Effective internal auditor management: Attracting the right talent
ComplianceFebruary 14, 2024

Effective internal auditor management: Attracting the right talent


This new article series explores the crucial areas of internal audit people management: attract, reward, manage, and develop; a framework that is used to present a range of practical outcomes that internal audit teams are looking to achieve in each area and suggests a variety of examples of activities and initiatives that they are conducting to achieve these outcomes. My aim is that after reading these articles, everyone can take at least one idea back to their individual function for implementation.

In this article we'll cover:

Internal audit management framework

Audit functions have a lot of moving parts, all of which are crucial for their success. Typically, this would include:

  • An audit planning process to identify the right work based on organizational objectives and the risks that are being run. All about what we do.
  • An audit methodology which outlines how we will conduct our work, what the stages will be in each assignment we conduct to ensure it is of a high quality, and that the conclusions are objective and robust.
  • An audit tool – such as TeamMate+ – that helps auditors efficiently and effectively move through the audit workflow, end to end. From establishing annual plans, planning audits and fieldwork, to execution, reporting, closing the audit, and follow up.
  • Further systems or tools that help us do our work. This may be, for example, specialist data analytics tools, or visualization tools to demonstrate our results.
  • Quality management processes, such as tollgate meetings, four eyes sign off and review, and internal and external quality assurance to ensure that quality remains high.

However, this process will only take a function so far. You will only achieve the highest level of impact if you attract, reward, manage, and develop the talent needed to ensure delivery of your audit objectives and, through this, support the achievement of business priorities.

Richard Branson once said:

“Develop your people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.”   

So, how do you stack up against this?

All audit functions are reliant on the quality of their people to deliver impactful audit. However, attracting the best talent — and then motivating and developing this talent — is challenging and often not a natural skill set for internal audit managers who have often been promoted due to their effective audit skills, and not their ability to get the best out of their people. 

In this series of articles, I present a framework for successful internal audit people management, drawn from real world experience. The key learning I have made over the last 20 years of conducting and observing internal audit people management activity is that you need to take a systematic approach by considering each of the four areas shown. Simply pulling one or two of the levers without, at the very least, considering the implications for the other levers may mean that the potential impact of the activity will be, at best, blunted, and at worst, non-existent. 

In this context I propose that the overall aim of your internal audit people strategy should be to:

“Attract, reward, manage and develop the talent you need (the right capabilities, skills, and attitudes) to ensure delivery of your business priorities”

This takes us through the employee lifecycle and encourages you to consider all the important touch points with your colleagues. Your goal is to make the employee experience as effective as possible and to ensure that you can get the best out of all your people:

  • Attract is all about taking a long term view of your resourcing needs and having the means to effectively attract and select people with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes you need. You can learn more about how the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) approaches resourcing considerations for internal audit activity by reading their report.
  • Reward, at its simplest, is about attracting, retaining, and motivating people who use their skills and knowledge to deliver your objectives. Ensuring that the reward systems you have in place promotes the behaviors you have identified as being key to your success. This is likely to include objectivity and independence (more on that later).
  • Manage is about ensuring that your people are led and motivated effectively. To do this effectively, your managers require the proper tools and skills. This will mean that people are fully empowered to make decisions at the right level and at the right time, something that I see operating poorly in many audit functions who are slaves to the audit methodology. It also means that people are held accountable for their actions. To ensure this, you must provide regular and honest feedback on performance.
  • Develop a focus on ensuring that you are successful in identifying and developing talent at all levels of your function, and that people are supported in the development of their capabilities, knowledge, and experience.
Internal audit people management framework
"Attract, reward, manage, and develop the talent you need to ensure delivery of your business priorities."

The fact that you are reading this article is an indication that these outcomes are something you are interested in delivering, and that you are already convinced that great people management in internal audit really does matter. 

Let’s start with the first area in the framework – Attract.


First in our internal audit people management framework is ‘attract’, where we explore three key activities of this introductory stage of our employee lifecycle. 

