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Accounting Candidates and the Importance of Active Listening

When seeking to fill an accounting position, our clients have a fairly set and predictable series of criteria for candidates - and with good reason. Unlike other jobs in the professional services industries, accountants follow strictly defined procedures and processes. However, I have noticed an increase in the number of employers who are looking for their accounting candidates of all levels to not only be skilled with numbers, but also communications. The one communication skill that is really growing in popularity is active listening.

Active listening is a soft skill that as its name suggests, means listening with true intent to learn and really hear what the speaker is conveying. Employers are placing a greater emphasis on accountants, analysts and financial service consultants that can understand and capture all of what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. If you think about it, we are all a little guilty of being a passive listener at times. Someone starts a conversation and your mind races ahead to what you think they are going to say, or to what you plan to say next. Research shows that this is especially common in professionals like accountants who are process driven. Active listening takes practice and patience, a conscious effort to hear not only the words, but to understand the complete message and meaning.

Active listeners remain neutral and non-judgmental, not taking sides nor forming opinions, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is about patience. Sometimes a speaker pauses because they are deep in thought, resist the temptation to jump in and finish their sentence for them. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and ideas, they should be given time for that. Active listening not only means focusing fully on the speaker, but also actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening. Generally, speakers want listeners to demonstrate ‘active listening’ by responding appropriately to what they are saying. Responses employers should look for in a candidate include:

Let’s face it, every employer is looking for a candidate who is a skilled accounting/finance professional, but it’s often the intangible skills that seal the deal.

When people talk,  listen completely.
Most people never listen.
~ Ernest Hemingway