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How to Hire the Right Accounting Candidate Versus the “Best” One


Aug 6, 2020
The Case for Emotional Intelligence Testing in the Accounting Profession


Have you ever hired someone who seemed like the perfect candidate but within the first few months it became clear that they weren’t going to work out? Maybe they had an impressive degree from a top tier university, exceptional accomplishments on their resume, and they passed the CPA exam on the first try. But then once they were hired, they weren’t able to work well with others, or they weren’t very self-aware, or they weren’t able to cope with normal challenges that would come up in the workplace.

Alternatively, have you ever hired someone with a less impressive degree, fewer academic accomplishments, or inferior technical skills who then went on to be more successful within the company. Maybe that person was promoted faster, given more responsibility, or able to lead a team. The difference between the two candidates may have come down to their level of emotional intelligence (or EQi).

“The tasks and skills that are required of accounting practitioners in today’s global business environment have changed significantly since the early 1990s. No longer are accounting practitioners required merely to undertake the tasks necessary for information provision, such as bookkeeping, data analysis and tax preparation. Instead, their extended roles, which include information facilitation and strategic analysis, place a greater emphasis on inter-personal communication, thus repositioning accountants as knowledge professionals rather than accounting technicians.”[1]

EQi—a person's ability to recognize, understand and manage their emotions, as well as the ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others—has been proven to account for 50-60% of overall job success. While intellectual intelligence (IQ) may be more notable on a resume, EQi includes a set of soft skills which can actually be more important to a candidate’s long-term success.

Someone with high EQi has strong self-awareness and is able to cope with the challenges they face. They are able to express their thoughts clearly and use emotional information in a way that is effective and meaningful. And they are able to develop and maintain healthy social relationships. In the workplace, a person with high EQi is aware of how their emotions drive their own behaviors and impact the people they work with. They tend to work better with others, manage clients more efficiently, and help foster a welcoming and accepting company culture.

As the industry evolves, building a team of emotionally intelligent accountants will surely give you an edge over your competition. If you want to ensure that you are hiring the right person for the job, not just the candidate with the most impressive resume, it’s critical to screen for EQi during the interview process. If you want to learn more about the importance of emotional intelligence, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

For more of our hiring tips, download our free Hiring Guide.

[1] Jones, Greg and Abraham, Anne, The Value of Incorporating Emotional Intelligence Skills in the Education of Accounting Students, Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal, 3(2), 2009.


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Jody Grunden
About the Author

About Jody Grunden

Jody Grunden is the Co-Founder and CEO of Summit CPA Group, the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services. He started Summit CPA Group in 2002, bringing more than 23 years of public and corporate accounting leadership, tax expertise, and executive management experience to his role with the company. Grunden is the author of Building the Virtual CFO Firm in the Cloud and a member of the Forbes Finance Council, American Institute of Public Accountants (AICPA), and the Indiana CPA Society.