Strategies for Hiring and Retaining the Elusive Senior Internal Auditor… and Devising a Solid Backup Plan
By Christine Walters, Director, Assurance Services
Good senior internal auditors are hard to come by. Sometimes, experienced internal auditors move into other parts of the company. Other times, they may get poached by other companies. In many ways, the internal audit function can be a great launching pad for employees; internal auditors spend so much time learning about various departments through their walkthroughs and testing that when those departments seek to hire someone, they turn to the internal auditor who already knows the intricacies of their department. Additionally, many internal audit departments are structured as training grounds to prepare employees for other jobs within the company.
While internal auditing opens many doors for employees, it can create hiring issues for department heads. This blog post offers strategies for finding the right experienced internal auditors; retaining good employees; and devising and implementing staffing solutions for times when your department needs assistance.
Some job candidates may have engaging personalities, or specialized skills; but other key skills – like documentation, for example – may not be up to par. Still other candidates may not have the requisite skills to conceptualize and ask thoughtful follow-up questions when testing. Follow-up questions, in fact, are the most important aspect of auditing at the senior level. Internal auditors need to know what the end user or an external auditor will be looking for, and the level of detail that is needed, without receiving review comments (or minimizing review comments). In that respect, why not give candidates scenarios that they would encounter in an audit, and see what types of follow-up questions they would ask? Or, ask them to cite the types of information that must be included in the documentation.
For example, you can tell a candidate that the Controller says that he/she reviews the AR Aging for reasonableness every quarter, and from that review, determines if any amounts are uncollectable and should be written off. Based on that scenario, ask the prospective employee what their follow-up questions would be. Good responses would include some of the following:
- What are the criteria that the Controller seeks in his/her review?
- Are all amounts over a certain number of days considered?
- Are those accounts followed up by someone who will talk to the customer in order to deem the collectability?
- Do they take into consideration past payment history?
- Do they suspend future AR for that customer if there are balances outstanding over a certain number of days?
If you don’t give the prospective employee real scenarios, then you may get an employee who stops after the first response and just documents the fact that the Controller reviews the report for reasonableness. Ideally, this is not what you want.
After spending time and money training an internal auditor who has achieved enough success to be promoted to a senior level, the last thing you want is to lose him/her and start over. Recruiters may call your employees with opportunities that spark their interest. Your senior auditors, therefore, need a safe outlet through which they can express concerns about their current job – and discuss outside opportunities as well – without feeling like they will get fired for considering leaving.
Employees sometimes leave for reasons that could have been met at their current company, if they had just asked. Assigning everyone a career coach can help alleviate this problem by giving employees a way to talk through issues before they sign offer letters to join outside companies. Career coaches can also be used to help auditors develop goals for the next year and talk through performance appraisals so that realistic expectations can be set and achieved. In the end, this helps employees to feel satisfied and remain loyal.
Devising and Implementing a Solid Backup Plan to Supplement Your Internal Audit Department
When you have open positions that are waiting to be filled, or an employee goes on leave, or you have a project that needs to be staffed and your employees’ schedules are already filled, you can turn to firms that specialize in providing assistance on an as-needed basis. In fact, it may make sense to hire contractors to work during your busiest time instead of hiring a full-time employee for the entire year.
Firms like Marcum provide a broad range of specialized services to fit your specific needs. Marcum LLP offers a cohesive team approach; all internal audit work is reviewed by a senior manager for consistency with the requirements that are expected from the Big 4 external auditors, reducing rework and review comments by the external auditors. Additionally, the team’s blended hourly rate is competitive while delivering outstanding value.