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Building a Better Auditor: 5 Tips for Aspiring Young Auditors

Blogs Adrian Gutierrez Barrio Jul 26, 2022

During my second year as an internal auditor, I felt at a crossroad. Along came the yearly review and — once again — I did not get a promotion. After the formal interview, my managers took me out for coffee. Yes, I was a good quant, but truth is that I lacked the skills of a senior auditor.

My managers helped me in defining actions plans to overcome my weaknesses. Fast forward two years, and I found myself giving advice to a colleague asking for help. I have summarized the lessons learned in five tips that may help aspiring auditors in their journey to become a senior auditor:

Tip #1: Learn the basics of auditing and risk management.
Audit and risk management can be intimidating at first. To begin, you must understand the building blocks: The IIA's Three Lines Model and the concepts of risk identification, control environment, residual risk, risk mitigation strategies, etc. The sooner you become familiar with these concepts, the better you will understand and perform your tasks. The IIA provides a wealth of documents and courses to help you through your learning process. Moreover, core techniques such as process flowcharting and root-cause analysis should be an integral part of your fieldwork toolkit. The profession has changed a lot in recent years, with programming and data analysis being two highly demanded skills.

Tip #2: Learn everything about your business.
As a junior auditor, you will analyze a variety of business lines and processes and interact with subject matter specialists. Some of them may even be teachers in top graduate and MBA programs. Ask all the questions you need in order to understand what you are auditing. As you progress through the ranks, you will learn that audit is about striking a balance between the big picture and the small details. A good knowledge of the business and risks of your company/client will make you a valuable resource and help you land top audit engagements.
Tip #3: Start working on your communication skills early on.

Although communication skills are essential in any job, internal audit requires developing two particular forms: effective writing and interviewing. Internal audit writing should be formal and objective. You should avoid old-fashioned or pompous expressions and learn how to make compelling arguments to present your audit results effectively. Working papers are a good testing environment. They must be self-explanatory, traceable, and understandable for an informed third party.

Interviewing skills are harder to master, but with some guiding principles, you will make it. Make sure you plan your meetings in advance and show up with an agenda and a good set of questions. Stakeholders and clients do not like wasting their time — neither do your teammates. Take good notes and confirm your understanding of the processes and controls being audited with your clients. Moreover, do not forget that information should flow from both sides. Practice active listening and let your clients speak about their concerns.

Tip #3: Learn from your supervisors and peers.
You will share your time with different team members, from young auditors to more experienced staff. You will learn from both if you pay close attention to what each one of your colleagues brings to the team. You will find that some people are good at organizing, while others excel in reaching agreements. Soon you will start identifying useful skills to learn. Still to this day, whenever I find a difficult problem or situation, I look back and I ask myself "How would colleague X approach this problem?"

Tip #4: Ask for frequent feedback and help.
You might be struggling at coding a particular test, making sense of some difficult business concepts, or quantifying the impact of a finding. When in need, ask your senior colleagues and managers for help. This will help you to build confidence. Your senior colleagues and managers will be glad to offer you advice — both for your personal development and for the smooth operation of the project. You will be seen as a reliable team member, as raising red flags early avoids unnecessary delays. Perhaps your doubts and questions are not so trivial, and you have found an important issue.

Tip #5: Volunteer for engagements.
Junior members are usually staffed in a wide variety of engagements before they develop expertise in a field. You may find a business line or topic you particularly like. Talk to your staff manager about your preferences. You may be a good fit for a spot on a team your management is struggling to fill. Moreover, you will have a better chance to learn from experts in your preferred field. Perhaps you are also curious about a particular risk or process you have not worked on yet. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, auditing new processes and risks. Your passion might be hidden somewhere you have not yet explored.

Adrian Gutierrez Barrio

Adrian Gutierrez is risk modeling audit manager for Abanca Corporación Bancaria in A Coruña, Spain.

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