CFOs Seek Finance Professionals With Mix Of Hard And Soft Skills

Survey Finds Functional Expertise More Often a Greater Priority, However

MENLO PARK, Calif., Sept. 20, 2016 -- Are you a natural number cruncher, or are you more at ease talking shop with colleagues? Today's accounting and finance professionals need to be comfortable with both, a recent survey from Robert Half Finance & Accounting confirmed. When it comes to a favorite though, more CFOs prioritize technical skills.

Technically Speaking

Fifty-four percent of CFOs interviewed said they give equal weight to both specialized and nontechnical, or soft, skills when evaluating candidates for staff-level accounting and finance positions. When it comes to filling management-level roles, 50 percent of CFOs said that technical and nontechnical skills are of equal importance.

Of those with a preference, technical skills were the favorite. For staff-level roles, the percentage of CFOs prioritizing functional expertise outpaced those favoring soft skills by more than a three-to-one margin. At the senior-level ranks, that margin rose to four-to-one.

View an infographic of the survey findings.

"Accounting and finance professionals are playing a larger role in companies, from serving as strategic advisors to collaborating with different departments and working with external contacts," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "Technical expertise is easier to assess and train, but companies that don't place a strong emphasis on soft skills risk being unable to build a finance function that meets the needs of the business." 

McDonald added, "As financial professionals move up the career ladder, technical skills become a given and it's the nontechnical attributes that can prove the key to their advancement. At the senior-level, these team members are expected to be able to build influence across the organization, communicate with diverse internal and external stakeholders, and serve as a business partner. While honing their functional expertise, individuals aspiring to the management ranks cannot neglect also enhancing their soft skills."

CFOs were asked, "When evaluating professionals for staff-level accounting and finance positions, which carries more weight – the candidate's technical skills or his or her soft or nontechnical skills?" Their responses:

Much greater weight on technical skills

11%

Somewhat greater weight on technical skills

25%

An even split

54%

Somewhat greater weight on soft skills

7%

Much greater weight on soft skills

3%

 

100%

CFOs were also asked, "When evaluating professionals for senior-level accounting and finance positions, which carries more weight — the candidate's technical skills or his or her soft or nontechnical skills?" Their responses:

Much greater weight on technical skills

12%

Somewhat greater weight on technical skills

28%

An even split

50%

Somewhat greater weight on soft skills

6%

Much greater weight on soft skills

4%

 

100%

Following are five essential nontechnical skills for accounting and finance professionals and how these attributes can be developed:

  1. Business acumen: Step outside of finance and learn as much as you can about your company's big-picture objectives and challenges. Ask for cross-departmental assignments and project management opportunities.
  2. Leadership: Volunteer to take on a new project or fill in for a manager. These are experiences that can help you develop your leadership skills and prove you're ready for more responsibilities.
  3. Communication: Hone your ability to tell the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with financial principles. Take every opportunity to develop your written, oral and visual communication skills.
  4. Relationship building: Foster genuine relationships with other professionals in your company — long before you need help from these contacts. One way to start is to invite them for coffee to discuss how you can help them with their priorities and challenges.
  5. Intellectual curiosity: Pursue trainings offered by your company as well as external learning opportunities. Earning a professional certification is another way to stay on top of industry trends.

About the Research

The survey was developed by Robert Half Finance & Accounting and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on telephone interviews with more than 2,200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

About Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half, is the world's first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 325 locations worldwide. For more information, visit roberthalf.com/finance. For finance and accounting career and management advice, visit our blog at roberthalf.com/finance/blog.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160919/409567-INFO

For further information: Bianca De Rose, (650) 234-6022, bianca.derose@roberthalf.com


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