Scour the internet and it’s easy to get rattled by statistics about job interviews. Interviewers, apparently, make their minds up about you as quickly as 30 seconds in – precious little time to demonstrate your enthusiasm and suitability for the job. Yet, for an internal auditor, building a rapport quickly and making a good first impression should be second nature, according to Paul Goodman, founder and director of recruitment specialist Goodman Masson.
“Internal auditors are often faced with situations where they meet new heads of businesses or functions,” he says. “But great internal auditors are adept at building a rapport, which is also a key ingredient in any good interview. Internal audit teams have to spend a long time in each other’s company and form strong relationships quickly in a variety of different commercial and cultural settings. There’s a level of judgment and intuitive skill required to judge how to interact when walking into a new audit environment, which applies equally in an interview situation.”
Good listening skills, crisp answers and likeability – which normally come from being yourself – are all basic, yet important characteristics that should shine through during those opening minutes.
An interviewer can also spot a talented internal auditor by the manner in which they answer his or her questions. Most candidates will have the knowledge and experience to respond with the correct information, but delivering the right level of detail, without over-simplification or digression, is harder.
“The ability to summarise key audit points and recommendations with the appropriate weight of delivery is a key ability for an internal auditor and can be an important factor in their long-term career progression,” Goodman says. “The level of detail and relevance of content that the interviewee provides to questions will, therefore, give the interviewer a valuable insight into their skills in this area.”
Preparation here is key, then, although this should not be confused with rehearsing a script. “If you over-prepare, you risk sacrificing that valuable rapport,” Goodman warns. And, while preparation should be comprehensive, it’s important to place the focus on yourself – your experience, abilities and ambitions.
“Job candidates tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time researching companies rather than thinking about themselves,” he says. “It’s often why they ramble when asked simple, predictable questions but give brilliantly thought-out answers about the latest set of results.”
Internal auditors shouldn’t underestimate the importance of dealing effectively with the kind of stock interview questions they expect: talking the interviewer through their CV, describing their strengths and weaknesses, and explaining past career moves. Yet you must also be mindful of details that are specific to internal audit.
Goodman explains: “Internal auditors need to think carefully before the interview about the risks that their organisation faces and those of the recruiting company. Be prepared to explore your thoughts about possible audit approaches and what relevant experience you have.”
Such discussions offer internal auditors a real opportunity to sell themselves – something that Goodman believes can be a weak point. “Internal auditors often make too little of the fact that they must understand business and operational strategy in order to deliver results,” he says. “If you emphasise this, it will enable you to be more expansive in your answers. You can demonstrate that you have a broad commercial grasp, rather than purely a knowledge of risk and audit technique.”
Most important of all in an interview is to think carefully about what the interviewer is looking for and shape your answers and approach accordingly. “Ultimately, interviewers are trying to find out if you can do the job, if you want to do it and if you can fit in,” Goodman says. “Put yourself in their shoes and think how you can convince them that you can, you do and you will. Then you will have the edge over the competition.”
Paul Goodman is the founder of Goodman Masson, the largest independent financial recruiter in the UK. The company covers, among other areas, accounting, tax, audit, risk and management consultancy. He can be contacted at email@example.com