An internal auditor examines the financial records of his employer to ensure compliance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), IRS rules and other government regulations. This is an important role, particularly for publicly traded companies, from which the government requires third-party public audits. The internal auditor is the company's last line of defense to find and correct errors and departures from compliance before figures are revealed in a public audit.
Internal auditing is a growing field, with jobs available in abundance. However, colleges and universities report increasing numbers of accounting majors every year, which means the competition for these jobs is getting stiffer. Acing your job interview is paramount for receiving an offer. Your chances for acing your job interview are best if you anticipate the questions you'll be asked and practice giving winning responses.
Positions or Internships You've Held
Auditing is a highly technical field. Employers love to see candidates with past experience, because it means they are more likely to hit the ground running with minimal hand-holding and remedial training. Accounting professors stress the importance of internships to their students for this very reason; many accounting majors get their first auditing jobs at the firms they interned for in college.
Recent graduates and young professionals with no experience or internships have to get creative with this question. A strong academic résumé with a high grade point average (GPA) can mitigate the disadvantage of inexperience. If you excelled on a specific accounting project in school, such as a mock audit, now is the time to bring it up.
Why You Want to Be an Internal Auditor
This question is common for accounting majors right out of school. The stereotypical career path for an accounting graduate is to start in a more general capacity at a Big Four public accounting firm (Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG). Big Four jobs are demanding, particularly for entry-level employees who are often made to work 60 hours per week or more, but they look amazing on a résumé and open a lot of doors.
Given the career advantages of starting at a Big Four firm, your interviewer is probably genuinely curious why you are eschewing that path and going straight into internal auditing. Be candid with your response. Wanting more of a work-life balance, preferring to stay in one place rather than traveling from client to client, the desire to work for a smaller firm – these are all valid answers.
What You Know About (Esoteric Industry Term)
At some point, your interviewer is going to test your industry knowledge. He might ask you to distinguish between first in, first out (FIFO) and last in, first out (LIFO) inventory valuation, or to explain the ramifications of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002. While he does not expect your response to be as cogent as something from a 20-year veteran in the field, he wants to be confident that you possess enough industry knowledge to make an impact from day one.
Assuming you are an accounting major who did well in school, you should be well-prepared for any question of this nature. Just make sure you brush up on your knowledge before the interview.
Questions for the Interviewer
Asking your interviewer thoughtful questions is as important as providing thoughtful answers to his questions. Career paths, upward mobility, corporate culture and leadership opportunities are all great topics to ask about. These types of questions imply that you are seeking a long-term career with the firm, and this is what the interviewer wants to hear. Topics to avoid include vacation time, dress codes, lunch break policies and other such minutiae that has no relevance to your career growth. Save these questions for the offer session.