The Top Internal Audit Skills Being Recruited in 2012

Richard Chambers, CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA, shares his personal reflections and insights on the internal audit profession.


I have written frequently over the past three years about the refocusing of internal auditing’s priorities around the world. The era of extensive focus on the effectiveness of financial controls is a thing of the past for most internal audit departments. Instead, annual internal audit programs in 2012 are apt to be more equally divided between operational risks, financial risks, and compliance risks. Emphasis on IT and fraud risks also has increased since 2008.

With internal auditing’s focus having been transformed, it is only natural that the requisite skills needed by internal auditors would have changed, as well. The recently published Global Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession survey results by The IIA’s Audit Executive Center confirmed very dramatically how much the requisite skills for internal auditors have changed. Chief audit executives are no longer lined up at the doors of their local universities to bid for newly minted accounting graduates. Instead, today’s internal audit job postings are apt to look for nontraditional skills to fill vacant positions.

The top five skills being recruited globally include:

  1. Analytical and critical thinking (72%).
  2. Communication skills (57%).
  3. IT general skills (49%).
  4. Risk management (49%).
  5. Business acumen (43%).

Analytical and critical thinking actually placed as the No. 1 most recruited skill in every region we analyzed. The second most recruited skill diverged somewhat by region with “communication skills” ranking second in North America and Asia/Pacific and “risk management skills” placing second in Latin America and Europe. The third most recruited skill in North America was “data mining and analytics.” Interestingly, it did not even place in the top five this year in Latin America and Europe.

While it is fascinating to study the differences in internal audit recruiting priorities by region, one fact overshadows all others: Skills most traditionally associated with auditing/internal auditing (e.g., accounting) were not even in the top five. From my perspective, this is a testament to the agile nature of our profession where risk profiles drive audit coverage, and audit coverage drives the most pressing skill requirements.

We at The IIA will continue to monitor these and other important trends going forward. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts on this important topic.

Posted on Aug 14, 2012 by Richard Chambers

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  1. Drastic change in skill set required for an internal auditor. Although the change is for performing effective internal audits.

  1. Without having consulted the recent survey results, I am actually not surprised by the results. I would believe that these are key skills every internal auditor needs to have to prepare and perform internal audits effectively, effeciently and succesfull. With these skills one will be able to understand and grasp what auditing is about as well. Just my thoughts.
  1. In looking at these skills, my question becomes how are we systematically nurturing these skills in our young professionals? The traditional accounting program at universities is insufficient and very few offer internal auditing as a major. Those that due offer it tend to just add a few classes on internal controls to an otherwise traditional business curriculum.

  1. I found your article very enlightening. I had one year internal audit experience prior to a layoff, and am looking to beef up my skill set for prospective employers.  I am considering certification in CIA, CISA, CCSA, AND CCEP.  Currently, I hold Bachelor degrees in two areas, Computer Information Systems, and Human Resource Management. I have two years past experience as an Systems Analyst.

    I am very interested in the Compliance industry and am seeking the advice of professionals on which certification I should seek to reach the broadest audience. 

    Thank you very much.

    Karen Stuart



  1. Karen Stuart,

    Given your Information Systems degree I would work toward the CISA.  But you can't go wrong with the CIA.  If you can, I would try for both.

  1. Keeping in view of the broad scope of internal audit activities in the audit practising world, to which I belong, one cannot undermine the importance of all of the five listed skills.

    I would like to raise a question here and will welcome your views that how one should nuture these neccessary skills while studing and gaining a professional certification because once entered in the practising world the professionals expect you to have these skills and if you lack in any of them then its a nightmare for you.



  1. One can't really disgree with findings of a survey like this one. But the pertinent question is what the IIA is doing to align its curriculum and standards with the findings. In many cases, perception gaps may arise from failure to find these desired skills in most of those practising the profession of Internal Auditing.   

  1. Finally,  I have been a performance auditor, evaluating the outcomes and success and failures of govt programs since 1980.  I do not have an accounting degree.   However, I also did not pass the CIA exam because I do not have an accounting degree and arrived without a calculator!!!

  1. I Agreed with above view and i would like to excelerate my professional carrier in Internal Audit. Cuurntly i am Chartered Accountant (INDIA) & currenly placed as AVP-Internal Audit at in renouned Steel Manufacturing Industry (INDIA). For international exposure i am planning to go for CIA(IIA). would it be recommended by you?  

  1. Shrihari Rana I recommend CISA or CIA, CISA has an added advantage of zeroing in on ICT systems, which gives you a competitive edge on the international arena. One Zimbabwean brother who qualified for CISA was recruited by USA and his starting salary was much more than the USD gross one he earned back home. CA here is an equivalent of CISA, and not knowing of India but if you trained with a renowned firm, they can link you up with gainful employers anywhere in the world and you will be spoilt for choice should you choose that route. To better place yourself, some second languages help like French lest your destination requires the languages

    Good morning guys, let us stop boasting on country's properties, and act like professionals. I do agree with Richard Chambers on what he is saying, but to certain extent. I disagree with him on critical thinking skill. The usage of this word or idiom may stir up kind of hate among the people who are getting involved in activity being audit and also it implies that an auditor is more likely number-oriented, fault pointer, adversary, and trouble maker. The human nature does not accept criticism in this work environment because it will be deemed as flaws of the person who’s been criticised. Instead, we can use word of personnel-oriented thinking because this idiom will imply cooperation, coordination and solving problem.
    The second point which I disagree with research that the accounting aspect does not have advanced rank in the results of research. Even though it doesn't have, doesn't mean that the internal financial audit has no significance in the audit function, on the contrary, all operational transactions of any firm in terms of administration, purchases, sales, production, stores, (whether manufacturing, merchandising, construction, service...etc) are reflected in the financial accounting system which produces the most significant reports on the firm’s performance that are of financial statements. We can’t say the financial internal audits on controls are of the past tradition and only the advance internal audit concept is more important than traditional audit. I’d rather that say the core of audit still financial audit.

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