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Accountancy firms are putting more emphasis on communication skills than ever before.

More than three-quarters of (76%) of accountancy jobs advertised today demand candidates who can demonstrate strong soft skills, according to research from accountancy recruiter Randstad Financial & Professional.

It found that almost half (48%) of all accountancy listings on its website include references to excellent communication and listening skills while the ability to build and maintain strong relationships were demanded by 44% of employers.

A third of those listed mention management and strategic leadership skill, while a quarter require the ability to work under pressure (24%) and sales acumen.

“The soft skills in the highest demand are, possibly, not the ones we might expect. While we might imagine managerial and leadership skills would be the most popular with big professional services firms, for instance, the ability to communicate effectively is actually their top priority. Clearly, strategic leadership is important – a trait that the Big Four will look for in all of their A-players – it’s communication and listening that everyone needs to demonstrate at the moment,” said Tara Ricks, managing director of Randstad Financial & Professional.

“We’re also seeing a growing demand for people who can collaborate. At the moment, only 3% of employers are insisting on accountants who can demonstrate that they are willing and able to collaborate with different teams. But as silo working falls by the wayside this will become the soft skill of the future.”

A recent report suggested soft skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy, with this figure expected to rise to £109bn within the next five years.

Raymond Doherty

Originally published in Economia, March 2015.