Internal auditors are a crucial pillar of good governance, risk management and controls in any organisation. If you’re thinking about hiring now or in the future, what qualities of an auditor should you keep an eye out for to ensure you select the best candidate?
Whilst technical skills have long been sought after in the digital age, soft skills are now becoming more widely recognised as essential to internal audit’s overall performance. Especially in the era of agile auditing. Just some of the traits today’s CAEs are placing growing value on include analytical skills, business and risk acumen, communication, critical thinking and adaptability.
As the internal audit function continues to evolve at a rate of knots, so too does the spectrum of necessary skills and characteristics that determine professional success. Though individual auditing styles may vary, there’s no doubt that the unique and versatile skillsets of internal auditors are critical in driving improvements that help their organisations to succeed.
So, before you begin the recruitment process, consider the following 8 qualities of a good auditor to look out for.
What are the qualities of a good auditor?
They show integrity
Internal auditors need to be able to objectively analyse, advise and influence behaviour from the highest levels of the organisation. However, this may be subject to some resistance and disagreement at times. If any problems do arise, internal auditors should show integrity and resilience to reach constructive resolutions.
The best internal auditors aren't phased by the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion). This is a phenomenon where some individuals agree with the highest-paid person in the room simply because it’s uncomfortable to challenge them. Since the role of an internal auditor is to have an opinion on a range of matters, they must have the self-confidence to comment and object.
They are effective communicators
Communication has always been an important quality for internal auditors. But, nowadays, there are fresh demands on audit professionals. It’s no longer sufficient to just produce well-written reports; there must be a two-way conversation with the rest of the organisation.
Internal auditors should be clear, succinct and prescriptive in all aspects of their evaluations and reports. This will ensure business leaders value their consultation and adhere to their advice. Plus, with vast amounts of information to compile and convey, it’s important to be adept at visual analytics, as this may help to spark a quick reaction from the board.
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They are good with technology
Audit software can save hours, even days, of work when conducting internal audits. To reap these rewards, it’s vital that internal audit professionals are comfortable working with technology. Having a good handle on technology also means that they can spend more time strategising and promoting good corporate governance and risk management.
What’s more, tech-savvy auditors are far better equipped to understand and give assurance on technological risks such as cybersecurity and system failures.
They are good at building collaborative relationships
The best internal auditors can engage and influence stakeholders throughout the organisation, whilst cultivating a high level of trust and respect. Though developing these relationships can take time, the benefits are undeniable.
By laying this groundwork, auditors can reduce push-back during the auditing process, promote a greater understanding of internal audit’s valuable role in the business, and increase the speed at which information is shared in response to audit requests.
They are always learning
In environments that can change on a weekly or even daily basis, internal auditors must remain curious to gain new insights. This relies on audit professionals continually asking the ‘what if?’ questions to challenge the status quo.
A desire to learn can also be sustained through continuous education. From formal training and development programs to certifications and self-guided learning, audit professionals are keen lifelong learners who are proactive about fostering new areas of expertise.
They leverage data analytics
Often there is so much that needs improving that it can feel overwhelming for internal auditors to know where to start. Skilled internal auditors take a risk-based approach to prioritise their workload and use data analytics to know where to focus. This avoids those time-consuming, tedious activities.
Moreover, harnessing the power of data analytics across the entire audit lifecycle and aligning this to strategic goals has additional benefits. It provides internal auditors with a sharper focus on risk areas and wider business issues, whilst generating efficiencies. The very best auditors understand this.
They are innovative
Problem-solving is at the heart of internal auditing, and the best problem solvers use creativity and innovation to address issues that aren’t so black and white. With regulatory demands, processes, and technology evolving all the time, audit professionals must take a forward-looking approach to providing assurance, advisory and risk anticipation services.
To effectively look beyond the here and now, internal auditors should be open-minded, think laterally, and be willing to engage in an appropriate level of risk-taking.
They are team orientated
Being able to foster positive relationships across a team is essential. Not only does this show a high degree of emotional intelligence, but it also makes for a more seamless internal audit service.
Auditors have varying levels of expertise to bring to the table and the highly integrated nature of this function requires intensive collaboration amongst peers. Auditors should be supportive and willing to share their knowledge. Likewise, being able to influence, lead and empathise with other colleagues are all promising capabilities for audit leaders of the future.
There we have it: the top qualities of an auditor that will help your organisation succeed.
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