Hiring outlook Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
If you’re looking to hire any internal auditors, compliance executives, financial analysts, staff accountants or external auditors anytime soon, be prepared to fight against some stiff competition. According to Robert Half International, these five positions are the most highly sought after in the accounting and finance field.

Terry Phillips, vice president of Robert Half International in Akron, Ohio, says employers in particular are looking for accounting and finance professionals with a broad range of abilities, including strong strategic decision-making, communication and technology skills.

Smart Business spoke with Phillips about why these five positions are hot right now and what sort of skills companies should be seeking in the prospects geared to fill those positions.

What are the top growth positions in the accounting and finance positions for 2007?

The top growth positions are internal auditor, compliance executive, financial analyst, staff accountant and external auditor. Internal auditors, particularly those who possess the CIA, are being hired to help improve internal controls and meet the compliance mandates of such regulations as Sarbanes-Oxley. Compliance executives with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting experience are needed to help companies meet ongoing corporate governance requirements. Firms are hiring financial analysts to assist with budgeting and forecasting activities and to identify how their organizations can become more profitable. Accountants who are CPAs and have at least three years of experience, including in public accounting, are needed for projects ranging from maintaining general ledger accounts and preparing financial statements to developing budgets. And rising client demand for audit services has fueled the demand for external auditors among public accounting firms. CPAs who possess three to seven years of experience are particularly valued.

What sorts of skills are employers seeking in these accounting and finance professionals?

Employers are looking for accounting and finance professionals with a broad range of abilities, including strong strategic decision-making, communication and technology skills. Professionals can distinguish themselves by earning industry-recognized designations, such as the certified public accountant (CPA) and certified internal auditor (CIA). These accreditations can have financial rewards as well. According to our company’s 2007 Salary Guide, professionals with industry-recognized certifications can earn starting salaries up to 10 percent above the market average.

Is the great demand for the internal auditor and compliance executive positions a direct result of the heavier corporate governance?

As I stated before, compliance executives with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting experience are needed to help companies meet ongoing corporate governance requirements, while internal auditors, particularly those who possess the certified internal auditor (CIA) certification, are being hired to help improve internal controls and meet the compliance mandates of such regulations as Sarbanes-Oxley.

What advice do you have for job seekers?

Understand which skill sets are in demand and highlight your strengths in these areas in your resume and during job interviews. Also take steps, such as pursuing additional coursework and relevant certifications, to enhance your expertise in these areas. Candidates should target firms where they’d like to work rather than waiting for want ads to appear. Many companies may be filling positions they haven’t yet advertised. Also, vary your search. If you’re spending the bulk of your job-search time online, try to attend some industry events and schedule informational interviews in an effort to expand your network. Show you know the value of a dollar – hiring managers like to see concrete examples of how people have saved time and money and enhanced productivity in previous positions.

TERRY PHILLIPS is vice president of Robert Half International in Akron. Robert Half is a specialized staffing firm headquartered in Menlo Park, California. Reach Phillips at (330) 253-8367.