If you work in corporate accounting and are thinking of changing jobs, perhaps you may have concerns about the current state of the job market, e.g., do I have the necessary skillset(s), what is demand for accountants, who is paying the highest salaries, what are the best available perks and benefits, etc.
In this article, we outline the current state of the job market for corporate accounting and discuss the skills and/or qualifications required for changing jobs in today’s market.
Why is there such high demand for corporate accounting roles?
In the corporate accounting sector, the job market has remained strong since the first half of 2021. Driven by the state of society and technological innovations, the skills that companies demand for corporate accounting are slowly starting to change, intensifying the competition for human resources. Specifically, let’s review the largest market drivers in detail:
Corporate accounting operations remain indispensable for all organizations
If a company posts great results, then it may increase its workforce to expand its capabilities and reach; but if a company’s results are poor, it will likely downsize sale and support functions, not the corporate accounting department. Corporate accounting is a field in which both expertise and experience are highly valued, and if a company has vacant posts, it will invariably seek to fill them—for this reason, there is year-round demand for corporate accounting personnel.
Market shifts toward recruiting for experience, not potential
In recent years, the job market has been characterized by a shift from recruiting for potential to recruiting for experience. Companies seeking to improve their performance in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic do not have the time or money to invest in nurturing inexperienced candidates. Instead, these companies are looking for experienced specialists who can have an immediate impact on their operations.
As advances are made in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA), demand is expected to fall for corporate accounting personnel who can only carry out simple tasks; companies will instead focus on personnel who possess unique skillsets. Global companies, for example, will likely demand personnel with knowledge of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Indeed, the market value of candidates who possess skillsets that cannot easily be replaced by AI or RPA is increasing significantly—examples include business analysis skills, management strategy planning, knowledge of global corporate accounting standards, and linguistic abilities.
What are the differences between “business management,” “finance,” and “accounting” positions?
Companies in Japan tend to mix what are called “keiri (business management),” “zaimu (finance),” and “kaikei (accounting).” Nevertheless, there are clear differences between the three.
The biggest difference is what aspects of a business they manage. Business management looks at past expenses; finance looks at future expenses; while corporate accounting looks at the funds of the entire company.
The Japanese word for “business management” is “keiri,” which is an abbreviation of “keiei kanri.” As the name suggests, “keiri” is concerned with managing the daily monetary incomings and outgoings of a company, as well as drawing up financial statements—in fact, anything to do with a company’s business-related funds.
Concrete examples of business management work processes include the following:
- Processing sales and purchases
- Managing accounts receivable and accounts payable
- Issuing invoices and receipts
- Managing cash, deposits, checks, and drafts
- Journalizing expenses
- Settling accounts
In contrast, “finance” is a field that makes plans for and actually executes the funding required by a company for the future; as such, its core responsibilities include formulating and managing budgets, procuring funds, and managing assets.
Finally, “accounting” involves understanding the flow of a company’s entire funds, and also comprises interacting with third parties, such as via information disclosure and tax affairs. Many of the responsibilities of corporate accounting and business management overlap—in fact, business management can be thought of as a subset of accounting. For this reason, it is rare for companies to have a separate “accounting” department.
Broadly speaking, corporate accounting is responsible for overall management; business management is responsible for everyday management. It is worth noting that some companies outsource their settling of accounts and other major tasks to third-party corporate accounting firms.
The business management department carries out sales processing and financial statement drafting; based on this, the finance department then formulates budgets and manages budget performance; for this reason, these two departments are closely interlinked. In small and medium-size enterprises, it is common for a single department to carry out both corporate accounting and business management tasks, and even for the same department to carry out finance tasks as well.
What experience, skills, and qualifications are beneficial for job seekers?
Companies typically seek to recruit corporate accounting personnel who can have an immediate impact on their business. As such, they tend to prioritize previous job experience and existing skills. If a candidate has abundant experience in settling accounts or in a specific industry, this can be an extremely advantageous point of difference.
In order to appear more attractive to prospective employers, candidates with little or no experience should seek to stand out by acquiring qualifications or enhancing their non-corporate accounting skills.
Recruiting companies place great importance on a candidate’s hands-on experience, with a minimum of two years’ hands-on experience widely preferred. As companies increasingly move away from recruiting for potential to recruiting for experience, so hands-on experience is becoming ever-more meaningful.
However, candidates must be aware of a potential pitfall: is their previous experience suited to the work processes required by their prospective new employer? For example, a candidate who is vastly skilled in a limited field of work may not be able to cope at a company that requires them to take responsibility for a wide range of tasks. When changing jobs, therefore, a candidate should apply to companies that match the experience they possess. On the other hand, companies will often not care whether a candidate’s previous role was in their own industry or not.
Depending on the particular post that a company is recruiting for, the required level and breadth of skill will vary hugely—from basic skills such as slip processing, to advanced skills such as settling of accounts and knowledge of global accounting. Candidates who have experience operating Excel or the corporate accounting system used by the recruiting company will be at an advantage.
Regardless of the position being recruited for, companies will place a high priority on communication skills. Typically speaking, in-house corporate accounting is not a single-person but a team operation. Consequently, communication skills are vital to ensure the team can readily establish a shared understanding.
The corporate accounting department is also frequently required to interact with other company departments; recruiters therefore place a premium on interpersonal skills that enable candidates to accurately communicate necessary information to their non-corporate accounting colleagues.
For a managerial position, it goes without saying that managerial skills are essential. Managerial candidates must also have the ability to grasp the overall picture from both a financial and an interpersonal aspect. At companies that have dealings overseas, candidates with English language skills will be highly sought after.
There are many accounting-related qualifications. Some of the more important qualifications for establishing successful careers are outlined below:
The Official Business Skill Test in Book-keeping
Operated by the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, this is one of the better-known tests. Companies will regard candidates who have passed Grade 2 as capable, while those with Grade 1 will be looked upon even more favorably.
Certified Public Accountant
All companies will regard a candidate who possesses this national qualification for audits and corporate accounting as an corporate accounting professional. While examinations are open to all, they are as difficult to pass as those for doctors or lawyers.
Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)
For companies that require their employees to speak English, candidates who can point to high TOEIC scores will be in demand. While companies vary in what they consider to be a good score, the majority will view scores of 700 or higher in a positive light.
There are many other qualifications in addition to those listed above. Acquiring qualifications in demand by companies in their target industry is a positive step for candidates serious about changing jobs.
The Robert Half salary guide provides indicative salaries for corporate accounting positions, and is available to view free of charge at the link below:
Demand for jobs in corporate accounting positions remains high, and it continues to be a seller’s market. However, the type of candidate that companies are looking for is gradually changing, with more and more companies now seeking candidates who, in addition to traditional corporate accounting skills, have other strings to their bow.
For a job seeker, identifying companies capable of fully utilizing their potential is of great importance. At Robert Half, we can match you to companies appropriate to your unique level and breadth of skill. If you have any questions related to seeking corporate accounting department jobs, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Half.
You can view all our currently available corporate accounting and finance jobs at the following page: