Accounting, just like any other career, comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and levels of responsibility. This is why when you’re hiring for an accounting or related position, testing relevant skills and knowledge with an accounting skills assessment test is critical to choosing the right candidate.

With fast-evolving technology and economic recovery in progress, there is an increased demand for top talent, which creates new recruitment issues. Many hiring managers are now confronted with a sector-specific skills deficit, which is further impacted by national trends - you can read more about this issue in two of our previous articles, which address the skills gap and skills shortage in accounting.

Dr. Bradford Smart, author of Topgrading, outlined that poor hiring practices can cost a company 5 to 27 times the annual compensation of a candidate. However, hiring qualified individuals can result in a 3 times positive annual ROI, as reported by SmallBusinessMatters. This is why businesses have been focusing on avoiding hiring mistakes.

One simple way to achieve a positive hiring ROI is to establish clear criteria in pre-employment testing. Hiring managers will benefit from knowing which tests to administer, as it saves resources and helps carve out a precise candidate profile. 

Career Levels in Accounting

Accounting can be a rewarding career with many opportunities for growth and advancement. It’s a career that may lead to one of the highest-paid jobs within the organization. Chief Financial Officers, or CFOs, are senior executives in charge of the financial operations of a corporation. In  2021, the top ten CFOs in the United States earned salaries ranging from $16 million to $72 million.

As the job itself requires accountants to be logical and linear thinkers, the roadmap for career progression is just as linear. Like all professions, accounting has many career levels that future accountants can aspire to, including the public or private sector.

Although there are various accounting roles and job titles, they can be categorized in roughly three tiers, each with its own requirements, duties, and responsibilities:

1) Entry-level accounting jobs

2) Mid-level accounting jobs

3) Senior-level accounting jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many accounting and auditing positions, including certified professional accountants (CPA), require a bachelor's degree or higher. Students with an associate degree in accounting or a related profession, on the other hand, may be eligible for entry-level work. The below descriptions will show what each tier entails.

Employment of accountants projected to grow 7 percent in the next decade.

Entry-level Accounting Roles

Accounting positions often require a master's degree, but graduates with an associate degree may be suitable for certain entry-level positions. Most employees working in these positions will have up to 2 years of accounting experience. Some jobs in the entry-level accounting jobs category are:

1) Accounts payable/receivable specialist

2) Audit associate

3) Bookkeeper

4) Financial analyst

5) Junior accountant

6) Accounting clerk

Accounting clerks and assistants are found at the bottom of the accounting career structure. They support accountants in their everyday work by inputting data, processing accounts payable, processing payroll, and performing preliminary numbers-crunching on accounts payable and receivable.

Accountants and analysts are a level above them. Their responsibilities can include analysis, reporting, payroll, invoicing, accounts payables, receivables, and vendor qualification. Depending on the workload, these responsibilities are typically split among different people in larger organizations. In smaller businesses, a single accountant may be expected to handle all of these responsibilities.

Because much of the work performed by accountants, analysts, and their assistants involves data entry, invoicing, reporting, and payroll, it’s critical that hiring managers use pre-employment tests to screen applicants for the relevant skills. Candidates applying for one of the positions listed above should be assessed in attention to detail, typing and data entry skills, basic accounting skills, and Microsoft Excel skills.

Mid-level Accounting Roles

Accountants will need more experience to rise to mid-level roles. They are frequently promoted to a senior-level post after serving in a mid-level position for 2 to 8 years. This may be a rewarding time for accountants, as they develop proficiency in accounting procedures and begin to create opportunities for themselves in either the public or private sectors.

Jobs that belong to the mid-level accounting jobs category are:

1)     Accounting analyst

2)     Accounting manager

3)     Audit manager

4)     Cost accountant

5)     Finance manager

6)     Tax manager

Accounting managers are equal to mid-level business managers in the accounting career structure. An accounting manager's primary responsibilities include supervising accountants within a company. They prepare general ledgers, financial reports, annual audits, and budgets.

