Is Attitude Becoming Just As Important As Skills Set?

Is Attitude Becoming Just As Important As Skills Set?

22 February 2017



When it comes to successfully securing a job within the Accounting & Finance sector, many candidates may be put off even applying for a position because they feel they do not meet all the requirements of the job spec.

Little do they know that, if they were to present themselves at an interview, that a positive attitude and approachable personality can stand them in good stead.

The bottom line is this – you can’t teach attitude, but you can upgrade someone’s skills set.

As previously mentioned in a blog about company culture, employers are increasingly looking to add candidates to their firm not purely based on the added value they bring through their skills set, but by considering how well they will blend in to their existing team.

On paper, you could be the perfect candidate for the role, but if in person, you’re not quite the right fit for the office atmosphere and pace, that can present itself as an issue.

If you enter an interview experience demonstrating that you are open to growth, ready to learn and – using a clichéd phrase – a real team player, a hiring manager will notice. A ‘can do attitude’ inspires confidence. It’s all very well having better skills and a higher IQ than the other candidates – but if you clearly think your way is better or have no people skills, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll prove a good fit for an existing team.

Robert Half managing director Phil Sheridan is quoted on the ACCA website as saying: “While employers will want to see that you have invested in your accountancy studies, some of the softer skills like communication, interpersonal and presentation skills will be distinguishing factors in trainee accountants, as is motivation and a willingness to learn.”

For example, someone coming from a smaller firm and hoping to break in to the ‘big four’ might not have the larger client base that is required for a role. But if you are outgoing, present yourself well and demonstrate you are keen to really take the business forward at interview, this is where soft skills can improve your chances. Especially if the role is customer facing – exceptional personal communication would be an absolute must.

Highly respected psychologists and universities, such as the prestigious Stanford University, are now producing papers to support this line of thought: hire for attitude, train for skill.

Ellis King, Manager, Accountancy and Finance Contract at Morgan McKinley is also quoted by the ACCA: “Another increasing trend is the importance of attitude within accountancy, and this doesn’t simply mean coming in early and leaving late every day – it is about having pride in the work you are doing and showing that you enjoy it. More than ever before, personality is important, and even at the interview stage companies are testing not just your technical skills, but your attitude.”

Certainly, a basic skills standard has to be met, but passion and personal values that are in keeping with that of the company in question can really impress a hiring manager. More so in the case of smaller firms where an individual can have a bigger impact on projects, productivity and general atmosphere.

Accountancy firms are looking for business orientated, commercial thinking individuals who are keen to get out in the field and develop the business.  

Whilst companies are not getting rid of technical requirements altogether, if two potential candidates were equally matched in terms of skills set but one had a much more positive and progressive attitude than the other and was keen to secure new business … Guess who’s getting the job? 

Written By Mary Palmer


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