I was catching up with my good friends Guy Stacey and David Haylor at IAC recently and we started chatting about what makes an Internal Auditor stand out. As the conversation flowed, we recognised that many candidates applying for Internal Audit jobs may not necessarily be privy to those insights. Guy asked me to share my perspective as a Chief Auditor to help you as an Internal Audit candidate on your career journey.
Technical skills are a must-have; they are the foundation. As a candidate, articulate your technical skills and qualifications and explain the relevance of your experience to the job requirements. When interviewed, converse fluently about risks and controls and demonstrate through examples from your experience your ability to perform or lead internal audits.
However, often candidates that are put forward for a role possess similar profiles in terms of technical skills and qualifications. Yet one makes it and others don’t, so how does that one candidate stand out?
Once I have established the adequacy of technical skills of the candidate, I move to a deeper level of screening for the other key attributes I seek. Naturally junior auditors, senior auditors, managers and senior managers need to portray varying degrees of competence, expertise and experience and my respective expectations are weighed accordingly. What I am addressing here are common core attributes and skills which make one individual stand out within the same pool of candidates.
I personally believe that people are the single biggest asset of an Internal Audit team, so I want the best people and talent I can find. I also firmly believe that a successful Internal Audit team is one that:
Accordingly, I assess the people I recruit on their ability and potential to understand, embrace and deliver the above.
So as a candidate going through a recruitment process, show through compelling examples from your life and work experience that you possess the following critical attributes I look for:
Attitude – your willingness to learn new things, to ask questions, to challenge yourself and be challenged and to grow, and your ability to overcome obstacles and achieve results.
People skills – your ability to relate to people and stakeholders at different levels, to communicate, to earn the trust and, to build partnerships based on mutual respect and appreciation.
Emotional intelligence – your awareness and understanding of your own style and needs and those of the various stakeholders involved and how you flex your behaviour and communication accordingly. This includes your ability to listen, to dialogue, to manage conflict, to connect, to influence and to bring about positive outcomes.
Teamwork – your commitment to the teams you have worked in, your attitude towards helping others in the team, receiving feedback and learning from it, and your ability to take initiative and lead where needed.
Proactive and outside the box thinking – your flexibility, resilience, creativity and resourcefulness in the face of challenges to overcome the problems effectively and efficiently.
Accountability and ownership – your track record of finishing what you start, delivering against your promises, learning from your mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions.
Commercial acumen and strategic outlook – your understanding of key commercial considerations, business drivers and value creation in a business, your ability to demonstrate how Audit adds value to a business and your ability to link the work you do to the big picture. The more senior you are within the team the more critical this skill is.
Enthusiasm – let your confidence in yourself, your passion for Internal Audit and your excitement about the company shine through.
In a nutshell, what makes a candidate stand out are their attitude, people skills and commercial nous. It is easy to teach someone technical skills but it is much harder to teach someone the willingness to learn and enthusiasm for what they do. As candidates you must have these to start with and then we can help you to harness your skills further, support you to develop and inspire you to grow.
The above attributes and inner abilities not only make an auditor stand out at the recruitment stage, they also make you shine throughout your career. Wishing you the best of luck.
Former Chief Internal Auditor
Colt Technology Services Group Limited
Senior Manager, Enterprise Risk Services
Deloitte & Touche
Risk Management & SOX Manager
Post Acquisition Integration Manager - Accounting Operations
GE Money (Australia)
Internal Audit Manager
Finance Management Graduate, then Business Analyst
Qantas Airways (Australia)