Is it ever ok to exaggerate your software skills?

Many accounting firm job ads now specify software requirements, but does it really matter?

Didn't find your answer?

Afternoon everyone,

Your friendly tech editor here. Am mulling over whether it's ever acceptable to ‘bend the truth’ about your proficiency on specific software packages for a potential article, and would very much appreciate your input.

Have you taken on staff based on a CV that confidently proclaims ‘expert user of [software x], only to find they can barely make it past the login screen? Or have you ever embellished your own software credentials to get through the door? And if so, how did it work out? 

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of accounting firm job ads with specific software requirements eg “must be proficient Xero/Sage/QB user”, but does it really matter? Provided you have the fundamentals, can you style it out?

Let me know below or drop me a private message. All direct messages treated as confidential.

Many thanks!

Tom

Replies (25)

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By rmillaree
17th Apr 2023 18:08

‘bend the truth’

Huh - you mean lie?

doesnt sound so good when you use the proper terminology does it.

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Replying to rmillaree:
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By rmillaree
17th Apr 2023 18:13

Ps many cv's come massively pimped up now none of which is a great way to start a working relationship. Thankfully i dont interview but on basis of cv's i have looked at and ability to use said programs its clear peeps sometimes know very little about what they are adding to their cv's at times. We do know that whats on the cv though is just a starting point for a discussion - so we are not naive enough to believe owt thats put on a cv.

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By paul.benny
17th Apr 2023 18:51

There are no benchmarks of what 'proficiency' means, whether Xero or SAP. Almost the only truth is that the more people know, the more the realise the limits of their knowledge and skill (and the limitations of the software).

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By Hugo Fair
17th Apr 2023 19:44

Absolutely.

I tend(ed) to regard unquantified 'booster adjectives' (like 'proficient' or 'expert') as an indicator of the writer's uncertainty of their capability!

Obviously there a few roles where the specific knowledge (and its depth) will be paramount, but presumably that's not what you're talking about here.

So the CV should:
* either simply mention names of products used (the depth and relevance of which can be explored during subsequent interview if everything else stacks up);
* or provide detail of the ways in which knowledge of a particular product have been used to achieve specific outcomes (for certain roles only).

Mind you I'd be equally wary of an ER who specifies the need for experience in a particular product ... suggesting a blinkered approach and a lack of willingness to invest in training for those with the best competences.

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By D V Fields
17th Apr 2023 23:01

If the accounting software is well written then it shouldn’t be an issue. Back in the day the Access Group tried to sell us training to use their software. My comment was why do we need it when it is blatantly obvious.

However those days are long gone it would appear. However you may need the patience to search through every menu item to find the task you want (or sometimes not as the case may be) as structure is not within the programmers’ vocabulary.

My general approach has always been if the accounting software requires training then it isn’t very good!

As for software skills like Excel I have devised and used simple written tests prior to interview selection with disturbing results.

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By tom123
18th Apr 2023 08:01

I use two Access products - they can make you feel like you have never operated a keyboard before..

Then you realise it's the software not the user!

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Replying to tom123:
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By D V Fields
18th Apr 2023 10:15

Must have gone downhill since then. In the days of Horizon /Foundations /Dimensions the menu system was straight forward, clear and precise. Everything in its place.

These days with most, if not all systems, you have to navigate "workflows", its desktop full of meaningless icons and a report menu of over 100 items most of which are variations on an equally pointless theme and the three that you want nowhere in sight.

The gift of simplicity!

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By williams lester accountants
18th Apr 2023 07:48

Embellishing CV's has been going on for years, it is nothing new to see jobs stretched by a couple of months here and there to cover gaps for non working periods as well as exaggerated competency levels in all sorts of skills, not just software.

When we look for staff, if i want someone to work on QB & Xero (don't use Sage so have no idea on it!), i will look for them to have passed the certification for that software.

This doesn't always work out, last year we took on a Chartered Accountant with an impressive CV of 30 years experience including selling a practice 15 years ago to a major firm, turned out to be the worst hire we ever made, lasted less than 3 weeks as they struggled to use a spreadsheet, let alone cloud software!

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Replying to williams lester accountants:
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By D V Fields
18th Apr 2023 10:28

What does the "certification" tell you other than the software is so poorly written that guidance in its use becomes a necessity?

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Replying to D V Fields:
By Duggimon
18th Apr 2023 10:59

It tells you that the person has used the software and has done a test to prove it.

You don't need a certification or indeed any training to use the software, it's all very intuitive and easy to figure out, it's just useful to have a verified accreditation proving that you can use it when it comes to hiring for/applying to jobs.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Mr_awol
18th Apr 2023 16:28

Is it 'actually' possible to fail, for example, Xero certification though?

