Monday, March 24, 2008

Wanted: People People

Hiring managers and career experts often stress how essential communication skills are for advancement in accounting and finance. So, can it be a blunder to assert in a job interview that you're a "people person" and not a "numbers person"?

Bill Kennedy posed that question recently in his "Energized Accounting" blog on AccountingWeb. His starting point was a March 14 Toronto Globe and Mail story that ran down a list of "boneheaded" interview gaffes. One of them was "An accountant who insisted she was a 'people person' and not a 'numbers person.'"

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, in Kennedy's view – or ours. Of course, any accountant's first responsibility is getting the numbers right. But the idea that a "people person" accountant is a square peg in a round hole, strikes us as an outgrowth of the outdated stereotype of accountants as green-eyeshade types who churn out obscure reports and don't influence an organization's broad mission or strategy.

Kennedy writes:

Looked at from a broader perspective, the accounting profession needs more people people, i.e. accountants who focus on getting the message across to other people. I agree that getting the numbers right is our first priority, but what good are accurate financial statements if their message is not understood by the organization’s stakeholders?

Even in a highly technical area like accounting systems (Kennedy's own specialty), "we need good trainers, planners, implementers and project managers, all of which require excellent communications skills," he notes.

Accountants can be People People [AccountingWeb]

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