Company assets Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Accounting and finance careers are hot — but what career paths look particularly promising for 2007?

Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, recently pinpointed five specialties positioned for the biggest jump in growth based on research from the company’s 2007 Salary Guide, actual candidate placements and discussions with hiring managers throughout the United States.

“Business expansion and ongoing compliance requirements will drive the demand for skilled accounting and finance professionals and intensify recruitment challenges,” says Alan Reisinger, Cleveland branch manager of Robert Half International. “So salaries for many specialties are on the rise, with a national average increase in base compensation of 3.8 percent projected for 2007.”

Smart Business spoke with Reisinger about the opportunities available for experienced accounting and finance professionals in today’s marketplace.

How would you describe the current hiring environment?

The hiring of skilled accounting and finance professionals remains steady mainly because business expansion, rising workloads and ongoing compliance initiatives continue to drive hiring.

Many firms are having difficulty finding skilled accounting and finance professionals. As a result, the competition for top talent has intensified. For the right candidates, employers are willing to expedite the hiring process and offer premium compensation to avoid losing these individuals to other offers.

What are the top five accounting and finance positions for this year?

Research shows that compliance professionals, internal and external auditors, financial analysts and public accountants are among those expected to see the greatest gains in base pay. Chief compliance officers at large companies (more than $250 million in sales) are expected to see increases in base pay of 14.4 percent. Internal auditors could see gains as high as 5.8 percent, while starting salaries for financial analysts are expected to increase up to 5.9 percent. Salaries in public accounting are projected to rise as much as 8.1 percent.

What are the reasons these positions are in high demand?

Compliance executives with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting experience are needed to help companies meet ongoing corporate governance requirements. 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.

Firms are also 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.

What skills are in demand for 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 certified public accountant (CPA) and certified internal auditor (CIA). These accreditations can have financial rewards as well. According to the 2007 Salary Guide, professionals with industry-recognized certifications can earn starting salaries up to 10 percent above the market average.

What advice do you have for job seekers?

Understand which skill sets are in demand and highlight your strengths in these areas in your résumé 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.

And 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. During an interview and on your résumé, it's important to show you know the value of a dollar. Hiring managers like to see concrete examples of how you have saved time and money and enhanced productivity in previous positions.

ALAN REISINGER is the Cleveland branch manager for Robert Half International (www.rhi.com). Reach Reisinger at (216) 781-8367 or alan.reisinger@rhi.com.