Many employers are having trouble finding strong candidates for jobs vacated by retiring baby boomers. The jobs require, on average, more than seven years of experience, and some employers can't fathom replacing an employee who may have 20-plus years of experience in the field with someone who has only five. If your financial-career goals include a big paycheck and the prestige of working for a high-profile Wall Street firm, then you'll need to learn how to meet employers' expectations.

The positions that some financial recruiters have identified as the hardest and most competitive to fill include controllers (including hedge fund controllers), tax managers, fund and senior-level accountants and valuation analysts. Let's explore the responsibilities of each of these positions as well as what employers are looking for in potential candidates for these roles.

1. Controllers

Controllers keep the company's financial planning, debt financing and budget management organized. They set financial rules, including choosing accounting methods and making sure that generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are followed. Controllers work for banks, corporations and governments. They motivate their teams from time to time and make sure they produce quality work within set time periods.

A controller's education requires a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in finance or accounting. It also requires a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. Further, most employers like controller job candidates to have five to 10 years of experience in senior-level finance or accounting positions.

One specialized type of controller is the hedge fund controller. This position is difficult to attain, according to some recruiters, because it requires eight to 10 years of experience working with larger funds. Additionally, the job seeker must have exposure working in distressed debt.

2. Tax Managers

Tax managers oversee tax reporting and planning. They make sure tax returns are completed and accurate in order to reduce the tax obligations of an organization. Tax managers must also ensure that their companies adhere to federal, state, local and international tax laws.

A senior-level tax manager position also calls for a CPA designation and an MBA with a concentration in accounting or taxation.

Most employers prefer at least five years of experience, but senior positions typically require seven years in the field with experience in public and corporate environments. John Gramer, Managing Director of The Mergis Group in New York City, has found that tax managers are hard to recruit because some are adverse to making changes. The key to success, he suggests, is specialization in the field.

3. Fund and Senior-Level Accountants

Accountants examine financial trends, operations and costs. They analyze financial reports to keep a close eye on the state of the organization's assets, liabilities, profits and losses, taxes owed and financial activities.

Managers are looking for people who have accounting degrees in addition to a minimum of two to five years of work experience, and preferably a CPA, but most people aren't meeting these qualifications says Mark Sterling, a spokesman for Manpower.

The most competitive positions in accounting include accountant managers, senior accountants and fund accountant managers of private equity funds, according to recruiters. Some employers want fund accountant managers to have between three and five years of experience with private equity firms, investment banks and hedge funds, explains John Gramer, Managing Director of Mergis Group NYC. In addition, he says that most of these accountants come out of public accounting.

4. Valuation Analysts

Business valuation analysts determine the value of a business enterprise or the ownership's interest (for example, when a business is bought or sold). The analyst must have a good understanding of accounting, taxes, economics and finance.

Analysts need to have a CPA in order to become certified.

Qualifications for this position include a strong mathematical background, says Gramer. He advises applicants to wait for long-term growth opportunities.

Tips for Landing the Job
Role-specific competency is among financial employers' list of must-haves. Believe it or not, a strong educational background is not their main focus. Employers desire sufficient and specific real-world experience. They are also looking for candidates who've mastered "soft skills," such as the capability to communicate well and translate industry jargon.

For these high-level positions, companies have the money to pay salaries ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. With such large amounts of money at stake, they must cautiously assess candidates on talent and skill. Bolster your chances of landing the job by following these three tips:

  1. Network - Job seekers may have trouble finding openings for a few of these senior-level positions, which aren't necessarily advertised in newspapers. The best way to locate them is through networking. Recruiters advise attending industry-related events, joining industry organizations and logging on to social networking sites.
  2. Attain advanced educational and professional credentials - Many of the jobs require a CPA or other industry-recognized accreditation. Also, remember that your education does not end when you get a degree - it's key to stay abreast of changes and technological advancements within the industry.
  3. Develop "soft skills" - These positions require leadership and strong communication skills. Practice now by joining local volunteer organizations and taking on roles that enable you to lead and work in a team environment. Look for opportunities to develop and enhance your speaking and presentation skills by joining a speech club or taking a class.

The Bottom Line
Strategic thinking, outstanding communication and industry-specific skills will ultimately help you to not only get the coveted position, but also to succeed once the job is yours.

Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    Which Financial Careers Pay The Most?

    There are many job that can be considered "working in finance" but some definitely pay more than others.
  2. Professionals

    Financial Careers Without A College Degree

    Credentials like on-the-job experience and licenses can be much more important for some financial careers.
  3. Professionals

    Financial Careers With Excellent Salaries

    There are many lucrative career paths a person with an interest in finance can explore.
  4. Options & Futures

    6 Steps To Successfully Switching Financial Careers

    Save time and money by following these tips to a smooth career transition.
  5. Professionals

    Government Financial Careers: What To Expect

    Government careers paths can offer you the variety of the private sector with added job security and benefits.
  6. Professionals

    Career Advice: Financial Analyst Vs. Financial Adviser

    Read an in-depth review of the differences between a career as a financial Adviser versus a career as a Financial Analyst, including how to decide which is best.
  7. Economics

    The 10 Best Tech Jobs

    Discover the 10 best tech jobs, based on job demand and salary.
  8. Personal Finance

    Five Things To Avoid at Your Next Interview

    Do you have an interview coming up? Avoid these five mistakes and leave a lasting impression on your potential employer.
  9. Professionals

    How to Ace the CFA Level I Exam

    Prepare to ace the CFA Level 1 exam by studying systematically.
  10. Professionals

    How Hard Is a Career Selling Life Insurance?

    Learn why selling life insurance is a difficult way to make a living, but also how agents who persevere are rewarded down the road with a strong passive income.
  1. Do dividends affect working capital?

    Regardless of whether cash dividends are paid or accrued, a company's working capital is reduced. When cash dividends are ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do prepayments provide working capital?

    Prepayments, or prepaid expenses, are typically included in the current assets on a company's balance sheet, as they represent ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does working capital include salaries?

    A company accrues unpaid salaries on its balance sheet as part of accounts payable, which is a current liability account, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What do hedge fund analysts do?

    A hedge fund analyst primarily provides support to a portfolio manager on how to best structure the hedge fund's investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do financial advisors have to find their own clients?

    Nearly all financial advisors, particularly when new to the field, have to find their own clients. An employer may provide ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do financial advisors get drug tested?

    Financial advisors are not drug tested by any federal or state regulatory body. This means you may receive your Series 6, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Ex Works (EXW)

    An international trade term requiring the seller to make goods ready for pickup at his or her own place of business. All ...
  2. Letter of Intent - LOI

    A document outlining the terms of an agreement before it is finalized. LOIs are usually not legally binding in their entirety. ...
  3. Purchasing Power

    The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing ...
  4. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  5. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  6. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!