Selection ‘plus’

Going beyond traditional selection methods, selection ‘plus’ is more robust and offers the prospective hire a genuine and deeper insight into what it is like to work in your function. Remember, selection is a two-way process. Yes, you are looking to hire someone, but they also need to understand who you are and how you will work with them. Functions that do not have this mindset are likely to miss out on the best talent and have problems with offer rejection rates (i.e. people not accepting offers at the end of the recruitment process). The recruitment process needs to be a true window of opportunity for the available talent. It’s important to look your best!

Selection ‘plus’ is all about what you do to select people that are interested in working with you. Traditional selection has revolved around an application with a resume / CV often provided and then an interview to select from those that have applied. My experience is that this can be very hit or miss, both for your organization as well as the individual who is applying. So, develop your selection toolkit to fully examine the skills, knowledge, and behaviors you are looking for, and allow the individuals who you are meeting to have some form of a job preview so they can develop a view on the kind of work they will be doing and the people they will be working with.

In practical terms, what does this mean? First, I would expect to see a library of case studies for use during an interview, built from real work scenarios and challenges that you face that can be used in your selection process. These may be used as a written task. For example, presenting some working paper issues and asking the individual to articulate them as final issues, or a scenario where the individual is asked to identify the risk and controls that they might look to test. This could also be done for presentations where the individual is asked to present to you the findings of a review that has been provided to them ahead of the interview. If you are feeling bold, this can be role played where, for example, you assume the role of a reluctant auditee and the candidate must persuade you of the merits of their work. The opportunities are widespread and give you the chance to see the candidate in action, their working style, and giving them the chance to see typical examples of the function’s audit work.

I’m also a proponent of presenting the candidate with some form of process data and asking them to identify patterns or potential areas of concern. For me, data analytic skills are no longer specialized, but instead something that I would expect from everyone on an audit team. Testing these skills during an interview is important to ensure the candidate has this mindset. Clearly, the complexity-of-data task you present will depend on the role you are looking to fill. But, at the heart of this suggestion is everyone at all levels having the mindset and aptitude for data analytics.

One final example to consider. An organization I worked with introduced an element of virtual reality into their recruitment as part of a series of exercises on a selection day where they faced a range of tasks. Why?  Well, if I’m honest, this was more about showcasing the innovative nature of the organization which was exploring VR in its customer offering rather than using it for selection. It was also a convenient way of filling a 30 minute slot for the candidate while results of previous exercises were being reviewed and the next selection exercise was being set up. Does it work? The feedback from the candidates was superb. They appreciated that the day was a mix of elements, and the virtual reality was a fun part of the overall process.

Explore AI

My next suggestion is around exploring AI to radically improve your recruitment process, particularly if your organization is large and is working through ongoing recruitment needs. We are still learning, but I am seeing that AI can be utilized at various stages throughout the recruitment process. Here are four areas (there will be others, to be sure) that I have seen increasingly being adopted in internal staffing audit recruitment:

  • Resume / CV Screening. AI can scan resumes and application questions to match candidates with job description requirements. This is very useful when dealing with large numbers of candidates.
  • Virtual assistants. Managing booking interviews and the diary challenges this presents can be simplified using a virtual assistant who can schedule interviews, send reminders, and keep candidates informed about the status of their applications. Again, this sends a signal as to the innovative nature of your organization.
  • Interviewing. AI can conduct initial screening interviews, asking standardized questions, and providing a consistent experience for all candidates.
  • Assessment. AI can administer and review the results of skill and personality assessments that I am sure many of you have seen or may already use in your recruitment processes. I have also now begun to see organizations experimenting with adaptive testing, which is where the test being administered adjusts the difficulty of questions based on a candidate's responses, providing a more accurate assessment of their skills and real help in differentiating candidates

By incorporating AI in these ways — and there are many consultancies who can help you quickly establish the use of AI — the recruitment process can be streamlined and assist with making objective decisions, as well as creating a more positive experience for both you and the candidates.

But of course, I would not be true to my audit roots if I did not also flag the risks that using AI may present if not used carefully. These risks are shown in the box below and were in fact suggested by Chat GPT.

“Chat GPT tell me about the dangers of using AI in the recruitment process?”

Bias amplification: If the training data used to develop AI algorithms contains biases, the algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate and amplify those biases. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes in candidate selection.

