8 top qualities of an auditor to look out for
19 February 2021
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?
While technical skills have long been sought after in the digital age, it is now more widely recognised that the non-technical attributes (better known as ‘soft skills’) prevail as the competitive differentiator in terms of internal audit’s overall performance. Now more than ever, CAE’s are placing growing value on traits such as analytical skills, business and risk acumen, communication, critical thinking and adaptability. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
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. Not least in the face of ongoing regulatory change and economic turbulence, where auditors have been forced to operate in a more agile manner to provide assurance, mitigate threats and exploit opportunities.
Agile auditing is rapidly becoming a necessity to help organisations respond to external drivers of change. On a professional level, this requires internal auditors to constantly absorb new information as well as remain flexible amid rapidly changing business conditions.
Though individual auditing styles may vary, it is without a doubt that the unique and versatile skillsets of internal auditors are a cornerstone to driving improvements to help their organisations 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.
With a professional mandate to fulfil, internal auditors should exhibit integrity and resilience to reach constructive resolutions to any problems that may arise. The best internal auditors aren't phased by the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion), a phenomenon whereby some individuals will agree with whoever is the highest-paid person in the room because it is uncomfortable to challenge them. They have the self-confidence to comment and object since their role is to have an opinion on such matters.
They are effective communicators
Though long considered as a key internal auditor attribute, transformational changes in business communications in recent times have placed fresh demands on audit professionals. Nowadays, good communication transcends simply well-written reports and verbal dialogue and puts the onus on two-way conversations with the rest of the organisation.
Internal auditors must be clear, succinct and prescriptive in all aspects of their evaluations and reports to ensure business leaders value their consultation and adhere to their advice. Plus, with vast amounts of information to compile and convey, it cannot be understated the importance of being adept at visual analytics, as it may often help to spark a quick reaction from the board.
They are good with technology
Aside from leveraging the automation afforded by audit software to save days and hours when conducting internal audits, audit professionals who are au fait with the latest technology are also far better equipped to understand and give assurance on the wider technological risks to the business, such as cybersecurity and system failures.
Besides, savvy internal auditors with a good handle on technology can spend much more time strategising and promoting good corporate governance and risk management.
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 be a slow burner, 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. On the one hand, this relies on audit professionals continually asking the ‘what if?’ questions to challenge the status quo. However, a penchant for inquisitiveness 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 have a knack for being proactive about fostering new areas of expertise.
They leverage data analytics
Often there is so much that needs improving that it can feel very 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 and avoid those time-consuming tedious activities.
Top internal auditors know that by harnessing the power of data analytics across the entire audit lifecycle and aligning this to their strategic goals, they can gain a sharper focus on risk areas and wider business issues, whilst generating efficiencies throughout the audit process.
They are innovative
At the heart of internal auditing is problem-solving, and the best problem solvers use creativity and innovation to address the issues that aren’t so black and white. With regulatory demands fluctuating, processes evolving and new technologies being adopted all the time, audit professionals are now expected to take a forward-looking approach to providing assurance, advisory and risk anticipation services.
Innovation is not just about processes – it is also a behaviour. As such, internal auditors who are open-minded, think laterally and are willing to engage in an appropriate level of risk-taking are undoubtedly well-versed in looking beyond the here and now.
They are team orientated
Being able to foster positive relationships with internal audit colleagues not only symbolises 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, where individuals are 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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