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3 Keys to Being a Top-Performing Auditor

Internal Audit
3 keys to being a top performing auditor
3 min read
Robert Berry
Risk & Audit Advocate, Author, Educator and Innovator
Published: November 29, 2012
Last Updated: August 10, 2023

Finding internal auditors with the right mix of skills can be tough, especially when they come from such diverse backgrounds. In order for internal audit to be successful, auditors need to bring several skills and traits to the table. This blog post by Robert Berry, a former internal auditor, provides the three essential traits necessary to be a top-performing auditor.

Internal auditing is a profession that is open to quite a few different types of individuals. What I mean by that is, auditors can derive from varied backgrounds including accounting, finance, computer science, science, English, literature, biology, chemistry, social services, etc. As a result, it can be difficult to nail down the skills necessary to succeed.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) developed an Internal Auditor Competency Framework that identifies several key skills divided across the following knowledge areas:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Tools and techniques
  • Internal audit standards
  • Theory
  • Methodology
The Four-Part Approach for Audit Efficiency and Effectiveness

Individual components within these knowledge areas are vast. However, without discounting the content of the framework, I believe there are, at a much higher level of course, three essential traits necessary to be a top-performing auditor.

Auditors must be there—both physically and mentally—to satisfy stakeholder and client needs. Some auditors only communicate with clients when it is time to perform an audit engagement. While this may be necessary due to certain limitations (e.g., staff size, spread-out locations, etc.), it does not promote relationship building. I believe auditors should make it a point to visit most audit clients at least once per year (the more often the better, but at least once).

Today, technology makes it possible to use video conferencing when budgets are tight. This will at least allow auditors and clients to put faces with names read via email. Several years ago, I worked for an organization where there were accounting officers in remote locations. These accounting professionals expressed that they did not like a few senior members of the audit staff because they never visited. They went on to inform me that they actually respected me because of the effort made to visit (they mentioned nothing about my ability initially). Now granted, my travel schedule to the location was not heavy, but it was just enough to make the client feel respected and important.

This probably does not need to be said, but auditors must be proficient. As mentioned previously, the IIA maintains a competency framework that details some required skills. Change is definite. Therefore, auditors must continuously assess and update their skills.

Now, I believe passion plays a significant role in proficiency. People are typically good at activities they like. Of course, there are many exceptions, but I'm speaking in generalities. For example, a computer programmer is most likely is passionate about coding. As a result, many programmers eat, sleep, and breathe code.

First, the auditor must show up. Then, he or she must find passion and become proficient. Finally, the auditor must actually perform. Presence, passion, and proficiency are no good if not put to use. Putting the pieces together requires an organization that the tools necessary for success.

To be successful, auditors must show up (have a presence), find the passion, be proficient and actively perform. Omitting any of these elements can have a drastic impact on internal auditing success.

This article is by Robert Berry from

About the Author
Robert Berry
Robert Berry

Risk & Audit Advocate, Author, Educator and Innovator

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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