December 2012

More Experience Required?


An audit manager at a large retail firm wonders if experience should trump performance as she considers applicants for an open position.


While staff and senior-level auditors have come and gone, until recently Red Shelf Systems’ internal audit group has seen little turnover at the manager level. One of the group’s most experienced managers is relocating for personal reasons and Sharon Brand, the group’s chief audit executive, has convened the two remaining managers and an internal recruiter from human resources to discuss filling the open position.

The recruiter dusted off the audit manager job description and handed out copies to the group. The description contained some basic qualifications for the position:

  • Bachelors or masters degree in business related field, preferably accounting or audit.
  • Minimum five years audit/accounting experience.
  • Professional certification — CPA, CIA, or CISA — required.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills — written and verbal.

The recruiter told the group that if the job description met their approval she could post the position on a couple of external websites and begin the hiring process. Once she received resumes from candidates she would forward them to Sharon and the managers for review. She could then conduct an initial phone screen and arrange on-site interviews with the candidates in whom they expressed an interest.

After a month, the group had interviewed several candidates and narrowed the final list to two individuals, each with approximately 10 years’ experience (although their experience was in different industries). Sharon was ready to put the decision to a vote when one of the managers, Molly Hiram, raised an issue. She explained that one of the senior auditors had approached her and asked why he wasn’t being considered for the open manager position. Sharon acknowledged that the senior’s performance to date had certainly been stellar and that he was the top performer in the senior pool, but she also noted that he had only four years’ audit experience. She said the senior probably needed a little more experience before he could be considered for a manager role. After all, they were a small audit shop of only 10 people and needed all the experience they could get at the manager level.

The human resources recruiter and the other manager agreed with Sharon, but Molly wasn’t convinced. She thought the senior auditor’s four years of more relevant industry experience with Red Shelf, combined with his stellar performance, more than compensated for his experience shortfall.

What do you think? Has enough time passed to judge the maturity and capabilities of the senior auditor? Is performance equally important as experience when it comes to career moves? Should Sharon and the group just play it safe since they have two candidates who meet all of the formal requirements?

Share your comments below.


succession planning
It's not just the length of experience but the quality of it that matters. Part of any employee's development should be identification of future directions and a road map to get there. The competency frameworks provide a great start: review it with the employee and provide a concrete list of areas in which development is needed before promotion can be considered. Then, map out what each of the organization, department and individual will do to get that individual the needed development. In annual reviews and when opportunities arise, do an honest assessment of progress.
Posted By: Teresa Checkley
2012-12-06 4:38 PM
More Experience Required?
It seems to me that knowledge of the particular business is far more important than audit experience. I started my job with as the only auditor. I had to train myself by wading through previous audit reports, googling topics on line, and shadowing every employee I could. When I am hampered by my inexperience, it comes down to my knowledge of the business every time. Plus, promoting from within is good for morale.
Posted By: Karen DeRoode Marron
2012-12-06 4:29 PM

