Skills an Audit Manager Needs to Be a Successful Leader

Skills an Audit Manager Needs to Be Successful

Intensifying regulatory demands, rapidly evolving technology and many other challenges in today’s dynamic business landscape are making it more important than ever for organizations to have a strong internal audit department. They also need skilled, experienced professionals in key roles like audit manager to help support the function.

To secure this talent, many employers are prepared to offer higher starting compensation in 2017 to audit managers and other internal audit leaders, according to Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide for the accounting and finance profession.

An organization’s ability to meet compliance requirements and identify potential risks requires coordination, cooperation and vigilance by employees at all levels. Through the audit process, the internal audit team ensures everyone in the organization is doing what’s required to help avoid risk and meet compliance demands. However, because audit projects are often complex and time-intensive, it’s easy for even experienced auditors to lose sight of key details and miss red flags.

Enter the audit manager, who is responsible for overseeing completion of audit assignments and confirming the work is of high quality and adheres to professional standards and other relevant requirements. The audit manager typically manages an entire audit project, from scheduling audits to preparing audit strategy to assembling the audit team. He or she also must draft detailed reports about audit findings and communicate relevant information to management to inform their decision making.

Collaborate and communicate

Obviously, to do all of the above the audit manager must bring both technical and interpersonal skills to the table — including the ability to foster teamwork and help guide others through change. These skills are important because today’s audit teams, including their leaders, need to collaborate more frequently with staff both inside and outside of their department — and, perhaps, across geographies.

An audit manager is expected to have expert knowledge of relevant regulations, as well. But employers look to audit managers to go beyond honing this expertise and play a lead role in communicating the detailed nature of these rules to everyone in the organization who has a role in compliance. This requires the audit manager to have not only strong written and verbal skills, but also the ability to engage in a productive dialogue with staff, including at the executive level, who don’t necessarily understand the complexities of “audit speak.”

A big-picture view

Effective communication isn’t possible without first establishing trust, of course. So, another challenge for an audit manager is finding the best way to establish credibility among individuals both within and outside the department. A successful manager leads by example, taking the initiative to collaborate across departments, consider different perspectives and be respectful to others. (And as our research shows, most professionals view integrity as the most important leadership attribute by far.)

An audit manager will need to apply advanced critical-thinking and analytical skills in order to interpret audit findings and translate them for the business. Additionally, the audit manager needs to take a big-picture view of the function itself, especially when it comes to hiring.

Embracing this broader perspective of the organization will allow the audit manager to think strategically when recruiting talent that the company will need to stay on top of evolving compliance requirements and emerging risks. He or she also can make sure staff members have access to the professional development opportunities they need to succeed, and that will encourage these in-demand professionals to stay with the organization for the long term.

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Additional resources for internal auditors


A Look Ahead: Internal Audit Hiring and Salary Trends: Whether you’re considering a career change or looking to advance along your current path, the growing field of internal audit provides ample opportunities for talented professionals. Robert Half’s Salary Guide for the accounting and finance profession offers a look into the future for specialists in this area. Learn more in this post.

White paper

Succeeding as a 21st Century Internal Auditor: 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Internal Auditors: See this white paper, co-authored by Richard Chambers, president and CEO of The Institute of Internal Auditors, and Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, to find out what types of nontechnical attributes today’s internal auditors should possess.


2016 Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey: Arriving at Internal Audit's Tipping Point Amid Business Transformation: Development of personal skills has become an area of focus for many internal auditors, according to Protiviti’s latest Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey. See this survey report for details.

This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect more current information.