Five Things to Look for When Recruiting Internal Auditors

June 2016 Recruiting Commentary

We have found that there are specific characteristics that determine whether or not a candidate becomes a successful internal auditor.

In the years following the credit crisis and subsequent fallout, ensuring strong corporate governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) has been a top priority for corporate boards, shareholders, and regulators alike. Internal Audit leaders are under more scrutiny now than ever before - to not only fulfill their mandates but to ensure that their frameworks and organizations are aligned for future success. Crucial to this is identifying, recruiting, and retaining highly qualified team members - a quest that our team has been intimately involved with, having worked with Chief Audit Executives across various industries.

What should hiring teams look for when the next crop of internal audit talent? Here are some of the key characteristics that we've found will determine whether or not an experienced candidate will be a successful internal auditor:

  1. Industry/Business Knowledge - How can an auditor possibly evaluate the control environment if he/she does not understand the underlying industry or business? We encourage hiring teams to be highly detailed when defining exactly what type of industry knowledge a candidate must have…be specific;
  2. Ability to Synthesize - This is the “so what” skill…the successful auditor (and GRC professional more broadly) must have the ability to distill data into a key message that business management will understand (e.g. the “so what” or "why should they care");
  3. Curiosity - An auditor must be curious, methodical, and always push to gain an understanding as to what the findings/data show. Successful candidates should demonstrate their sense of rigor - we encourage hiring teams to develop interview strategies to bring this out in prospective auditors.
  4. Self-Starter - Related to curiosity, an audit must be able to operate independently and “own” the audit. The days of “box checking” are in the past and rightly so. Successful auditors need to fully understand the workplan, execute it, and have sufficient flexibility to adapt to anything that may come up; and
  5. Backbone - As the third line of defense, internal auditors must be able to not only synthesize their findings (e.g. the “so what”) but to stand up to challenges from line managers and the business lines. It is critical to identify thick-skinned candidates who have the ability to navigate challenges, stand up for what is right, but at the same time be open to meaningful input.

Inevitably there are other crucial factors to consider when hiring internal auditors and we are very interested in comments and suggestions that advance the discussion so please share your thoughts.

If you would like to learn more about MBK Search and how we can assist you in your search or in finding qualified auditors, please email us directly: or visit our website

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