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Internal Audit Recruitment: An Expert's Insight

By David Haylor | 22nd August 2016

Internal Audit Recruitment: An Expert's Insight

If you are striving to enter the world of internal audit or looking to progress in your current position, it is crucial to receive accurate information from those with knowledge and expertise. Internal Audit Connections (IAC) has many years of experience and a wealth of industry knowledge. Our Expert Q&A with David Haylor, IAC's Director, will help you move one step closer to securing an internal audit position.

Making Your Internal Audit Cover Letter and CV Stand Out

So you've found your ideal internal audit role. The next thing to do is apply with your cover letter and CV. The following information will assist in your CV and cover letter preparation.

What specific information relating to internal audit should my cover letter include?

You may simply wish to add an introductory paragraph to your CV rather than a full cover letter. Either way, the key is to grab the reader's attention quickly. Whoever is reviewing your application will likely have reviewed many over time. Therefore, they will react far more positively to a clearly laid out, prioritised and concise note that covers the key areas. You need to consider the company and job description, highlighting the key achievements, experiences and motivations that make you stand out for the role. Try to keep this as specific and valuable as possible.

Is there any information I shouldn't include in my CV?

Not really. As with the cover letter, it's more about trying to focus on what will be seen as valuable to the individual reviewing your CV. I would advise against writing lists of responsibilities, but rather suggest that you focus on achievements, projects and positive outcomes you have been involved with. Ten people can have the same list of responsibilities but only two of them might be able to demonstrate how they have excelled and gone above and beyond that list.

It is sensible to try and avoid clichés, such as ‘I have excellent communication skills'. You will see this on almost every CV and no one will claim this as an area of weakness. If you wish to claim a specific skill it is important to evidence it. Good communication, for example, would be evidenced via a well written, clear, concise and prioritised application.

Applying for an Internal Audit Role

How do I take my first step into the industry?

The majority of Internal Auditors within large national/international companies will start their careers in an accountancy firm. They will generally qualify as an accountant (ACA, ACCA etc.) and then move in-house to an internal audit position. There are some companies that train some or all of their Internal Auditors themselves. These individuals will generally have joined the firm in one form of operational role and they then move into internal audit. They would then look to study as an Internal Auditor, CMIIA, CIA etc.

How can I progress in internal audit and risk?

Technical knowledge and competence is clearly important; however, it doesn't greatly impact on progression. The key skills to ensure progression are generally soft. The following are some of the key skills that will help you to develop:

  1. Ability to prioritise and accept the fact that not everything can be done perfectly. Lower priority tasks sometimes need to be cut in order to achieve the most valuable outcomes.
  2. Ability to vary style and tone of communication. Both when asking for information and when passing on feedback and outcomes.
  3. Ability to balance the commercial imperatives/strategy of an organisation against the requirements of an audit function.
  4. On a personal level it is important to have a goal and proactively work towards it. You cannot rely on hard work alone being noticed and rewarded.
  5. Work hard and smile whilst doing so. Generally speaking, those with a good work ethic combined with a positive outlook tend to progress well.

What qualifications do I need in order to apply for an internal audit role?

  • There is a preference for graduates
  • A recognised accounting (ACA or ACCA or CIMA) or auditing (CIA, CMIIA) qualification
  • An additional CISA IT auditing qualification would be attractive

What value do Internal Auditors bring to organisations?

Regulatory Compliance - At the most basic level internal audit adds value by ensuring that regulations are complied with, and value is added through the avoidance of investigations, fines and the financial and reputational damage that goes with them.

Best Practice - In addition to the compliance level of auditing, Internal Auditors can add value by ensuring that different areas of the business are adhering to best practice, whilst also spreading new ideas and best practice from one area of the business to others.

Maximising Potential and Cutting of Losses - At its best, internal audit adds value by understanding and balancing risk and risk appetite against the strategic objectives of the business. An audit plan can then be created that assures the success of those objectives, whilst also providing suggestions of how to improve on those outcomes. Hand in hand with this comes the ability (with well-developed internal relationships) to be able to step in and say when a project or strategy needs to stop because it is failing and will ultimately damage the business.

What qualities should a good Internal Auditor have?

A good Internal Auditor will have good attention to detail and a high level of professionalism. The best will also have excellent communications skills, in particular the ability to listen, and empathise with different areas of the business and understand the pressures on them. They will also have the self-confidence to talk with and influence the senior management within their organisation.

Interview Preparation

The key to success is preparation, and interviews are no exception. If you put in the time and effort you can achieve great things. It pays to put in the hours to find out more about your prospective employers. They are more likely to employ someone who knows their brand over someone who just wants a pay cheque.

What's the best way to prepare for an interview?

Once your interview is confirmed, put some time aside to research the company. Not only will this give you an insight into its culture and how it operates, but it will also give you a talking point for the interview.

A great way to immerse yourself in a brand is to follow its social media channels. This way you can learn what makes it tick, its main focus points and its tone of voice.

Find out where the venue is beforehand and plan how you're going to get there, checking how long the journey takes. It's also worth getting your outfit ready the night before so that you're not rushing on the day.

Think about the type of questions that your interviewers are likely to ask you and prepare answers for them. Why do you want this job? What are your main strengths and weaknesses? Why are you looking to move on from your current role?

What are the reasons for failing an interview?

Interviews vary a lot, as do the cultures of the many different organisations for which you could potentially interview. However, the reasons for failing an interview are surprisingly common and few in number:

  • Enthusiasm – If they don't think you want the job, they won't offer it to you. Make sure you look and sound like you actually want to work there. This should also be reflected in your research on them and how your motivations fit with them as an organisation.
  • Preparation – Failure to research and understand the job description and company will indicate a lack of interest in the role.
  • Listening and answering the question – A common issue is to try and rush out all the points and research you have prepared, whilst not actually answering the specific question asked. A similar issue is talking off the point and continuing down tangents that are of little or no relevance.
  • Smile – Generally speaking, most interviewers would prefer to interview an open and positive person. So try to bury the nerves and be open and engaging. Combine this with good research, preparation and obvious enthusiasm for the role and you will almost certainly have success.

Final Thought

These rules apply to most jobs, but remember that employers in some industries can be quite formal, while others have a more relaxed approach. If you're in doubt about what to wear on the day, take a look at the company's website and social media channels and try to gauge its dress code. The key thing to remember is that preparation is paramount to performing well in interviews. Do your research on the company in addition to the role for which you're applying. Mentally prepare evidence and examples that showcase your internal audit skills.

About Internal Audit Connections

Internal Audit Connections is a specialist Corporate Governance, Assurance, Technology, Health & Safety and Security recruitment consultancy. It specialises in matching high-quality candidates with globally renowned blue-chip companies.