The Skills Not Tested on the CPA Exam

by Joseph Hunt, Sobel & Co., LLC | October 25, 2018

The CPA Exam is a uniform test that measures our technical skills, but excelling in the accounting profession requires an additional set of skills that cannot be measured by a test. These are the soft skills that cannot be seen that will help you build strong relationships with clients and enable you to lead those with whom you work. These are just as important technical skills, and here's why:

  • Building long-lasting relationships: Of course there will always be people who are only concerned with the tangible work product you produce, but human biology tells us a greater percentage of people want more from their accountant. For many, a personal relationship with their professional is what they are looking for. A strong relationship will actually result in a strong sense of loyalty and trust, something that must be present in any business partnership. A friend of mine recently recited a quote from a prospective client who said, “I’m sorry, but no matter how low the price, I am going to continue working with my current service provider.” This unbreakable bond between client and professional is the result of both parties trusting each other. The inability to build a strong relationship will only limit you in multiple ways throughout your career.
  • Being an effective leader: A leader’s soft skills will actually mirror how someone describes them. “They communicate well, they make me feel like a part of the team, they inspire me.” Therefore, it would make sense that it is a requirement that you must be able to communicate, include and inspire the people you work with, among other things. These intangible skills are what makes leaders different from whom they lead. The next leaders in every firm are going to be those who inspire the people they work with.

At their core, soft skills require an individual to be in tune with their emotions and the emotions of the people they are working with. Trust and loyalty are not tangible skills we can practice, rather they are emotional reactions from the bond you’ve created. Feeling inspired and being a part of a team is an emotional feeling as well. It is those soft skills that differentiate an accountant from a leader who is a trusted business advisor.


Joseph F. Hunt

Joseph F. Hunt

Joseph Hunt, CPA, PSA, is an assurance senior at CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP). He is a member of the NJCPA Emerging Leaders Council and the Finance Committee at The Salvation Army. He can be reached at

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