Lack of transparency: AI algorithms can be complex and difficult to interpret, making it challenging to understand how decisions are being made. This lack of transparency can lead to mistrust among candidates and internal stakeholders.

Loss of human connection: Relying heavily on AI can lead to a lack of human touch in the recruitment process. Candidates may feel disconnected and undervalued if interactions are solely with automated systems.

Unintended consequences: AI decisions can have unintended consequences. For example, if an AI algorithm is optimized to prioritize certain keywords, candidates might tailor their applications to include those keywords, rather than providing authentic information.

Gaming the system: Candidates may attempt to "game" the AI systems by tailoring their resumes to match specific criteria, even if they don't possess the required skills or qualifications.

Exclusion of non-traditional candidates: AI algorithms might favor candidates with conventional career paths or qualifications, excluding those with non-traditional backgrounds who could still be valuable assets to the company.

Technical issues: AI systems can encounter technical glitches or errors that could disrupt the recruitment process, leading to candidate frustration and potentially damaging the employer's reputation.

High costs: Implementing and maintaining AI systems can be expensive, especially for smaller organizations. The initial investment and ongoing costs can outweigh the benefits, particularly if not properly managed.


TeamMate+ Audit

Audit management

The world’s leading audit management software - empowering audit departments of all sizes.

There is a risk that the AI amplifies any unconscious biases those involved with training the algorithm have. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes in candidate selection and may result in AI algorithms that favor candidates with conventional career paths or qualifications, excluding those with non-traditional backgrounds who could still be valuable assets to the company. Diversity is key to organizational success. It is important to not let the algorithm disrupt this. So, approach AI in recruitment with suitable caution. If you are going to use it regularly, be sure to test AI systems for bias, and involve the proper human oversight.


My final suggestion in the attract area of our people management framework is around the onboarding of successful candidates. Onboarding is often seen largely as a scheduling exercise to prepare a new hire administratively for the job. This is often a missed opportunity. Effective onboarding, in my experience, can lead to faster integration of the new colleague into the audit team, higher retention rates – increasing the likelihood that the candidate will stay with you into the medium term — enhanced performance, and greater job satisfaction during what can otherwise be a stressful time.

Effective onboarding goes beyond administrative tasks and plays a critical role in helping new employees become successful, engaged, and integrated members of an organization. By investing in a thoughtful and well-designed onboarding process, organizations can set the stage for long-term employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity. What can you do to achieve this? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Ensure they are as well prepared as possible before arrival. At a minimum, send a welcome package or email with information about their first day and a request for any documents or forms they need to bring. Some organizations are now utilizing technology to do this, including streamlining paperwork, training, and communication. Online platforms and tools can support the provision of a consistent and efficient onboarding experience.
  • Set up their workspace, equipment, and tools ahead of time to make them feel valued and prepared. Avoid having them face days of IT frustrations. Make sure everything is working straight away and test it to ensure that it does. For new colleagues who are working remotely, make sure their IT is ready to go and they are guided through connecting to and using the system(s).
  • Create a structured onboarding plan. This should outline what new hires will be doing, who they will be meeting with, and what training they will receive during their first days, weeks, and months, including organized team-building activities, lunches, or social events to help new employees connect with their colleagues and build relationships outside of work tasks.
  • Assign a buddy or mentor. Remember what it was like to join a new organization? It can be quite stressful. Help with this by pairing new hires with experienced employees who can serve as mentors or buddies. This provides a go-to person for questions and helps new employees integrate into the team. Key here is helping them build their network.
  • Expectations and check ins. In the early months, ensure that regular one-on-one meetings between new employees and their managers are conducted to discuss responsibilities and performance expectations. This will set the right tone from the beginning, assess progress, address concerns, and offer support.

This concludes our exploration of attracting the talent your internal audit function needs to be successful. In the next article we will move though our people management framework to discuss the importance of ‘Reward’, which explores how your reward systems should promote the behaviors you have identified as being key to your success, including those areas of internal audit objectivity and independence.

Subscribe below to receive monthly Expert Insights in your inbox

Jonathan Chapman
Consultant specialising in risk and internal audit transformation
Jonathan Chapman is an expert on internal audit functional strategy and change management.
Back To Top