3 Skills for Project Management in Public Accounting Jobs

dominoes lined up, view from above - Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

A recent survey of B2B firms in six different industry groups revealed that high-growth firms value project management as the top skill among new hires. Investment in operational software is also happening more rapidly at high-growth firms to create efficiencies among smaller project teams.

How can you be a more attractive candidate for high-growth, public accounting firms? Emphasize these three project management skills. Then talk about using these skills along with operational technology.

Work on your communication skills

Communication skills are highly desired in a project manager. It’s how you communicate that will matter most. You may work with highly sensitive people (HSP), people of various generations or people in which English is their second language. To excel in communication, get to know the preferences and frequency of communication within your team…and among your clients.

When seeking a role that will involve project management, practice answering this potential interview question: How will you ensure that everyone on your team feels respected and heard when you are managing a project? And: What tools will you use to accomplish that goal?

Here are some guidelines to get started:

  • Respond to emails within a couple hours, even to say that you are working on the question
  • Discuss chat or texting preferences with team members and clients
  • Invest in or use a chat tool to keep conversations out of your email inbox and preserve them for later.
  • When the question is confusing, call the person for clarity. It’s ok to use a phone!

Practice and model adaptability

We live in times of rapid information and rapid change. One minute you are using a certain software, and the next you are considering alternatives. Just when you get used to the team, someone gets promoted. Client priorities also shift with the economy, succession or new tax laws.

Adaptability means that you are coachable, you are continuously learning, and you can own your mistakes along the way. To discuss adaptability in your job interview, practice answering this question: How will you help your team navigate a change in project priorities? And: Is there a process that you have found helpful?

Here are some guidelines to get started:

  • When your day changes unexpectedly, reconnect with your breathing
  • Practice affirmations such as: We can handle this and One step at a time
  • Seek support from other team members, consultants or mentors to objectively walk you through a plan

Refine your time management

Because most accounting firms are still focused on the billable hour, it means that your time is money. Besides, you should value your own time. Try to be as efficient as possible at work while communicating well and adapting to changes (it’s all connected!).

Most firms have a time tracking tool built into the customer relationship management tool and/or client billing software. First of all, use it, but also adapt it to your personal needs. To discuss how you will effectively manage your time and the time of team members, practice answering this question: How do you prioritize client projects and internal projects for efficiency? And: What is your approach to delegation?

Here are some guidelines to get started:

  • Don’t let time tracking software derail you. To avoid distraction or anxiety, hide the counter from view until you are ready for a break.
  • To reduce procrastination on big projects, add your own reminders and notes to the project management tool as baby steps that are easier to accomplish toward the goal.
  • When team members struggle with time management, share your ideas and processes that they can adapt.

Create a fun work environment

You may have these project management skills covered well, but there is always room for improvement.

Project managers are often the main reason that team members stay with a firm or leave it. Keep in mind that you are managing people as well as projects and processes. Build fun breaks and recognition into your team interactions. Let your team know that you care.

See Career opportunities at LvHJ
Related: 12 steps for affordable housing accounting promotions

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