Hiring the Perfect Accountant

Helen Brand, the CEO of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) launched a report from an international study which identified seven attributes essential to success for accountants and finance professionals.

Speaking at the launch, Helen said “The accountant’s role has been revolutionised over the past decade, with finance professionals becoming leaders, trusted expert counsel and key strategic advisers to organisations whether in the public or private sectors. “With this metamorphosis comes a requirement for a whole new set of skills. On top of technical excellence, professional accountants now require creativity, emotional intelligence and the vision to lead.”

ACCA has developed a set of seven ‘Professional Quotients’ – a mix of technical knowledge, skills and abilities formed with interpersonal behaviours and qualities to define what the 2016 accounting and finance professional must look like, which gives anyone looking to recruit new staff a strong set of selection criteria upon which to assess their candidates.

However, whilst knowing what you are looking for and why is a strong starting point, the ACCA study seemed to omit the all-important 'how'. How can an employer of accountants assess whether a candidate has these vital ingredients of success to become valued professionals if appointed?

Here's our view on how you could assess each attribute, along with a summary description:

Technical and ethical competencies (TEQ): The skills and abilities to perform activities consistently to a defined standard.
○ Too often based on possession of a professional qualification when everyone knows that being qualified doesn’t equate to being competent. This is where we blow our own trumpet and recommend assessing technical accounting skills and knowledge with the only current, valid & country-specific accounting tests in the world - Accountests.com for an online accounting skills assessment for candidates within an hour

Intelligence (IQ): The ability to acquire and use knowledge: thinking, reasoning and solving problems.
○ There are a host of valid, reliable psychometric ability tests out there which measure this attribute. Better still, they come in suits of three that cover abilities to acquire new knowledge and work with systems and processes outside of previous experience, as well as ability tests of numerical and verbal critical reasoning.

Creativity (CQ): The ability to use existing knowledge in a new situation, to make connections, explore potential outcomes, and generate new ideas.
○ Abstract reasoning psychometric ability tests cover this attribute well, but could be blended with assessment centre exercises requiring analysis of complex information to make recommendations, Situational Judgement tests as well as personality profile traits of creativity, change and strategic focus

Digital (DQ): The awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices, strategies and culture.
○ Sound interview questions and reference checking by an interviewer who is technologically savvy ought to uncover where a candidate sits in terms of their use of current technologies at home and work as well as where they see technologies shaping the accounting and finance function in the future. Well-crafted and delivered questions should weed out those who see technologies as threats rather than opportunities

Emotional intelligence (EQ): The ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them.
○ Back to the better personality questionnaires that include traits associated with Emotional Intelligence, including warmth towards others, team focus, being trusting/supportive, focusing on subtle people-implications in problem solving and decision making. There are also questionnaires based entirely on EQ, but as a personal preference, I'd recommend broader 'whole of personality' assessments such as 16PF/15FQ+ & OPQ32

Vision (VQ): The ability to predict future trends accurately by extrapolating existing trends and facts, and filling the gaps by thinking innovatively.
○ In the absence of a crystal ball, high level verbal critical reasoning tests such as Watson Glaser & Psytech's CRTB1 assess abilities to make logical assumptions based on current information. The better personality questionnaires listed above also assess softer visionary traits, including thinking strategically without being held back by traditional conventions, policies or mind-sets

Experience (XQ): The ability and skills to understand customer expectations, meet desired outcomes and create value.
○ Last but not least, assessing experience is the easy bit, with relevant information gathered from CV's, application forms, then validated by good interviewers interviewing both candidates and referees

So, now you have both the framework of attributes for success and the tools to measure them.

If you don't have in-house expertise for selecting psychometric assessments of ability and personality, the assessment-centre exercises or accounting skills tests, get in touch with us  and we'll point you at a reputable provider in your country.