them and address their concerns.

12. Writing

Writing is an essential skill in most professions, including accountancy. Accountants devote a significant amount of their workday to correspondence, as this is often the most convenient mode of formal communication for professionals and clients. Therefore, knowing how to craft detailed but easy-to-read communications is vital for conveying essential information to stakeholders. Not only that, but accountants also incorporate long-form writing in their financial reports. For example, they may include memos explaining the significance of specific data and its relationship to the organisation's larger financial picture.

13. Service orientation

Service orientation refers to the ability to recognise or anticipate the needs of others and meet their expectations. Accountants often play a supporting role within organisations or for clients, so their function is comparable to customer service. They should be able to approach their work with their employer in mind, providing advice and making decisions that best serve the interests of their stakeholders.

Highlighting skills on a CV

CVs often feature a skills section towards the top of the document, underneath your name, contact information and personal statement. A skills section shows potential employers that you understand what accountancy entails and can fulfil the job's typical duties. To highlight your skills further, you can format this section as you would your employment history, with brief descriptions of your experience underneath each skill. When developing this section, review the job description to ensure you include the specific skills sought by the employer. Use the following example skills section on a CV to guide you in creating your own:

Skills

Spreadsheets and tools

  • Certified MOS Expert in 2017

  • Extensive experience with common accounting tools

Numeracy

  • Grade A in A-level maths

  • Expert with advanced accounting formulas such as return on equity and future value of a sum

Writing

  • Grade A in A-level English

  • Experienced in drafting various types of reports and memoranda


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