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Business Services, What Hiring Managers Want.

As part of my role at Ford Peterson, I attend several CA events including the graduate certificate ceremonies and as a result speak with 100’s of people with 2-4 years’ experience.

Invariably the question that gets asked is what are the most important skills to be developing and when is the best time to move?

I’m only going to discuss business services however the following applies to most service lines.

Within business services you should be assessing your current job on the following criteria:

  • Size of clients;
  • Staff management;
  • Client management;
  • Size of firm;
  • Systems;

Size of Clients

When it comes to your clients, size and the type of clients you are working on matter for a few reasons, including:

  • Complexity of accounting and tax issues;
  • The type of stakeholders you need to influence;
  • Exposure to advisory projects;

If you are working clients with revenue of over $5M with multiple entities most firms will be happy enough to meet with you.

If the majority of clients you are working on have revenue under $2M the belief is that you are not getting enough experience on the more complicated compliance matters.

Staff Management

Staff management experience is essential if you want to secure a Senior Accountant position or above.

If you have completed your CA and you aren’t getting some staff management experience, be it review of work, or management of work flows, then moving into a Senior Accountant or Supervisor position is going to be challenging.

Client Management

Like staff management, to earn above a certain salary, the expectation is that you are going to be capable of managing client relationships.

There are several reasons for this, least of all how work flows to you.

To use an example, if your manager comes to you with a parcel of work, they have made the decision on what you are capable of doing, it is reactive.

Working directly with a client gives you have the opportunity to make a judgement on what you can do and take questions to your manager, allowing you to be proactive.

In addition to how work flows to you, the accounting industry is moving away from compliance and towards advisory.

If you aren’t developing the softer skills of actually managing the relationship with a client, consulting with them, it will limit your ability to secure a position of Senior Accountant or above.

Size of Firm

Junior candidates seem to be obsessed with the size of firm that they work for and to a point it does matter.

The reality is that there are a lot of excellent 3-5 partner firms with 15-30 staff and there are lots of average ones.

Some larger (Top 20 Firms) might care a little however it is usually because they don’t know enough about the type of work those firms are doing.

If you are working at a smaller firm and getting all the other experience:

  • Large clients,
  • Advisory work;
  • Managing staff and
  • Managing clients;

Then the size of firm you are working for is not so important.

In Closing

If you have 2-4 years’ experience and are currently completing / have recently completed your CA you will never be in higher demand then you are today.

Once you have 4 years + experience the expectation is that you have managed staff and client relationships and will be able to provide advice on complicated tax structures.

The longer you stay in a role where you are not getting staff and client management experience, the harder it is going to be for you to change firms in the future.

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