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10 Qualities to look for in a Controller or Accounting Hire

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The office of a controller as well as those of the other senior management positions in a company is very crucial to the success of any business and so should be filled with a qualified person. Every new employee deserves significant training, but there are some traits you should look out for in a new accounting or controller hire. These qualities such as the technical accounting background as well as a few other personality traits are what we’ll be discussing in the parts below.

Technical Accounting Background

The position of a controller should be filled with someone with a solid accounting background. This should usually be the first thing to consider since the individual will be in charge of the accounting team of the company. Such an individual must have a strong knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). If the company under question is publicly traded, individuals to be considered for this position must have a good grasp of SEC reporting as well.

Leadership Quality

Managing the accounting sector in any firm is not an individual thing. It is usually a teamwork that requires a collective effort. For anyone who will manage and direct a team like this, such an individual must have the needed experience, talent, and skills to lead the team. Such person must have strong leadership capability to keep the team well-managed. The team needs to be engaged and members must feel valued. Only a controller with strong leadership qualities can manage a team with these demands.

Specific Industry Experience

Depending on the particular industry, individuals with a basic knowledge of the industry may prove better than one who is a complete novice in the field. Several industries such as healthcare companies, software companies, as well as non-profits often demand certain industry-specific knowledge and backgrounds. Prospective hires without a basic knowledge of these industries will be a hard fit.

Process Improvement Capability and Experience

The work of controllers goes way more than just accounting. Their services and expertise are required for the company to make several positive changes. In a continuous manner, they’ll always have to look for better ways to handle their responsibilities. They’ll have to proffer solutions to help things run more efficiently, smoother, and cost-effective. Individuals who would fill these posts are required to be creative individuals with excellent problem-solving skills. Additionally, they must have been able to perform this elsewhere to guarantee the possibility of replicating the same feat in their new firm.

Listening Skills

This is more or less some of the qualities of a good leader. Your new accounting or controller hire must have excellent listening skills. This will influence the way they relate with stakeholders as well as co-workers with them on the team. Do you find the new hire interrupting or talking over you in the interview? Chances are high they’ll be doing the same with coworkers or other clients.

Drive and enthusiasm


A great work commitment and a strong work ethic are two things CFOs want their controllers to have. The best controllers are enthusiastic and energetic. They are positively motivated and able to take as much as they can. Candidates for this position need to be bright and eager to commit their best towards achieving success with the company both on an individual and team level.

Knowledge and understanding of accounting systems

Controllers are required to have a good grasp of accounting systems to handle day-to-day management. They need to understand payroll software, Quickbooks online or Xero. Companies are usually looking for individuals with a sound knowledge of Excel as well as some of the related ERP systems. At times when companies are in the process of changing or upgrading their accounting systems, controllers are needed to be fully involved in the processes of selection, testing, and then implementation. In this case, it will be difficult for a controller without a sound knowledge of these systems to effectively manage these processes as well as all of the people involved.

Credible references

A thorough check of references will go a long way to either solidify your belief in the candidate’s ability or raise some questions about it too. Even when the candidate seems the best fit, most companies would still go ahead to conduct thorough reference checks. These would often include questions about the candidate’s technical ability, their work ethic, reliability as well as a few other things. In all cases, this would influence whether to seal the deal or look further.

Enthusiasm and desire to continue learning

We live in a world where businesses cannot afford to remain rigid. Continuous learning will go a long way to enhance leadership and technical skills. Candidates who are CPAs must show a willingness to maintain their certification with continuing professional education courses (CPE Credits). The organization on its own part must also create an enabling environment for this in terms of time and resources. Along with meeting other qualifications and certifications, candidates showing a strong enthusiasm to continue learning would mostly be preferred for the demanding post of accounting controllers.

Personality Traits

Along with technical skills, companies would also keep an eye on what soft skills and intangible personality traits an individual under consideration for the position of a controller possesses. Is the individual composed, polished and able to present themselves in a professional way? Although these may seem intangible, these personality traits can influence the way such individuals would relate with the internal board as they also would with auditors, bankers, and other external bodies.

All of these ten qualities as well as a few others are usually considered by companies who are looking for qualified hands to fill the shoes when it’s time for a new accounting or controller hire. The controller’s role in accounting encompasses all of the basic accounting processes as well as some special analyses.

Along with having the necessary qualifications and certifications, the individual who must fill this position should have all it takes to efficiently manage a team. All of these qualities are the different recipes a company as well as their new accounting or controller hire will need for success and tangible growth.

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