Accountants Can Be People People

In the March 14th edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Wallace Immen wrote the following under the title “Gaffes: Boneheaded ways to blow a job interview”:

Other interview-snuffing gaffes included: . . . An accountant who insisted she was a “people person” and not a “numbers person.”

To that unfortunate fellow accountant held up to public ridicule, I can only say: take heart, you are not alone. Yes, I understand the problem. The interview was for a technical position and the candidate was apparently denying that she could do the job. But looked at from a broader perspective, the accounting profession needs more people people, i.e. accountants who focus on getting the message across to other people. I agree that getting the numbers right is our first priority, but what good are accurate financial statements if their message is not understood by the organization’s stakeholders?

People people make good educators and communicators and we need more of them. We need people who can report bad news in such a way that it is believed and acted upon. We need people who can decipher complicated or fraudulent transactions so that a jury can understand them. We need financial planners to help people cope with the regulations surrounding retirement savings. In my field of accounting systems, we need good trainers, planners, implementers and project managers, all of which require excellent communications skills.

Finally, we need people who can put a human face on our profession so that the public can understand and trust us. The stereotype of the green eye shade wearing accountant working in isolation, creating statements that nobody understands, has just got to go.

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