What Skills are Required for a Successful Career in Accounts Payable?
by Jamie Radford
This is a question that has been asked many, many times and it is usually difficult to clarify if not postulating the skills for a specific job role within the industry… This post is rather about the skills one requires for the industry as a whole, whether you are considering stepping into the AP industry in a junior Accounts Payable Technician role or if you’re looking to move into management. A team leader or management role is, of course, going to come with additional required skills but, overall, they will mostly be the same skills, just honed to a higher degree in each instance.
Industry-wide, AP professionals on any tier of their AP journey will need:
Attention to Detail
High level of accuracy and the ability to be detail-oriented. Even a small error can mean big problems!
Superior Organisation Skills
On a daily basis, AP professionals will be dealing with a large amount of documentation, so they need to be able to organise this and prioritise accordingly.
Ability to Work with Sometimes-Complex Spreadsheets
Spreadsheets go hand in hand with accounts payable and they always will. An in-depth understanding of Excel or other spreadsheet software is a must to succeed in this industry.
Ability to Grasp New Programs and Accounting Software
The ability to grasp these with relative ease is high on the list of much-needed skills. A decent aptitude for learning these is crucial in the industry.
Basic Bookkeeping Skills
Basic bookkeeping knowledge is the cornerstone of any AP role – no getting away from it!
Good Knowledge of Accounts Payable Principles
Without a broad knowledge of AP principles, you are going to find yourself floundering in any AP role.
Talent for Numerical Coding
With the amount of numerical coding required in AP jobs, especially entry level and technician roles, an eye for detail amongst all these codes is important.
A Knack for Numbers
This is probably an obvious one, but it is the foundation skill for any finance job.
Understanding of accounting concepts
This goes alongside a broad knowledge of accounts payable principles but expands on it.
The ability to negotiate with suppliers makes an AP professional’s job a lot easier.
Data Entry Skills
Entering vast amounts of data correctly into AP software is a required skill and there is no room for error otherwise beware of the knock-on effect!
A Sense of Responsibility
Taking responsibility in one’s job is a required skill in many industries, but especially so within accounts payable. Each person is responsible for their workload and their part to play in the larger whole. If tasks and other responsibilities are left to fall by the wayside, it’s going to affect more than just one person’s role.
Ability to Prioritise
According to payment due dates, the amounts of invoices and numerous other factors. AP professionals need to be able to prioritise all these and more.
Be a Team Worker
Teamwork. How often do we hear this? And how often do employers ask this at an interview: “Are you a team player?” Teamwork is an absolute must in the AP industry.
Possibly a really obvious one but it has to be mentioned here. Communication with other team members to establish correct record-keeping procedures and collaborating on tasks in an environment like accounts payable is yet another piece of the puzzle to doing well in your AP job.
If you have good communication skills, you’ll usually be good at building a rapport with others. Building rapport – and relationships – with suppliers can go a very long way in making your daily tasks run smoothly.
All of these skills are clearly valuable in various other careers and industries, however within AP they are not just valuable – they could be the difference between securing a job and not even receiving an invitation to interview.
The majority of these skills would need to clearly demonstrated though, because being able to show that you possess them within your CV and / or cover letter can be key to being noticed for any AP role.
Some of the skills are implied rather than spelled out on CVs or within job descriptions, and the ability to demonstrate that these actually form part of your personality and skillset will set you apart from other competing candidates.
Just don’t be shy to talk about scenarios where you can show these skills in practice in order to drive home the fact that you can spot errors a mile away, have an outstanding memory for numbers or are above average when it comes to your knowledge of general accounting principles, for example!