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What Public Firms Are Looking for in New Accounting Graduates

Written on Feb 23, 2023
What Public Firms Are Looking for in New Accounting Graduates

               (Tima Miroshnichenko / pexels)

Excellent news for accounting majors — job prospects in the industry are keeping pace with the national average. Finding a job should be a breeze for soon-to-be graduates with an accounting degree.

Increasingly, employers are recognizing that accounting influences all aspects of business. As a result, skillful accountants have become indispensable at every point in every industry.

Working at a large firm can be particularly lucrative and fun. Accounting firms, like the Big Four, have reputations for being some of the best to work for. Public accountants enjoy considerable advantages, such as working in teams, honing a distinct skill set, steady advancements and company perks, like remote work.

Want to know what recruiters look for in accounting graduates? We have the top seven.

1. Plans to earn your CPA license

It’s not necessary to have your CPA license when you apply for a job. After all, it takes work experience to complete that process. However, most recruiters want to see that you are actively working toward it — like you’ve completed the 150 requisite academic hours or sat for as many portions of the exam as possible and can show your passing exam scores.

Often, accounting firms prefer new hires to finish their licensure within the first two years. Many even offer incentives or bonuses for reaching that goal within a specific time frame.

2. Dedication to education

A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, economics or business puts you ahead of applicants without it. Accounting and finance entry-level work experience, internships and an active membership subscription to an accounting society show your commitment to excellence within the industry and look impressive on a resume or in an interview.

3. Technology proficiency

Technology is vital in the accounting world. Most graduates are sufficiently competent in basic Excel, but today’s accountant does much more than document and report via spreadsheets. List additional competencies in Word, PowerPoint or Power BI to stand out on your resume.

Additionally, employers want to gauge how easily a job candidate will master company-specific software. List your experience with different technologies, tech classes and program certifications on your resume and in your interview to show them just how adaptable you are.

Data analysis and visualization skills are also a growing demand in the industry. Build up your resume with courses in these critical disciplines.

4. Competent communication

Because accountants are integral to all facets of business, today’s graduates need to write and speak confidently and effectively. They must be able to keep their team updated on a project’s status, speak professionally to clients or write proposals.

5. Diverse interests

Since accounting affects all aspects of business, it stands to reason that employers want their accountants to be well-rounded. Accountants should pursue various hobbies and interests so potential employers can see they are more than a one-trick pony.

Work experience outside the accounting industry counts, so don’t be afraid to list jobs unrelated to your academic field. If you can show that you signed up for more challenging electives in college, an employer will know that you are fully engaged in life and bring various experiences and skills to the table.

*Bonus tip: Speaking of being “fully engaged,” do your research on prospective employers before the interview so you have deeper awareness and understanding, extending beyond accounting duties, of the business you are applying for.

6. Collaborative qualities

The best accountants are team players and work well with others to meet goals within time constraints. Let potential employers know about your experience working with diverse people in various settings, whether in other jobs or volunteer opportunities.

7. Professional presentation

Employers start measuring your professionalism from the get-go, so ensure that your verbal and nonverbal communication convey what they are looking for. Use a well-formatted and consistent email template to submit your resumes and cover letters. Take an eye break and proofread before submitting applications or hitting ‘send’ on an email. Have a mentor or someone you trust review your resume before sending it.

Ensure your appearance and presence give the desired effect. Wear professional attire to job fairs and interviews.

Additionally, your attitude should be respectful and cooperative. Employers are looking for candidates with realistic expectations. When an interviewer asks where you see yourself in five years, state realistic goals and ambitions — show them you recognize that it takes time and hard work to develop the skills and experience necessary to reach higher positions.

Knowing ahead of time what employers and recruiters look for in a candidate puts you in a prime position to highlight desired qualities. Joining accounting membership organizations, like The Ohio Society of CPAs, shows your dedication to honing the right skills to become a leader in your field. Your membership not only looks excellent on resumes but also makes it easier to fulfill your CPA continuing education requirements, find a job, network, and so much more.


Graduates with an accounting degree should have no trouble finding a job as job prospects in the industry are keeping pace with the national average. Are you curious about what qualities recruiters seek in accounting graduates? Keep reading to explore the seven employment tips for new accounting graduates in this infographic.

7 Employment Tips for New Accounting Graduates Infographic



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