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How To Hire A Chief Accountant


Large companies are often subjected to field audits; therefore one of the primary objectives of an accountant in such a company is interaction with the tax authorities. In addition, the chief accountant performs the following tasks:

  • supervision over preparation of accounting and tax reporting;
  • supervision of subordinates;
  • tax planning.

An ideal candidate must be well-versed in Russian accounting and tax reporting, combining deep professional knowledge with developed management skills. The most essential requirements for a position of this level are:

  1. Higher education
  2. At least 5 years of professional experience in a position of chief accountant, deputy chief accountant or director of tax department. A qualified specialist may also have experience with working with audit or outsourcing structures.
  3. Comparability of the previous and potential place of employment. A candidate who managed an accounting department of three people in a small enterprise with staff of 50 people may experience significant difficulties heading accounting department of 100 people of a multi-thousand factory. Work experience in a field related to the potential employer is also an advantage.
  4. Management experience of at least 1-2 years. We would like to emphasize once again that a chief accountant is not only a financial expert, but also a manager and one of company’s executive officers. The accounting department of a large company is one of the largest departments and it is impossible to tailor its activity without a relevant work experience and leadership charisma.
  5. A firm grasp of modern information technologies. A chief accountant must have working knowledge of MS Office applications (Word, Excel, Internet), email, legal databases (Garant, ConsultantPlus). Without a doubt, one primary factor is a working knowledge of specialized accounting software (1C, Инфо-Бухгалтер, Турбо Бухгалтер, etc.). A definitive advantage is held by candidates with familiarity with modern western ERP-systems (SAP R/3, MS Axapta, MS Navision and such).

In the process of choosing a chief accountant, a general director must keep in mind that their company already has a functioning reporting system. Most of the time it dictates a strict requirement for the candidate to know this particular system. Sometimes this requirement is presented by an employer as a key requirement. Working knowledge of the particular system implemented at the company, indeed, must be viewed as an advantage for the candidate, however, in our opinion, taking a hardline approach to this issue is a mistake. Different reporting systems have many similarities and a person who previously learned a financial system, will also be able to learn a new one. By insisting on the knowledge of specific systems you significantly narrow your selection of candidates. A dynamically growing business constantly requires new information solutions. Information technologies constantly evolve. It is quite possible that in a year or so you may be faced with the task of replacing the existing system.

Expert’s Opinion: Elena Belyaeva, Financial Director of Gruner + Jahr Publishing House in Moscow.

Key requirements presented to candidates for the position of chief accountant in our company are:

  1. Excellent knowledge of bookkeeping and tax accounting.
  2. Well versed in legal issues.
  3. Tax planning and document flow optimization skills.
  4. Experience in implementation and fine-tuning ERP-systems for accounting as well as management purposes.
  5. Excellent leadership qualities; being ready to make decisions and take the responsibility.
  6. Extensive work experience. Frequent change of companies is a significant drawback in candidate’s resume. Three years should be a minimum period of work in one company for a chief accountant.
  7. Basic knowledge of English. 

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