Companies are complaining that they can’t find finance and accounting talent, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find a job easily in finance and related fields in 2012. Companies with finance jobs, accounting jobs and banking jobs were very picky about whom they hired in 2011 -- a job outlook trend executive recruiters say is likely to continue in 2012.
Hiring managers’ lengthy lists of must-haves for finance, accounting and financial services job seekers often include experience in the same industry, a track record of working with the organization’s software and specific skill sets.
However, finance candidates who tick off all the boxes for hiring managers are seeing multiple job offers and counteroffers, says John Ruffini, national practice director for permanent placement for recruiter The Mergis Group in Fort Lauderdale.
For those who don’t have the whole package as well as those currently without work, 2012 isn’t looking so hot. Many employers continue to show a preference for recruiting candidates for finance, accounting or financial services jobs away from other companies, rather than hiring unemployed professionals who are seen as having rusty skills.
To overcome that bias if you’re unemployed, seek project or contract work to keep your skills fresh, says Ryan Sutton, a senior vice president for Robert Half International’s New England division.
Hot Skills for 2012
The people most likely to be successful in landing a finance, accounting or financial services job in 2012 include:
Banking Job Market Mixed
- Financial analysts who combine strategic vision with cost-monitoring and presentation skills. “We see 4 percent salary increases across the board for financial and business analysts and senior accountants,” Sutton says.
- Business analysts with IT slants like experience with ERP and financial accounting systems. “It’s a combination that’s about as recession-proof as you can get,” Ruffini says.
- Compliance pros, especially those who’ve worked under the Basel credit standards and are familiar with the Dodd-Frank banking legislation. They should see raises of 5 percent to 8 percent in 2012, Sutton predicts.
- Senior public accountants specializing in forensic accounting, financial planning or taxes as well as accountants with advanced degrees, says James Metzler, vice president of small-firm interests for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
- Legal professionals who can help banks fight lawsuits filed by consumers and regulators in the wake of the financial crisis, says Sam Garcia, publisher of MortgageDaily.com.
The job market was uneven at the end of 2011, with Bank of America laying off thousands, while JP Morgan was hiring. “Any of the growth is in small companies hiring 100 or less,” Garcia says.
Companies that specialize in servicing defaulted mortgages will continue to offer banking jobs in 2012, as foreclosures move through the market. On the production side, if low interest rates continue into 2012, mortgage banking jobs will be created for loan originators, loan processors, underwriters and closers, Garcia adds.
Public Accounting Is Back
Small and mid-sized public accounting firms made big cuts during the recession, driving many accounting jobs to the corporate sector, Metzler says. Now, public accounting firms are looking to upgrade their staff, creating openings in higher-level accounting jobs.
They’re promoting from within and recruiting from other firms, Metzler says. “Forensic accounting, financial planning and taxes are really hot as the government continues to ratchet up the complexity of the tax code,” he says.
Hiring is robust at the big public accounting firms, where experts in international financial reporting standards are particularly in demand, he says.
Position Yourself for Success
Unless the economy suddenly picks up, you’ll need to manage your finance career carefully to avoid missteps in 2012. If you or your company starts to stagnate or you sense layoffs are coming, make a move sooner rather than later, to make sure you remain as marketable as possible.
If you’re sticking with your current job, make sure you stay at the forefront of changes within your industry. “Go back to school, and continue to be flexible about learning the skills your organization needs,” Sutton says.
If you’re not growing in your current finance position, take control of the situation by voicing your concerns with your manager. “If they’re not able to provide the growth you need to remain marketable, you need to move elsewhere because the market isn’t going to slow down,” Ruffini says.
Learn more about finance careers.