What Skills Does a Practice Accountant Need?

When you apply for a role, your CV is essentially your first impression. While we’ve already gone over how to create the perfect CV, it’s important to understand the skills and technical ability that employers are going to look for in a practice accountant.

If you’re looking to demonstrate your potential as a candidate to an employer, this is the easiest way to put yourself across in the best way. Below are the skills that a practice accountant needs – and should – be highlighting.

Top 9 Skills for a Practice Accountant

Below are the top nine skills that we believe a practice accountant should be highlighting on their CV and throughout the application process:

1. Maths and numeracy skills

Understandably, a core skill for an accountant is their mathematics and numerical skills. You have to demonstrate that you not only understand the mathematical operations that make up core numerical skills but also more complex functions involved in accounting responsibilities. Try to highlight your ability to parse and interpret data and financial figures, plus how you use these skills to complete tasks such as budgeting and trend analysis.

2. Software skills

As with most industries, accountants work mostly in the digital medium. While you’ll typically understand how to utilise spreadsheet software – and the various equations or functions used in these programs – you may also want to demonstrate any knowledge of specialised accounting software. The more proficiency you can show across this variety of software, plus how you might use it in day-to-day activities, the more likely you are to stand out from the crowd.

3. Business operations 

A great skill to demonstrate to potential employers is your understanding of standard accounting processes that businesses typically utilise. If you show that you understand how businesses generally function – particularly when it comes to their finances and financial health – you’ll be able to provide context for the data you’re looking at and actions you’d take across your responsibilities. This is particularly important for a practice accountant as you may be working for several different clients that require different processes.

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4. Accountancy standards

Your application should show that you understand the importance of accounting regulations and that you’re familiar with standard practices adopted across accountancy. The most important aspect to demonstrate is your knowledge around Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (UK GAAP) – the regulatory body that sets out these standards within the UK. By showing an understanding of these guidelines, employers have the peace of mind that you’ll be following standard practice.

5. Analytical skills

Many accountancy roles require data analysis skills as this dictates your ability to determine insights from raw data, build out financial reports and effectively deliver these reports to key stakeholders. It’s important to give context when you’re demonstrating analytical skills – you’ll want to show an employer how you’ve utilised your skills in a previous role and what this resulted in.

6. Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking represents your ability to look at a situation – or goal – and preemptively consider any challenges or next steps that you might need to address. The ability to think ‘outside of the box’ around certain situations, particularly if you’re attempting to come up with solutions to a problem, is highly desirable with employers. Practice accountants may find themselves requiring critical thinking skills when they’re developing financial strategies, supporting businesses with financial planning or integrating themselves within a new client that they haven’t worked alongside before.

7. Communication skills

A vital skill for practice accountants is good communication – for several reasons. Firstly, every accountant working in the field will have to report findings to key stakeholders at some point in their career. It’s important that they’re able to do this in a concise manner that anyone – regardless of knowledge around finances – can understand. 

Secondly, practice accountants often work with a variety of clients and may have to take on a more client facing role. It’s important to have great communication skills in this situation as you’re not just reporting on financial matters but also representing the ‘face’ of the company. You’ll typically take a more hands-on role with clients in a practice accounting role and having great communication skills makes this significantly easier.

8. Time management skills

Whilst time management skills are useful in any accountancy role, it’s particularly desirable amongst practice accountants. Time management represents a candidate’s ability to juggle multiple tasks and properly prioritise their time in the day to achieve key tasks. Since you may be working across multiple clients; understanding how long tasks take, managing expectations and effectively executing these tasks is vital.

9. Adaptability skills

Adaptability is a candidate’s ability to handle new situations when they arise. Accountancy regulations, standards and guidelines often change regularly, meaning practice accountants need to be ready to take on new information or change the way they work in response to different situations.

For practice accountants working with various clients, adaptability is vital for ensuring the needs of each individual client is met. You may be working on a task for one client in the morning and then a completely different task in the afternoon. The ability to naturally – and effectively – switch between the two is critical to success.

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