What skills do you need to be a great Auditor and to achieve your career goals?
This week we take a look at how auditors have grown their careers historically through the gradual aquisition of certain key skillsets and attributes.
Critical Skills to Enhance Your Audit Career Path
What makes a great auditor?
What’s the perfect career path for an auditor?
Twenty years ago, answers to those questions were undoubtedly much different than they are today. Back then, a solid grasp of the ins and outs of internal audit could land you high on the career ladder.
In 2020, likely less so.
When 49% of current work activities could be automated using technology, it is ultimately the softer skills that will distinguish audit professionals in a highly demanding and rapidly-changing landscape. Want to improve the career path you are on as an auditor?
Here are the top 9 skills you should master today in order to help your audit career path grow:
Critical Thinking: Critical thinking skills are important for an audit career path. This type of reasoning requires that they step outside of their own judgments and biases in order to consider all perspectives, question the validity of each, and reach a conclusion.
As the Global Internal Audit Common Body of Knowledge (CBOK) study notes, “Critical thinking is the most sought-after skill by internal audit hiring managers, but generally, it is learned on the job through dedicated feedback and coaching from internal audit leaders.”
In any profession, employers want to know that their employees are eager to learn and develop. They value people who go above and beyond expectations to advance themselves and their knowledge.
For internal auditors, the willingness to take initiative and ownership over their own success is crucial. Passionately pursuing professional designations, certifications, and Continuing Professional Education (CPE) proves that they are not content to rest on their laurels, but instead, are eager to learn and evolve along with the profession.
Case in point: in a 2016 survey conducted by Workforce Solutions Group, communication skills were the top demand of hiring companies, yet two out of three employers cited a lack of these interpersonal skills in their job applicants. This serves as proof that internal auditors who are strong communicators will set themselves apart from any job competition.
“Internal auditors need to possess excellent communication skills in order to succeed and advance in the changing, complex international global marketplace,” writes Dr. Gene Smith, an accounting professor at Eastern New Mexico University, in an article published in Managerial Auditing Journal. “Auditors utilize communication skills in almost every situation they encounter.”
As mentioned previously, the most successful internal auditors are not fulfilled with the status quo—they have an eye for continuous process improvement and how they can advance the profession in a business that is changing at an accelerated rate. Internal auditors should seek to not only refine their own skills, but also to understand, adapt to, and leverage emerging technologies.
Curiosity also means that these internal audit practitioners ruthlessly dig into problems in pursuit of an answer and solution. They are excited about a mystery, rather than being discouraged by it. “We want people who have a passion for truly understanding the business and a knack for remaining inquisitive within environments that can change on a weekly or even daily basis,” explains Kelly Barrett, Vice President of Internal Audit and Compliance for Home Depot.
“An open-minded auditor is nonpartisan and able to see the good practices, as well as the improvement areas,” writes Amanda Bradley, GlaxoSmithKline’s Director of Risk and Strategy. “This supports the development of the internal control framework, and means that the auditor is able to challenge on the best corrective actions to put in place because they have seen what good looks like.”
“[Skepticism] is an attitude that includes a questioning mind and a critical assessment of the appropriateness and sufficiency of audit evidence,”. “It requires being alert to conditions that may indicate possible misstatement due to error, neglect, or fraud, and a critical assessment of audit evidence.”
The best internal auditors trust nothing when reviewing financial documents and they conduct each review with a discerning eye and a high degree of vigilance, regardless of the specific circumstances.
In the 2018 North American Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession survey conducted by the IIA’s Audit Executive Center, business acumen was ranked as one of the most desirable skills by CAEs. Today’s practitioners need to know not only the numbers, they also need to know what role they play and why they matter to the business. Internal auditors do the legwork.
In short, professionals with the strongest career paths do not just do their jobs with excellence, but they also connect the dots to articulate the true business impact—which is the information that matters most to other stakeholders.
For those on the receiving end, audits can be nerve-wracking, and skilled internal auditors must know how to empathize with the emotions of their clients or stakeholders while still maintaining their composure and remaining prudent. Not only does this competency set internal audit practitioners apart and allow them to deliver their findings in the most effective way, but it also leads to higher quality audits.
“Internal audit leaders must inform, educate, and influence stakeholders as well as earn their trust,” explains a release by a Big 4 firm. According to a recent study from PwC, 9 out of 10 very effective internal audit leaders excel in demonstrating executive presence.
As the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants states, auditors must “have an understanding of how laws and regulations affect an audit, not only in terms of the work the auditor is required to do, but also to appreciate the responsibilities of both management and the auditor where laws and regulations are concerned.”
Similarly, internal auditors work with a large amount of financial data, so they need to be equipped with the skills to analyze those numbers. Being able to manage data is a surefire way to stand out in a competitive field and labor market, especially since LinkedIn reports that data science is one of the top 25 most in-demand skills of 2019.
Prepare today to become the auditor of tomorrow
Today, the internal auditing profession is about more than being an investigator—these roles add real value to the business. However, that is far easier to prove if you supplement your technical skills with these in-demand soft skills.
Doing so makes you a better-rounded internal auditing professional, and it also helps you realize that automation isn’t something to fear. In fact, by automating the manual tasks that take time away from more proactive, value-added, and fulfilling activities, you can become the strategic and insightful internal auditor that your organization needs.
Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.
If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us on Germany- 0049 30217 82920 or Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59
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