Five Reasons Talented Candidates Choose Internal Audit

11 April 2024
Alexander Van Caeneghem BCB Leader CFO Services Connect on Linkedin

In recent years, Internal Audit has been rising in prominence and importance. Young professionals have started to see the job as a way to learn the business and make connections with senior leaders throughout the organization.

As they want more control over their careers, young professionals typically ask for assignments that allow them to discover new horizons, strengthen and reveal their best skills, and find the right career fit. Working in Internal Audit offers many opportunities to expand their knowledge, learn the business, become better decision-makers, improve their communication skills, and become well-rounded professionals.

Below, we list five of the top reasons why talented, young professionals could choose to make a career in Internal Audit, as well as what they will gain from the pursuit.

Reason 1: You’ll Gain a Full Understanding How the Business Works

An internal audit cycle typically starts with completing a risk assessment and then an audit plan. Drafting such a plan, with the scope and the coverage of all the internal audits of the year, is a demanding exercise in coping with the constant flow of emerging risks that impact every facet of the business. 

An audit plan goes well beyond finance, of course, to include operations, strategy, marketing, and IT, as well as other areas of the business. Internal auditors need to grasp cybersecurity and data protection and many other IT concepts. The challenge of processing and gaining an understanding of so many varied aspects of the company is significant, but so is the learning potential.

When you work as an internal auditor, you will be exposed to a diversity of problems that teach you how a company really works and what makes it tick. You’ll learn to apply frameworks and map organizations, you will need to quickly make connections across sectors, cultures, and functions, and you will gain experience in assessing the dynamics of priorities and obstacles that affect a company’s performance.

Reason 2: You’ll Improve Your Analytic Abilities

How often do we hear that internal audit teams are looking for more analytics skills. The success of an internal audit relies heavily on the availability and thorough analysis of data, not only the gathering of the relevant documents and materials in the planning and scoping phase of the audit, but also the interpretation of operational and process data. Knowing where to find the data and seeing the potential for what it can tell you is a big part of internal audit and will serve all professionals well in roles outside of internal audit.

In the quest for information in all aspects of an audit assignment, you will be able to develop and use the latest technology in analytics and develop a data-centric approach to problem solving. Data mining and big data solutions are increasingly becoming part of the internal audit toolbox, because they create transparency in operations and increase the level of assurance in any assignments by moving from sampling to full population analysis. Thus, you can provide better assurance to management and the board.

Gaining exposure to those technologies and working to navigate large streams of data will help you build your analytics muscle.

Alexander Van Caeneghem, BCB Leader, CFO Services

Reason 3: You’ll Gain Leadership Skills

During your internal audit career, it’s likely that at some point you will experience resistance from management to accept your audit findings, or even outright hostility. In some cases, they may even disturb your audit fieldwork by providing piecemeal information or by being uncooperative as you gather documentation. You will have to deal with managers who disregard audit findings or push back on them because they do not like to be told what to do or refuse to take responsibility for problems in their departments. Some will consider auditors to be outsiders to their daily operations and will say they don’t understand how their functions or processes really work. Most people do not like to be under scrutiny and that’s understandable.

While these experiences can be unpleasant, your success will depend on your ability to create an environment in which managers are open to your recommendations and ideas and become receptive to acting on the audit findings. You will learn how to deal with ambiguity, how to influence others, and how to stay calm and handle objections without damaging long-term collaboration. These are critical skills to becoming a leader, a business partner, or an agent of change in a world of permanent transformation.

You will learn how to deal with ambiguity, how to influence others, and how to stay calm and handle objections without damaging long-term collaboration.

Alexander Van Caeneghem, BCB Leader, CFO Services

Reason 4: You’ll Become a Great Communicator

Highly effective communicators are good at asking questions, and then listening with both their eyes and their ears, as well as reading between the lines of what is being said. Internal auditors gain many opportunities to hone their communications skills. Indeed, success as an internal auditor depends on it. You will conduct interviews, perform walkthroughs, site tours, and interact with a large variety of people in many different positions both senior and junior. 

Asking good questions and understanding and interpreting what you hear, will be paramount and good internal auditors will develop these skills in spades, including reading between the lines, reading body language, interpreting what is not being said, and other communication necessities. Internal audit is all about communication.

But it’s not just about being a better listener. You still need to get your message across. Finding success in communicating those messages is all about storytelling. Reality is complex, but stories help to give a comprehensive form. You will need to think about your message: who is the hero in the story, what’s the goal, which obstacles are there to overcome, and what’s the moral of the story? You will need to adapt the story to your audience, use the right tone and perspective, and make sure you do not lose the attention of the intended audience. If you master those skills, you can easily interact and communicate with everyone in the business ecosystem: executives, customers, clients, co-workers, vendors, and others.

Reason 5: You’ll Learn to Be a Better Learner

A huge advantage to working in internal audit is that every day is different. You gain exposure to so many different areas and processes that you are forced to keep learning new things. This will make you a better learner in general. Audit forces people to acquire all the sets of skills and abilities they need. Internal auditors need to be quick studies and gain knowledge on a wide spectrum of topics. They also need to keep their proficiency up to date at all times. In order to stay effective, they need to stay in tune with industry standards and best practices in both financial and operational areas.

Good auditors are by definition relentless and avid learners. But acquiring knowledge is just the beginning. What you really need to master, is how to manage and apply that knowledge.

Alexander Van Caeneghem, BCB Leader, CFO Services

In a digital world of constant change, you cannot afford to stand still. What you really need to do, is learn to keep on learning.

As Warren Buffet once said, “investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you.” Learning does not end when school ends: broaden your mind, evolve your thinking, and stay sharp. After all, complacency means extinction.

While there are certainly many other benefits to becoming an internal auditor, these are some of the big things that have been drawing talented individuals to the profession for decades. It’s hard to imagine a business discipline that could be more rewarding.