Skip to main content

Highlight Your Soft Skills Versus Hard Skills in Your Next Job Interview

August 5, 2019

Insights from the Girard School of Business

Success in accounting involves a mastery of the hard skills the job requires. However, employers also want those they hire to exhibit a strong set of soft skills that make them better collaborators, project managers, and organizational leaders.

Investing the time and energy into developing accounting soft skills is a smart move. Such skills have always been important in the workplace, and they will remain just as important in the coming years. The timeless quality of soft skills is why the best Master of Science in Accounting degree programs teach students how to refine these skills while simultaneously developing technical skills.

During a job interview, you want to emphasize accounting soft skills as much as your technical skills. The following looks at why this is the case, as well as some of the soft skills you’ll need.

Why Are Soft Skills Needed For Success? 

Proof of the importance of soft skills is readily available. For example, a recent survey by LinkedIn found that 57% of senior leaders at companies across multiple industries said soft skills are more important than hard skills for employees. The survey reported that talent developers, executives, and people managers all agree that soft skill training is a top priority. That training includes building skills in areas such as leadership, communication, and collaboration.

In a 2019 report,  LinkedIn noted that improving soft skills is a great investment in yourself because they “never go out of style.” They also wrote that even as artificial intelligence and machine learning become more prevalent in the workplace, soft skills “are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate.”

Keys to Success 

What kind of workplace soft skills do you need for success? The LinkedIn report on soft skills for 2019 listed the following five:

  • While machines can optimize existing operations, it takes creative humans to develop innovative ideas for the future.
  • Persuasion. The ability to convince others to buy into a new process or strategy is seen as key in accounting and other professions.
  • Collaboration. Working well with others is always an asset in the workplace.
  • Given the amount of rapid change in the workplace in recent years, and with more expected in the future, the ability to adapt is seen as key.
  • Time management. This is important for success in all phases of life,  especially in the workplace.

In a job interview, make sure to emphasize these workplace soft skills. Provide examples of how you have put them into play in accounting. If you haven’t developed these skills, find ways to work on them and apply them to your life.

More Workplace Soft Skills 

The consulting firm Robert Half includes business knowledge as a “soft skill” needed by accountants – in other words, understanding how the business they are working in operates as well as the overall industry.  The company also advocated other accounting soft skills such as a customer service orientation, planning and organizational abilities, problem-solving skills and the ability to work without supervision.

Those are all important and should be emphasized in interviews, through examples. Also, keep in mind that the Society for Human Resource Management reports that hiring managers rank dependability, reliability, adaptability, initiative and critical thinking higher than most other factors when hiring employees.

Soft Skills Learned in an MS in Accounting Program 

One way to prepare yourself well for future job interviews is to enter a graduate program in accounting that does a good job in preparing well-rounded accounting professionals. A quality Master of Science (MS) in Accounting program will offer the accounting soft skills needed to advance into management roles.

For example, the Merrimack College online MS in Accounting program includes a course in managerial communication. The course teaches accounting graduate students how to effectively communicate both in writing and verbally. Students learn the importance of using social media in a professional way, and how to deliver formal and informal presentations.

The program also includes a course in professional ethics. The American Management Association recently wrote that ethics are “an old-fashioned soft skill for a modern world.” At Merrimack College, the ethics course incorporates the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct as well as independence rules from the AICPA and Securities and Exchange Commission. The class looks at other legal, regulatory and ethics issues as they relate to accounting.

Strengthening accounting soft skills is an investment in yourself. Doing so can only help you stand out when competing for jobs. Make sure to highlight your soft skills as much (or more) than hard skills when you meet with potential employers.