When it comes to interviews for internal audit jobs, preparation is key. One of the most competitive careers on the job market, particularly with the rise in regulations and heightened need for corporate governance, internal auditors must know how to position themselves effectively in front of hiring managers if they are to secure a role.
Part of the interview preparation is having an idea of the types of questions you will be asked by your potential employer. Thinking laterally in terms of your responses is equally as important as the answers you give, as with every question your interviewer is digging a little deeper into who you are, where you are flawed and what you can offer. It is your responsibility to demonstrate your strength, your ability to stay professional and honesty when answering without casting yourself in a negative light.
A basic question to start may be: Why internal audit?
“Some people are career auditors,” says Paul Edwards, Director of KPP Search, “others view Internal Audit as their entry point into a new business before progressing elsewhere after some time. Whichever you are, make sure you are able to clearly articulate why you are interviewing for this job.”
Note that in answering this question you are also demonstrating what you will bring to their organisation in your competence as an internal auditor and enthusiasm for the role. Use this question as an opportunity to show how you specifically can provide effective risk mitigation, profit increase, cost reduction and attention to detail in reviewing the organisation’s key statements. The energy you bring to the role because of your passion for internal audit is what sets you apart from the rest.
Edwards admits that he often receives feedback that candidates indicated their sights were already set on their next move beyond Internal Audit and didn’t give good enough reasons as to why they wanted to do the job they were interviewing for. “It’s important to strike the right balance between the immediate future and showing your ambition,” he says.
Why do you want to work with us?
This question is all about testing your preparation skills pre-interview. Your employer wants to know how motivated you are to work for his or her company, thus how well you’ve researched the company culture. Use this question to identify which of their core values you share, your respect for their business ethos and how you intend to uphold the vision they have created for their organisation.
Why should we hire you?
A typical job interview question and one which gives you the opportunity to mention any achievements or qualifications you have that add value to your role as internal auditor. Now is the moment to talk about your skills, your experience and how you will be an asset to their business. Make sure to give examples of everything you discuss, for example, don’t just say “I’m a good team player”, prove it. A handy tip in this instance is also to make sure you have memorised the job description so you can keep referring back to it as you make your case for why they should hire you.
How do you see your career progressing after 3-4 years in Internal Audit?
This question according to Edwards is again about striking the right balance. He says, “If a ‘rotation scheme’ is in place, candidates should show clear ambition, whilst demonstrating an open-mindedness to different career directions.” He further explains, “If you typecast yourself into one narrow career path, there’s a chance you’re talking yourself out of the job if the company is any less than 100% sure they can deliver on your ambitions.”
Can you provide some examples of managing conflict?
When it comes to conflict, what your interviewer is looking for is an internal auditor who can show a willingness to listen to and understand his or her colleagues’ and employers’ perspectives in order to work out a solution that is mutually agreeable. The key here is collaboration leading to resolution.
Can you provide some examples of cultural adaptability?
Edwards explains that the best way to answer this question is by showing, not telling. “Our clients are often looking for people who will travel frequently, across different time zones, and encounter many different cultural approaches both inside and outside of their business dealings,” he says. “If you can show that you know what that entails, it helps the interviewer feel more relaxed about putting you in that challenging environment. Any examples of visiting family and friends abroad, studying in a different country and thus experiencing their culture or adapting yourself to new ways of working will show the interviewer that this isn't going to shock you.”
What do you expect to be different moving from External Audit to Internal Audit?
“My advice,” says Edwards in answering this question, “be confident with what you know, and show humility towards what you don’t. For example, a strong Financial Auditor may need to adjust their mind-set towards Operational Audits. It’s a completely different way of thinking and approaching a project and this can take time and shouldn’t be underestimated.” When it comes to making the move between external audit and internal audit, Edwards asserts that while companies are not expecting to hire someone with the full spectrum of expertise, what they are looking for is “someone who has a strong basis, is eager to learn and can adapt quickly.”
Can you give an example of a suggestion you made that was implemented?
Have an example ready that hones in most importantly on the implementation of an idea you put forward, and one that was hopefully successful.
What are your weaknesses?
The first thing to know when answering this question is that your interviewer is hoping to understand how you operate in the internal audit function and how your personality may affect your work. Be honest in your response, mention a real weakness, but frame it as something you were made aware of, subsequently worked on and have overcome and thus improved. This shows your interviewer that you are self-aware, open to constructive criticism and flexible in terms of your own development.
What are your salary expectations?
This is in some ways a trick question. In that they are trying to trick you into slipping up. Never answer this question directly. Answer it with a question instead, for instance, you can ask them about the range of the position and then explain that salary can depend on the details of the job of which there are many, but only mention a few.
Do you have any questions for us?
Try and use this question to actually learn something about the company and its potential in furthering your internal audit career. Never mention salary, perks, annual leave or job location, instead ask the kinds of questions that will cement your interest in the role in the mind of the person interviewing you. Are there any induction or development programs? How do they see your role progressing within the first 12 months? Ask about the company, the industry as a whole and how their business fits in with it. Be interested.