7 Essential Accounting Skills and How To Improve Them
Updated February 3, 2023
If you're an accountant or pursuing this career, there are certain accounting skills required to succeed in the workplace. Having these skills can help you gain relevant knowledge, maintain good relationships with colleagues and demonstrate a strong work ethic. You can develop several essential accounting skills for your career path to help you secure jobs in the financial field and potentially earn a better income.
In this article, we discuss seven essential accounting skills that can help you succeed in your career and explore ways you can improve and highlight them when pursuing accounting jobs.
What are accounting skills?
Accounting skills are competencies that allow individuals in financial management to create and analyze financial records and help businesses improve and achieve their financial goals. These skills make accountants reliable and trustworthy. Accounting skills can comprise hard skills such as proficiency in using accounting software programs and financial reporting, planning and controls. They can also include soft skills that enable you to communicate with management, teammates and clients.
Related: How To Get an Accounting Job
7 essential accounting skills
Here are seven essential accounting skills that can help you in your career:
1. Technical skills
Technical skills include specialized competencies required to perform accounting tasks and use software programs and other tools. They include knowledge of standard principles of accounting, computing abilities, quantitative analysis and financial market forecasting and modeling techniques. You can gain accounting software proficiency, data analysis and knowledge of regulatory standards.
Technical skills also involve critical thinking, attention to detail and problem-solving as you record and evaluate financial reports, apply accounting practices and identify solutions. For example, you can use technical skills to prepare and file taxes and compute and analyze financial data using spreadsheets and other tools.
2. Communication skills
Communication skills are verbal and written competencies that help you share or exchange information with others. When working as an accountant, you may communicate with clients and colleagues, including answering emails and calling people. Communicating well ensures you convey information clearly, understand others' needs and gather information to complete tasks or deliver projects according to the recipient's expectations. For example, when going through a client's account, you may notice you're missing their quarterly financial report that's crucial for completing your work. You can send a simple message such as:
I'm missing the quarterly report from Jan. 1 to March 31 that's relevant to complete my work on your account. Could you please send it over as soon as you can?
This message specifies the exact dates needed so that the client can send you the right report.
3. Organizational skills
Organizational skills help you manage different tasks to achieve desired results. You may work with a large quantity of financial information daily, and arranging them systemically increases your ability to locate data quickly. Try keeping both your physical and digital files organized to increase efficiency, such as creating a folder system on your computer to locate digital information easily. You can also alphabetize client files or use a color-coded system that sorts and lists tasks according to upcoming, in progress and completed statuses.
For example, you may have a variety of meetings both in person and on the phone. You can use various methods to track your meetings, such as placing a paper calendar on your desk for a visual reminder of upcoming meetings or using a digital calendar program to receive notifications for meetings. Using a calendar may also help ensure you have enough time to complete your work.
4. Customer service skills
Customer service involves addressing customer needs to ensure they have a good experience. Consider developing your customer service skills to maintain positive relationships with clients, understand their needs and offer satisfactory responses quickly. These skills can help you interact with clients professionally and courteously to demonstrate your sincerity when providing crucial information and financial guidance.
Adaptability means being flexible and adjusting to new conditions, such as new software and changing tax laws. You can show adaptability when you respond quickly to requests from clients or other colleagues and accommodate their needs. You may use adaptability to gather and evaluate large amounts of data in a short time period to meet deadlines or change financial statements, such as budgets, to reflect actual costs.
For example, two clients may request that you call them to answer questions about their taxes, but you have appointments all day. After assessing the first client's message, you find that you can answer their question via email. The second client has a more complex question, so you may decide to move one of your appointments to the next day so that you can call them in the afternoon and answer their question.
6. Leadership skills
Leadership is an essential accounting skill that can make you a valuable asset to a team and allow employers to trust you to think and plan strategically. You can make yourself available to assist other departments when possible, especially if your coworkers contact you when they need financial advice. You can also show that you're a leader when you offer new ideas or suggestions confidently.
For example, you may notice that the marketing department regularly exceeds its monthly budget. You can schedule a meeting with the department leader and your manager to explain your findings and offer possible solutions. Identifying this challenge and overcoming it can demonstrate your leadership qualities.
7. Time management
This skill involves completing tasks efficiently and on time. Having a system to manage your workload within a certain time can help you schedule and prioritize tasks to stay organized. You can organize your calendar and list daily, weekly and monthly tasks according to their deadlines. Review the list regularly to make changes if tasks take longer than expected.
For example, you might plan to do the payroll for 10 clients on a certain date. On that day, you may encounter several delays that result in three pending payrolls. You can assess their urgency and complete the one that's most urgent, then schedule the remaining ones for the next day.
How to improve your accounting skills
Here are some steps you can take to improve your accounting skills:
1. Practice your skills
Improving your accounting skills requires regular practice in areas such as mathematics, which is essential in calculating financial ratios, balances and variances. In addition, consider studying the principles that apply to financial work. You can also use online math games and puzzles to make studying more engaging and improve your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career
2. Use active listening
To improve your customer service skills, try to listen to your clients actively so that you can learn more about their concerns and requests. After they finish explaining their request, you can form a positive, goal-oriented and thorough reply that addresses their needs. Collaborating with clients to form solutions can also help them feel more valued.
3. Stay updated
You can stay current with business news and trends to identify areas to improve your technical skills. This can also help you gain a better understanding of how companies operate and learn about new business regulations. There are several ways to stay updated, such as subscribing to newsletters on business and finance news sites, company websites and social media platforms.
4. Proofread your work
Proofreading allows you to analyze your work and ensure that it's accurate as you find and correct errors. When proofreading your work, examine every detail carefully. You can improve several accounting skills through proofreading, including attention to detail and data entry and analysis.
How to highlight accounting skills
Here's how you can highlight your accounting skills when pursuing job opportunities:
Accounting skills for resume
Before you apply for a job, ensure that you update your resume with essential accounting skills, including those earned from additional certifications. You can look at job descriptions and your work experiences to locate skills that hiring managers prioritize and include them on your resume. Consider listing your skills in a separate section of your resume.
Accounting skills for cover letter
A cover letter can help you highlight specific accomplishments that show your accounting skill set. You can discuss experiences that align with the company's culture and describe how you can positively contribute to it. Consider highlighting skills that may allow you to benefit the company, such as communication, customer service and problem-solving skills.
Accounting skills for the job interview
During an interview, you can highlight your accounting skills by describing how you've used them in different situations to achieve positive results. For example, you might tell a story that illustrates a challenging situation at work and the tasks involved. You can then describe your actions and the results to show how you applied your skill set to resolve the issue.
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