Accounting managers and staff accountants are responsible for a number of tasks, including general ledger maintenance, financial statement review, financial report preparation, audit and budgeting assistance, and account reconciliation. A great staff accountant should also have excellent communication, organizational, and analytical skills, so testing for those abilities is critical when hiring for this position.

Mid-level accountants with solid experience earned through entry-level jobs can have a chance of being promoted to senior-level roles. As mid-level accountants have people working over and below them, effective communication skills are a must. At the same time, being able to supervise and oversee all accounting processes is a required skill to have.

As it can be hard to know applicants’ true skills based on resumes and interviews, employers should consider testing for accounting knowledge skills, management aptitude, and supervisor aptitude skills to ensure that the correct applicant is hired for the job.

Senior-level Accounting Roles

When transitioning from a junior to a senior position, accountants must exhibit a professional understanding of accounting principles and familiarity with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), as well as the capacity to grasp business processes and strategies. Accountants must be very detail-oriented and organized, able to meet a steady stream of deadlines, and able to work both alone and collaboratively with different levels of staff to thrive in a senior accountant role.

Jobs that belong to the senior-level accounting jobs category are:

1)     Audit director

2)     Chief financial officer

3)     Controller

4)     Director of finance

5)     Senior accountant

6)     Vice president of accounting

Superior analytical and problem-solving abilities, as well as knowledge of accounting software, make it possible for senior-level accountants to take responsibility for reporting expenses, productivity, margins, and expenditures for businesses and organizations. Unlike junior accountants, they usually are not required to conduct administrative duties such as data collection, balance sheet population, or journal entry updating. Instead, this data gets delivered to them in the form of daily/weekly/monthly reports.

Senior accountants are expected to handle tasks such as financial reporting and reconciling.

Senior accountants undertake complicated accounting activities and financial analysis using their hands-on accounting expertise and an in-depth understanding of accounting principles and company practices. In some cases, senior accountants act as liaisons between junior accountants and accounting managers and directors, enforcing and monitoring adherence to company-wide accounting standards and processes.

It’s logical that senior-level roles have the hard skills needed for the position when transferring from one company to another. Nonetheless, hiring managers may potentially introduce pre-employment testing for soft skills to see if a candidate shares the same values that match the company culture.

As senior roles have the longest list of job requirements, employers should consider testing for management aptitude and supervisor aptitude. These are particularly important as senior-level positions come with different requirements that are not strictly related to hard skills like basic accounting skills. 

Being able to influence others, delegate work, and manage stress are often the primary attributes that differentiate a senior-level accountant from an entry-level accountant. In addition, senior-level employees often supervise their subordinates and motivate them to do a better job. 

Using supervisor aptitude tests for senior-level accountants can give hiring managers information on reliability, helping disposition, and the self-confidence of the potential candidates.

Test Smarter, Not Harder

Because an effective and experienced accounting team is critical to the success of any organization, there is a strong emphasis on making smart hiring decisions from the start. According to Dr. Bradford Smart's research, costly hiring mistakes can result from cost minimization efforts. A bad hire can cost a company 5 to 27 times their annual salary, but a good hire can offer a positive return on investment of up to 3 times annually.

Businesses have decided to use pre-employment testing for this very reason. Using pre-employment accounting tests, pre-employment math tests, or other pre-employment tests is an effective way to assess candidates' accounting and bookkeeping capabilities, as well as their management abilities. This helps hiring managers remain confident they are employing the right person. To ensure that the best possible prospect will be hired, applicants can be tested for professional success aptitude.

EmployTest provides a number of pre-employment tests to assist with adequately testing candidates for these critical skills.

For more information on the importance of pre-employment tests for accountants, check out our article "Accounting Skills Gap No Longer an Unlikely Possibility" - and contact us today for a free sample of our accounting skills test to learn more about what we offer.

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