Survey: Industry Experience Outranks People Skills Among Competing Job Candidates

MENLO PARK, CA, November 4, 2004 -- Personality may be a plus, but it won’t necessarily land you the job. In a recent survey, 41 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) said industry experience is the factor most likely to tip the scales in an applicant’s favor, while only 1 percent of executives cited people skills. Thirty-three percent of respondents said individuals with software and technology expertise have an advantage.

The survey was developed by Robert Half, the world’s first and largest staffing service specializing in the accounting, finance and information technology fields.
It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 20 employees.
CFOs were asked, “If two candidates interviewing for an accounting or finance position had similar skills, which one of the following additional qualifications would you find most valuable?” Their responses:


Industry-specific experience

Software/technology knowledge 33%
Certification or advanced degree 15%
Multilingual skills 7%
International experience 3%
Personality/people skills 1%

“Executives value job candidates who understand the issues and challenges specific to their industries and who can contribute immediately to the company’s success,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half and author of Job Hunting For Dummies® (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

Messmer added, “As organizations face mounting pressure to meet corporate governance regulations and ensure the security and integrity of their financial data, technical aptitude becomes particularly important. Employers seek accounting professionals who are proficient with the latest database applications and enterprise resource planning programs and also can collaborate with IT staff in implementing upgrades and systems conversions to increase operational efficiencies.”

Robert Half has more than 330 locations throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services at

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