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Qualifications vs. Experience: What's More Important?

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For many accounting & finance employers, a job advertisement calling for highly skilled, tech-savvy candidates with stellar tertiary credentials to match would be the bare minimum for recruitment standards.

Choosing between qualifications versus work experience is often one of the most challenging decisions during the recruitment process, so it needs to be a decision made carefully. If you're currently searching for potential accounting & finance recruits, ensure that you take these considerations into account before you make your final call. 

The case for qualifications

It’s no secret that a high level of education can boost a candidate’s job prospects.

Along with skills and knowledge, a jobseeker that has successfully completed a university degree or tertiary qualification shows ambition, commitment to complete a goal, direction and a desire to better themselves – traits that can pave the way for a solid career.

A tendency towards academic achievement can also hold powerful clues into how a new hire will perform in the workplace – the desire to excel in a learning environment often extends seamlessly to the workforce.

Top tip: Although it’s easy to be seduced by dazzling qualifications, don’t let a degree from an elite institution prevent you from looking at the bigger picture.

When assessing a highly qualified candidate, seek out evidence of technical skills, internships, work experience, projects and extracurricular achievements – factors that signal initiative, people skills and an aptitude that isn’t limited to textbooks.

Why work experience matters

Whether you’re recruiting a graduate or CFO, there’s no denying that real-world skills and practical experience offer benefits that go beyond the classroom.

Candidates that have amassed experience in a relevant position are generally well versed in industry issues, market pressures and client demands – experience that can see them hit the ground running if they manage to secure the job.

Top tip: Work experience might be a powerful asset, but it’s also important that candidates possess the basic skills to do the job. Ensure that both qualified & unqualified candidates boast the right level of technical skills and a body of work that testifies to their professional wins.

Consult those in the know

If you're still struggling to choose between the academic over-achiever or the work experience junkie, turning to an impartial assessment provider can be a smart way to ensure you land the best candidate. 

About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.

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