Highlight technology skills to stand out in your job search
Professionals offer six tips to help students tell potential employers what they know.
As automation continues to transform the way CPAs do their jobs, hiring managers are setting their sights on new recruits who list information technology among their skill sets.
For tech-savvy accounting students, the future is bright. But it’s not enough to simply hone your digital skills in class or through internships; you need to highlight those skills to prospective employers on your résumé and during interviews.
CPA hiring professionals offer six tips on how students can showcase their skills and stand out from their peers in the job market.
List tech skills in the summary paragraph on your résumé. “For students who lack professional work experience, the summary paragraph is a good place to showcase skill sets,” said Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, an independent recruiter in Bethesda, Md. “The summary should also include a brief overview of any internships, jobs, and/or class projects they completed, and then list in bullet points the technology tools they used,” she added.
Demonstrate your comfort with technology. When Kathleen Schaum, executive director of university talent acquisition for KPMG in San Francisco, talks to students about their experience with various technology applications and platforms, she focuses more on their overall understanding of typical accounting technology than specific applications, such as Excel, Power BI, or Alteryx. “Firms use different types of technology, including proprietary software, so it’s important that students are familiar with these tools and are able to translate that familiarity into other similar applications,” she said.
Ask strategic questions during interviews. At Crowe, the partners and senior managers notice when students ask questions about technology, said Renee Arico, the company’s university talent acquisition leader, based in Plymouth, Mich. “For example, when prospective recruits describe an analytics class they have taken, then ask how our firm is addressing data analytics, it shows they’re interested and have knowledge of accounting technology,” Arico said.
Explain how you used technology. In addition to naming the types of technology applications you have used, be prepared to explain how you used them. Schaum recommends crafting descriptions of internships, volunteer experiences, or even assignments that involved significant use of technology to discuss during interviews. “Rather than simply listing the tools you are proficient in, putting into context how you used them will help you stand out,” she said.
Add technology to your curriculum. Berk recommends that accounting students take information technology-related classes for their electives or consider a minor or double major in computer science or computer engineering. Even getting a two-year degree in a technology-related curriculum can be viewed as a great alternative to work experience. “Taking these courses shows your interest in expanding your knowledge beyond accounting and gives you a broader view of the evolving technology landscape,” she said. Highlighting this additional curriculum on your résumé and during interviews will help you get noticed, she added.
Be willing to learn new technology on the job. During your job interview, Schaum believes it is important to demonstrate motivation to continue growing your skill set. She encourages students to avoid getting hung up on mastering specific apps or platforms, to keep an open mind, and to understand that technology is always changing. The ability to adapt to change and continue learning is key to success, she said: “I tell students by the time they take a class on a specific software, we might already be on to another application and the next great technology.”
— Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director.