There has no avoiding the economic downturn that has shaken our country’s business climate for the last couple of years. Some business sectors have been hit harder than others, of course—job and pay cuts, stagnancy in career paths and paychecks. And although CPAs and accounting has been able to withstand what other fields haven’t, those looking to careers in accounting still have some hurdles to clear.

The Journal of Accountancy is the 105-year-old publication of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The journal releases a quarterly report conducted by the AICPA and University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The 2nd quarter report bears interesting news for those of you looking to break into a financial organization. The survey covered private companies, public companies, government associations, non-profits, and more.

While nearly 66% of executives surveyed said they had no change in employee headcount over the last quarter, another 18% said they reduced headcount, but it did not affect the CPAs in their organizations. Unfortunately, only 5% reported an increase in employee headcount.

Before you get overwhelmed with numbers, the point is this: when you are interviewing for a CPA position you want to know what the companies are looking for. Here are the three top qualifications these executives are looking for when recruiting:

Financial Accounting & Reporting: Sounds obvious for CPAs, but that’s for a reason—financial reporting skills are still extremely important, even if it makes up for only a small amount of the finance organization’s workload.

Industry Experience: Having some experience in the industry goes a long way in the recruitment process. Internships are extremely valuable and can be gateways to full-time positions. If it doesn’t lead to a job, you have the experience to take to another firm.

Communication: This may come off as surprising, but having the necessary oral and verbal communications skills to interact successfully with clients and within your own organization is critical.

So keep polishing that resume and experience. Burchard & Associates can help match your experience and needs with the company that’s right for you. The industry certainly has obstacles to overcome, but CPAs are substantially more optimistic about their own company than the overall economy. Stay optimistic and keep striving towards that finish line!