Job growth for auditors is projected to outpace overall employment gains over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That makes internal auditing a great option for those entering the workforce or considering a career change. However, picking a job and flourishing in it is about more than opportunity alone. Is the position a right fit for you, and are you the right fit for the company or organization?
We all seek jobs that we will enjoy and that we will be good at, but one size doesn't fit all. Based on my years in internal auditing and observing the experiences of others in our profession, I've developed a list of five signs that indicate you are likely to be a great fit for a career in internal auditing.
1. You are a critical thinker. Critical thinking is a disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information. As an internal auditor, that's what you will spend most of your time doing. If you are good at critical thinking and you enjoy the challenge, you will find internal auditing rewarding. There is even better news: According to The IIA's most recent Pulse of the Profession survey, critical-thinking skills are the most highly sought by CAEs when recruiting a new internal audit staff member.
2. You are naturally curious/skeptical. The best auditors never stop asking questions and challenging assumptions. They take nothing for granted and know that, even where there is trust, there still is a need to verify. If you are naturally curious and skeptical, and are adept at keeping an open mind to all possibilities, you are more likely to unearth problems that other, less-inquisitive auditors might miss. As the old saying goes, curiosity may "kill the cat," but it can be a real asset for an internal auditor.
3. You are great at building and sustaining relationships. There is a common misconception that internal auditing is only about numbers, not people. But without relationship-building skills, you may miss important messages about potential problems, or some of your recommendations may be rejected unnecessarily. According to a study by professors Kirsten Fanning of the University of Illinois and M. David Piercey of the University of Massachusetts, internal auditors who combine likable personality traits with well-presented arguments do better at influencing managers' accounting judgments and financial reporting estimates than auditors who are rude and provide information in a jumbled way.
4. You love making a difference. The fundamental purpose of internal auditing is to make improvements. Internal auditors have the opportunity to positively affect operations, enhance accuracy and efficiency, reduce fraud, promote safety, and offer myriad other suggestions to bolster companies and organizations. If you love making a real difference, you will find internal auditing highly satisfying.
5. You are a great writer. Again, internal auditing is not only about numbers. Your efforts are almost always ultimately conveyed in written form. That means writing skills – and communication acumen overall — can make the difference between a recommendation being cheerfully accepted or roundly rejected. To be sure, an ability to communicate clearly, succinctly, and persuasively will be a significant asset throughout your career.
That's my list of some of the most important traits of successful internal auditors, but other attributes also can be helpful. Share your ideas with me.