How to Onboard a New Internal Auditor

By Sarah Nord

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

― Mark Twain


Internal Audit is a field for people who love to learn, and there’s plenty of good information from the IIA, MISTI and other organizations for practitioners who want to advance their careers. But what about the folks who are entirely new to the profession? How do they begin to swim in a vast sea of professional guidance?

I recently sat down with Jason Rohlf, our VP of Solutions at Onspring, who has spent his career as an audit practitioner, process consultant and solution developer. Jason has some funny (and mildly frightening) stories to tell about his early days as an auditor. (Think maniacal bosses, accounting scandals and misadventures with “polished leather shoes.”) Let’s just say, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

So I asked him: “If you could start your career all over again, what would you wish for in that first job?”

His response came in the form of 4 Big E’s:

#1: Education

Internal auditors exist to help companies thrive, not to whack people with a stick when they do something wrong. But too often, Jason says, new internal auditors get stuck on “gotcha” projects and don’t realize their true purpose from the outset.

“For IA leadership, it’s crucial that you know your mission and primary goals, the nature of your interactions with audit clients, and your modes of communication and reporting. Know these things before you hire. Then clearly communicate to new hires, ‘This is how we deliver value to the organization.’”


#2: Experience

Jason says it’s also crucial to take a person’s background into consideration when training them to be an auditor. This may seem obvious, but at times, new hires are thrown into the fire without proper assessment of their knowledge.

“Really consider how much education they need—not just about your department and the audit process, but about your organization’s structure, its nuances and business operations in general. Don’t assume that their previous experiences will transfer right over.”


#3: Expectations

Starting a new job is always hard, but it can be particularly stressful for internal auditors with big expectations on their shoulders. Make sure they fully understand those expectations, Jason says.

“You have to give people a chance to measure themselves against your expectations so they know how they’re doing—and not just at the end of the project, but along the way, too.”

From day one, Jason suggests setting clear expectations for 3 months, 6 months and 1 year on the job. Also consider doing mid-project and post-project reviews so new hires can adjust course as needed before they’re formally evaluated for their performance and contributions.


#4: Exposure

Lastly, Jason suggests that new internal auditors experience a variety of projects within their first year on the job. They may start with time and expense reporting, but don’t let that go on indefinitely.

“You’re doing them a disservice if you keep them on more simplistic or clear-cut projects, or if you’re always telling them to replicate last year’s audit. Put them on a career progression so they get exposure to more and more complex work and value-adding services. That’s how you keep a new auditor engaged.”


So there you have it: the big 4 E’s of onboarding a new internal auditor. Whether you’re just beginning your career in the profession or you’re hiring and training new staff, I hope you’ve gleaned some valuable insights. Thank you, Jason, for sharing your experiences!

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