As a member of a small audit shop myself, experience does matter. Why? Immediate results can be expected. Lessons learned over time far outweigh academic or single industry / firm knowledge. Moreover, senior auditor skills and performance do not necessarily translate into effective mangers. Perhaps you can transistion the senior auditor into a strategic project managment role prior to promotion to manager. Finally, promotion from within runs the risk of reducing diversity of thought.
Posted By: J Gager
2012-12-06 2:22 PM
More experience required?
I think they should also consider the applicability of the other candidates' experience in other industries. Would it transfer over? In a small audit group environment personality and leadership skills are equally important. They have had a chance to see the senior's interaction with coworkers, while they have not with the outside candidates. I believe these factors should also come into play. Experience alone should not be the deciding factor in this case. Give the senior a shot at the interview process.
Posted By: Rose
2012-12-06 2:16 PM
More Experience Required?
I'd say the question of experience vs. performance has to be answered case by case. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of decision. Besides, too many variables are not discussed in the article. What relevant prior experience might the Senior have? Does he perform well at functions a manager would need to perform? Does hiring from the outside fit the firm's Employment strategy (if any)? Stagnation at the management level = risk of brain drain (which from the article seems high for Red Shelf). Is it important that hiring from outside only reinforces that risk? Is it important that it could put the firm into a perpetual state of having too little internal experience to rely on? I hope Red Shelf found the best alternative for their needs.
Posted By: Ed
2012-12-06 1:19 PM
Comments on this article
Performance is very important, if his performance is stellar, his attitute must be superb. Attitude and willing to learn are as important as experience, if not more. If this person is passed for a promotion because of the shortfall of his experience he is going to be frustrated, his performance might suffer or he may leave the company. Being in a manager's position is a different ball game, his training in his new position should be geared more towards learning and/or perfectioning management concepts e.g. planning, delegating, supervising, time management, prioritizing, communicating with staff, rather than technical concepts; dealing with people is the most difficult part of the job. He should also spent time with the current managers. The Human Resources Department in conjuction with the departments' head should carefuly review and revise from time to time, the requirements for the position, sometimes it should be some flexibility for certain requirements. Keep in mind you already know this person's strenghts and weakneses. Everyone looks good in interviews or in paper. Like they say "you don't get to know a person until you live with him/her"
Posted By: Dulce M. Quiñones
2012-12-06 12:37 PM
More Experience Required
While I think it is valid that relevant experience in the industry is valuable, I do not feel that it can bridge the gap between 4 years of experience and 10 years of experience. Auditors are knowledge workers, and an audit professional with 10 years of experience has significantly more knowledge of the profession, even if it is from another industry. More knowledge can likely translate into more value for the department. Additionally, promoting the top senior is not going to add new perspectives or ideas to the group. The senior has not seen the strengths and weaknesses of other internal audit departments.
Posted By: Paul Myslinski
2012-12-06 12:34 PM
More experience required?
I would suspect that it would be easy to say that having direct experience in the field and industry in question is more beneficial than that of someone who has IA experience in another field regardless of duration. The key here is whether or not the environment has become complacent, stale, or lacking innovation in a way where an outsider perspective is more valued than an internal one. If an internal candidate has the experience and credentials (although not equal in length), the question that really comes to mind is: "is this individual qualified to be a manager", not "can this person be promoted to a management role". All too often people are promoted regardless if they have the aptitude or skill set to be a successful individual in that role. Just because someone performs stellar in one role doesn't mean they'll be stellar in another. So, a wider range of experience may be the better choice.
Posted By: Brian Jensen
2012-12-06 12:26 PM
Performance should trump experience in this case.
If you have a candidate in house that has a proven track record and knowledge of your environment, that person should be considered above an external candidate with more experience. You know what you are getting with the in house candidate and you are offering staff an opportunity to advance. Unless you have reason to doubt the in house person's leadership abilities, I'd vote for them over the external candidate.
Posted By: Vickie Classen
2012-12-06 12:22 PM
More Experience Required?
I question how big a difference will a fifth year of experience make for someone recognized as a high performer. Requiring a year, or perhaps two years experience at a certain level might be appropriate, but after that, it is reasonable to deviate from criteria that should outline desirable qualifications. To exclude an internal candidate of a relatively small organization for no other reason than being slightly shy of the desired 5 years' experience will demoralize other staff desiring and capable of advancing. But all of that said, the selection committee should take a step back to reassess all applicants against the more flexible criteria. The internal candidate could then be considered among others, and the best candidate, whether internal or external, should be selected.
Posted By: A. Michael Stevens
2012-12-06 11:26 AM
Experience vs Performance
I think taking on a manager-level role depends on more than audit performance. How has this Senior Auditor presented himself? If the stellar performance includes consistently presenting himself as a leader and a mentor to the more junior auditors then perhaps he is ready to take on manager responsibilities. However, it is not enough to be a good performer. A manager needs to know how to lead a team. Accordingly, just because a candidate has 10 years of audit experience does not mean they are ready to be a manager either. The outside candidates’ leadership experience must be evaluated as well.
Posted By: Michelle Hample
2012-12-06 11:12 AM
Experience Vs performance
In my opinion Senior Auditor should be elevated to Manager positiom as he has got 4 years of relevant experience against 10 years of different industry experience. Further his performance has been excellant and if he is not promoted and a manager is hired from outside senior auditor's performance come down, he will think whateevr performance you show its of no use and management will always bring someone from outside with little relavant experience and impose him on us, so definitely performance of auditors will be affected. In this situation senior auditor shouold be promoted to MANAGER position and his place may filled by hiring a junior person from outside.
Posted By: ali imran memon
2012-12-05 8:18 AM


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