An important point to note when applying for management roles within the audit function is not to get too fraught with the wording. Companies may often advertise a senior internal audit position as a managerial post in hopes of attracting the right talent. What is key however is to look not at the job title but at the scope of the role. The job description is where you will find the information that will determine whether the job is the right fit for your experience.
Internal auditors who have begun their career within the Big Four, in particular, may have been labelled internal audit manager but in reality would have been gaining their experience as internal audit consultant. There is a discernible difference between Big Four practice and “real world” industry and the transition between the two involves a shift in an individual’s mind-set as they move from the culture of a firm such as PwC to the very different operation of a company like Coca Cola.
Typically internal audit manager jobs call for mentoring experience, project management skills, excellent organisation and communication, as well as an expectation for the individual in question to assume a hands-on attitude to his or her work. An internal audit manager is responsible for managing a company’s audits, from the planning to the execution and thus demonstrable technical skills are critical. Being able to communicate efficiently with business stakeholders and meeting their value-added expectations is crucial to being an effective manager. Employers and head-hunters alike will look for candidates with excellent communication skills and a mind for analytical thinking as the latter is becoming ever more central to the internal audit function.
It is not just chartered accountants moving into internal audit management roles as the demand for IT skills and forensics and CIA experience also move up the list of criteria. Individuals who are IT savvy, fluent in SAP and data analytics programs such as ACL and SQL are certainly sought-after and undoubtedly, employers and hiring managers place enormous emphasis on professional certifications. Companies in the UK, US and Europe in particular, highly value qualifications as the achievement of the ACA, ACCA, CIMA and other demonstrate an individual’s commitment and knowledge.
Fluency in foreign languages is also a valuable asset, particularly in markets such as Hong Kong, China and Australia, where Chinese and Mandarin speakers are highly sought-after. An understanding of the local market is also important, particularly when it comes to building successful stakeholder relationships.
In addition to understanding the expectations of the role, candidates should be aware of the wider developments being adopted by companies globally with regards senior internal audit opportunities. Management positions in the audit space have typically been held by men, but external pressure from society is forcing companies to re-examine their approach to gender diversity meaning there are a great deal more internal audit manager jobs being assigned to women than ever before.
True, many women who balance their career with the demands of family may not opt for the pressures of management, but for those aiming to move on that upwards trajectory, the opportunities are finally beginning to emerge. A global incentive among companies means businesses from Singapore to the UK are ensuring a more gender diverse approach to hiring, particularly at the more senior end of the scale with more and more women heading up teams.