Key skills to complete an effective audit

Updated: Nov 6


In previous publications, we have highlighted the key benefits of implementing an adequate training program (Workplace Management: Lessons Learned and Key Components of an Effective Employee Onboarding Program). Traditional training might not always cover all materials needed to do your job. This statement highly applicable to preparing auditors for a successful career. 


Auditors primarily focus on the core competencies of the profession by memorizing the Standards issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors. However, other vital skills are expected to become a successful internal auditor/compliance professional. Some of these competencies include; Project Management, Effective Interviewing, Time Management, Agile Communication, Leadership, Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking, Sound Judgement Best Practices, Data Analysis, Research, Analytical Procedures, Problem-Solving, Practical Case Study Analysis, and Relationship Building. This document will focus on the first four competencies mentioned on this list.


Program Management is a crucial competency needed to plan, execute, and successfully deliver an active audit engagement. A junior auditor must know that every audit needs to go through planning, scheduling, execution, reporting, and follow-up. However, compliance professionals must follow a practical methodology that will assist them in carrying out these tasks, manage resources, and finish within budget and on-time, mitigating the risks identified during the risk assessment process. Trying to “hit the ground running” without adequately planning the project, typically allows for scope creep, running over budget (time and financial resources), and most importantly, reduce the quality of the audit. This situation might not give management a full assessment of the system of controls being tested.  


Effective Interviewing. – Asking the right questions can set the direction of an audit. Just like asking the wrong questions can generate false-positive and lead auditors down a path very different than originally intended. Effective interviewing takes a particular skill set to be knowledgeable of the topic, know the interviewee, and preparation before the interview. The auditor must correctly comprehend what is hearing from the interviewee, understand when you are given inaccurate information, shift focus based on the answers to the questions and professionally ask for clarification when something does not make sense. Effective interviewing is more than taking notes when the other person is speaking.  


Time Management. – One of the most precious resources of any audit is time. It is limited and must be maximized. The auditor should be aware that audits take time away from the business owners who would rather focus on their day job, instead of gathering information, completing a document request list, or answering questions from a policy enforcer. As such, auditors must be very careful on how to utilize their time and the time of others. Make every minute count and focus on high-value impact activities. Prioritize what can be done when meeting with business owners. Organize your thoughts before meeting with management. Gather what you need and meet your self-establish deadline to ensure the audit completes on-time and in-budget. 


Agile Communication. – Whether it is through a phone conversation, public speaking, interviewing management, or writing the audit report, successful auditors need to have a well-polished message delivery. Auditors must command the art of communication, set expectations, transmit the requirements, educate management and colleagues on what needs to be done and complete the task at hand, all while putting the auditee at ease. A competent auditor will avoid using technical jargon and aim at communicating a simple message. A great auditor should exercise active listening to ensure the dialog with the auditee does not turn into a monologue. It is important to maintain direct communication with the auditee and limit the engagement of business resources that will not have a valuable contribution to the project. 


Let’s update our professional profiles by expanding our knowledge areas in preparation for the next kick-off meeting. 


What other skills do you believe are necessary to perform an effective audit? 


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