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Replying to Mr_awol:
By Duggimon
19th Apr 2023 08:35

Well it's possible to stop smashing your face into the brick wall of ignorance before breaking through and putting down the right answers, so in that respect yes, but you can say with some assurance anyone who has the certification has at the very least entered the right answers on their wee test at some point.

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By tom123
18th Apr 2023 08:02

I remember changing jobs around the time Excel went through an upgrade.

In Oldco, I could do pivot tables and ODBC links in seconds - and had obviously said as much.,

First day in Newco and I couldn't even print..

Caught up in a fairly short time, of course, but made for a stressy first week or so.

These days I like to see experience of lots of different products, which shows adaptability, rather than the more traditional "I have used Sage 50 for 20 years" that used to be the benchmark./;

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Replying to tom123:
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By D V Fields
18th Apr 2023 10:20

In the first incarnation of Excel you could produce a graph with a highlight selection and one click. They then improved it (?)

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Replying to D V Fields:
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By paulwakefield1
18th Apr 2023 13:04

F11 is your friend.

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By MJShone
18th Apr 2023 08:34

My husband asked someone in an interview if they could use Lotus 123. (It was a long time ago!) They replied that they knew Lotus 1 and 2 but not 3.

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Replying to MJShone:
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By adam.arca
18th Apr 2023 13:08

MJShone wrote:

My husband asked someone in an interview if they could use Lotus 123. (It was a long time ago!) They replied that they knew Lotus 1 and 2 but not 3.

Ah, Lotus 123: those were the days!

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Replying to adam.arca:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
19th Apr 2023 11:58

Of course there is also Lotus 5,2,1, a steady countdown to the gearbox falling out and a large cloud of smoke. (I do actually love Lotus, I even nearly bought a 521 until I found that to replace the rusty rear crossmember the entire body needed lifted off)

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By Duggimon
18th Apr 2023 10:54

UI development has come on so far in the last 20 years that there's a level of homogeneity that means I'd expect anyone who's gotten over the hurdle of using a computer, using the Office suite and using any bookkeeping or accounting software, regardless of which specific ones, to be able to figure out any software we'd need them to.

Once you know what software can do it's not that hard to figure out how to make it do it. I wouldn't pick one applicant over another based on familiarity with any specific software, I'd think basic computer literacy would be enough to pick up whatever is required on the job, and I can't see how you'd find anyone with either a relevant degree or relevant work experience who didn't have that. In the accountancy field at least, basic computer literacy is the 21st century equivalent of "can read, write and do basic arithmetic" - ironically enough skills that are required less and less as software takes over.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
18th Apr 2023 11:05

I had a job where my cv had indicated a high level of proficiency in Excel. My cv was not too specific but the employer took this to mean advanced coding (I had never even got to grips with macros after Excel upgraded!).

Luckily this "skill" of mine was never called upon.

Fond memories of Lotus macros though back when a powerful PC was a 286.

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By adam.arca
18th Apr 2023 13:15

Personally, I think some exaggeration of software skills is both perfectly acceptable and a completely understandable reaction in an environment where many job ads are stupidly specific about which software solutions they expect the applicant to have experience of.

My view is that most packages we use (accounts and tax certainly) are much of a muchness and, once you've used one, you've pretty much used them all. They all have quirks but anyone with half a brain cell soon learns what they are. So, if the applicant has used XYZ whereas we use ABC, I just don't see the issue.

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
18th Apr 2023 15:59

Saying something you know is not true should never be done. If you claim skills you don't have, you will be found out when you are unable to perform.

But proficiency is undefined. I might be very good with every day parts of a piece of software, whilst having no knowledge of parts I've never needed to use. Add to that the Dunning-Kruger effect and a claim of "proficiency" is meaningless.

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By More unearned luck
18th Apr 2023 19:38

I caught the tail end of a Radio 4 programme a couple of days ago. The interviewee had worked in M&A and the client had asked him how many previous deals he had done. He exaggerated. This fib resulted in him being jailed for fraud. He made the following points:

*The value of the fraud was the fees his firm would get and not his personal slice of the cake (as this would have been a multi-million pound fee it was a Very Serious Fraud).
*He was later asked by the client for evidence of the former deals and he forged documents to comply, but it was the initial fib that was the fraud.
*He didn't appreciate the seriousness of the fib when he made it (he was a former salesman).

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By SkyBlue22
19th Apr 2023 10:18

If anyone tells me they are proficient at any software I ask them direct questions about what they can do. Usually weeds out the exaggerators.

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
19th Apr 2023 15:07

The Certification is no indication that someone is good at using the software we have come across this many times. The understanding of basics in bookkeeping and accounts will allow you to use any software as you would know when accounts are wrong. Of course the more you use a software the more familiar you become with it.

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