The best way to gain a seat at the table as an auditor is to strengthen your skills in creating and maintaining strategic partnership. You need to demonstrate your worth if you want to be included in meetings where strategy is discussed. Since your role is that of a strategist, if you want to be successful, this isn’t optional.
Although technical auditing skills are the foundation of your profession, soft skills are where you’ll distinguish yourself in your career. Worviva describes the mastery of these soft skills as a requirement for your audit career progression. You need skills like:
- Consistency. Consistent communication – like feedback on progress, status updates, and audit results – is essential.
- Great listening. Listening is crucial for understanding issues and needs. The best auditors are amazing listeners. Although listening should be done 100% of the time, be sure to let your clients speak more than you.
- Compassion. Understand where your clients are and offer them valuable information, like advice for readiness assessments and how to enhance next year’s audit.
In addition to soft skills, here are some other ways to solidify the importance of your role as an auditor.
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1. Prove your worth
In the beginning, internal auditors were commonly seen as a form of “police” who would uncover operational deficiencies and report them like crimes, especially since higher-ups were already aware of the errors and deficiencies. Although some people still hold this perception, it’s an unfair and inaccurate characterization of the auditing profession. Still, there’s a chance you might run into this archaic perspective, so it’s critical to be able to show that you’re able to help an organization resolve the issues you uncover.
As an auditor, you will bring known issues to the surface, but your deeper value lies in being able to resolve issues through compliance initiatives, documenting business processes, and working closely with IT. This is the foundation of creating strategic partnerships that get big results.
2. Build strategic relationships
You’ll need information from upper management to conduct your audits, but don’t get hung up developing only those relationships. Make it a point to pursue relationships with other leaders, including the chief technology officer (CTO) or chief risk officer (CRO). These leaders, and others, can help you become more visible. They’ll also be great sources of feedback.
Make sure the important leaders in your organization know that you and the rest of your audit team members will support them wherever necessary and that you are open to their feedback.
3. Pursue additional certifications
As with any career in finance, obtaining additional certifications will help you advance your career. The certifications that are right for you will depend on the company you work for, your current goals, and your interests.
Two common options are the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). The former is for identifying fraudulent activities and the latter is for monitoring and assessing IT and business systems. These certifications will be helpful if you have plans to move up to a position in management, work as a company controller, or finance director.
4. Be proactive regarding organization-wide trends
While it’s important to address individual issues that come up in an audit, it’s equally important to identify trends across your organization. For example, you might notice that a specific department is struggling with a particular compliance issue, but it might actually be something impacting the whole organization.
To be proactive, analyze audit data to identify and mitigate risks, develop actionable insights to address those risks, and then pinpoint who should be responsible for the given tasks along with success benchmarks.
5. Prioritize third-party risk assessment
Third-party vendors and other partners always bring risk to the table because you don’t have control over their operations. Ensure that your company has strict policies for vetting and automating compliance for your third-party vendors. If your company hasn’t already, suggest adopting security measures like multi-factor authentication.
You may want to hire a company to monitor and track third-party vendors to account for any red flags that may arise. Be sure to have a mitigation strategy in place as well.
6. Use automation
Automation is the best way to gather useful insights to share with your team. Be sure to automate your entire controls framework so it’s easy to monitor compliance risk levels on-demand. If your control levels go unmet, you’ll be notified to take action.
A good automation tool will also provide you with dashboards to share insights with company executives when you need to show them data that supports your recommendations. Dashboards will also help your audit team make well-informed business decisions.
Master the art of integrity
Above all else, distinguishing yourself in your auditing career will hinge on your level of integrity. No matter what path you follow, develop a strong foundation of integrity to earn the respect that will advance your career.