What are Managers Really Looking for in Accounting Candidates?

Applying for accounting roles can be extremely tough in today’s market, particularly when you could be up against hundreds of applicants. It’s really hard to distinguish yourself against other interviewees and make yourself stand out against the crowd.

Recently I spoke with Michelle Hogan, the Financial Controller of the in the widely known retail store, Country Road. Michelle moved to Australia over 6 years ago with 7 years accounting experience behind her.

Michelle began her career at Deloitte in 2004 as a Trainee Accountant and has consistently progressed up the ladder to Finance Manager and Financial Controller.

Her daily duties as part of this role include:

  • managing a team of qualified and partly qualified accountants to produce accurate monthly and annual financial statements and reports
  • promote continuous process improvement in the department
  • coach, mentor and support team members
  • business partner with other departments on all finance matters
  • represent finance in ongoing projects in the business

Michelle answered some of the crucial questions that we rack our brains with in trying to prepare for an interview.

Q) How many applicants on average do you get applying for accounting roles?

A) 50-60 applicants, but it really depends on level. Lower level roles attract more applicants, but not always suitable ones.

Q) How do you shortlist for accounting roles?

A) Before the role is advertised, finance meet with a HR representative to discuss what the role entails and what type of person is required for the role and the department. HR will scan the applicants CVs and using the initial finance input, they will send a short list to finance. From this, we will pick candidates we would like to interview. Some senior roles will be sourced through agencies that have been approved by HR.

Q) What are the top soft skills you look for in a candidate?

A) As the department is made up of a number of teams, team players are a must for all our roles. We always like candidates to have a positive attitude about the role they are applying for and bring some enthusiasm to the team.

Q) Does attitude ever outweigh technical skills/ability?

A) Yes especially in junior roles where technical aspects can be learned from others in the team. Management often identify junior staff that have great potential and have been offered training or support to complete exams if they are interested.

Q) What would be the one piece of advice you would give to students applying for accounting roles and trying to kick-start their career in this field? 

A) Be open to take any opportunity that comes up, you never know where they may lead you and it will always look good to keep adding to your resume.

In conclusion, the most important piece of information for students to take away from this article is that anyone can train you up on technical skills. You cannot however, train attitude. Always go with your best foot forward and give it your best shot. You just never know what will come of it!

If you would like to find out more about a career path into accounting, contact our team for more information on the PY Program.

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