Attitude or Technical Skill?

What do employers in public practice value more?

As you’ll no doubt be aware, at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd, we’ve built up a vast library of resources for accountants looking to further their careers in our Candidates’ Hub. 

But one subject we’ve yet to explore is how accountants searching for new roles in practice should balance the emphasis between their technical skills and experience and that of their attitude as a team member when it comes to CV writing and interview.

So let’s consider why both really matter.

Technical Skill

Whether you’re AAT/ATA/ACCA/ACA/CTA qualified or qualified by experience it’s really important that you can hit the ground running when it comes to picking up a share of the engine room work when you join an accountancy firm. The best employers out there obviously offer an induction and the opportunity for you to learn any quirks of the practice and critically their core values and service ideals, but when it comes to preparing or reviewing tax returns, VAT returns and statutory accounts, they’ll certainly expect you to know the drill.

And in all honesty we tend to take it for granted that accountants uploading their CV have a sound, all round knowledge of most cloud based accounting systems so, if there are any that you’re not au fait with, a really good use of your prep time for becoming ‘new job ready’ would be to take a look around each system so you can honestly claim to be familiar with them all.

If you’re applying for a role in practice leadership you’d be wise to familiarise yourself with the technical and lawful side of human resources. Perhaps peruse some articles from ACAS and the CIPD to ensure you’ve not missed any changes in legislation  when it comes to recruitment and equality and diversity.

And one step up from that, if you’re applying for Partner or Partner Designate roles you’ll want to ensure that your technical knowledge in all areas of running a successful business is at least something you can claim to have at a basic level.

And it’s the claim to the basic level of technical skill that leads us on to attitude. Because technical skill can be taught if you have the right attitude! Attitude is less easy to teach!

So why does attitude matter and how can you showcase the right kind of attitude on paper and in person?

There’s actually nothing more disruptive to a team than someone with a bad attitude. And at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd we often advise our clients who are struggling to shortlist one candidate against another, to focus on how each of their attitudes come across.

Here’s some red flags….

  • Have they left numerous roles after a very short period of time without a credible reason?
  • Do they repeatedly allude to previous employers not having supported/appreciated them?
  • Do they describe themselves on paper or in person in a way that goes beyond a good level of confidence? Are they coming across as arrogant or cocky?

The first two bullet points are not something that any candidate should be ashamed of. In fact, we’d argue that the quickest way to success in your career as an accountant is by regularly moving up the professional ladder. But good recruiters can read between the lines and sense what kind of attitude lies behind the regular moves or the bitterness that an ex employer didn’t value them. Sometimes we can sense that there was a genuine fault with the employer and sometimes we can sense that the candidate’s attitude made them impossible to work with.

So, in conclusion – technical skill and attitude are of equal importance but your attitude could make the difference between an employer deciding to support you to gain technical skill that you may not yet possess, or not!

Here’s a few ways that you can use your positive attitude to overcome a shortage of technical skill at interview….

‘No, I don’t have that qualification but I have demonstrated core skills in that area by doing X and I have also showcased that I’m a really fast learner so I don’t see that as a stumbling block to me supporting the team in this area.’

‘No, I haven’t used that software before but I am proficient in X, Y and Z and my understanding is that they all follow similar principles and I’ll be sure to hone my skills in that package as a priority.’

In these instances, attitude might just trump technical skill!

If you’re putting the proverbial pen to paper today and getting started with your CV, why not drop us a line to make sure you’re tailoring it to the right audience and that you don’t fill it with facts that we know don’t matter to employers. And, as soon as it’s ready, upload it via our online portal and we’ll start matching you with brilliant potential new challenges.

There’s nothing we enjoy more than supporting accountants with a brilliant attitude to find the rewards and opportunities they truly deserve. And with that in mind, we cannot wait to work together!




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