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More Interview Woe May 29, 2011

Posted by Audit Monkey in The Joy & Pain of Internal Audit, Working Life in Britain.
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As the two readers of this blog will be aware, my pet topics are dim auditors, dumb HR officers and plain dumb interview questions. Unfortunately, given this week’s events, this rich seam of blogging material shows no sign of abating. Audit Monkey was subjected to some inane interview questions but in particular had me beat:

“What are your development points? I have development points even at my stage in my career”
, said the Interviewer, who looked like he was due for imminent retirement.

This question is very problematic. You need to appear competent in order to get the job, so you can’t rattle off a load of weaknesses, insecurities and known faults otherwise you will never get through the door. I can’t remember my reply but I probably went for something inconsequential. However, my beef is this, when you have been auditing as long as I have, this sort of question is a bit daft. If I can’t audit by now, have no grasp of risk, can’t conduct myself appropriately in front of Executives, I should be in another role or profession.

And another point, it’s only auditing. Hello! How bright do you have to be to do the job? I’ll let you into a secret, not very. You are more likely to die of boredom due to the relentless tedium and mental suffocation.

Yet, we are in this large ‘Alice through the looking glass’ world where we asked theoretical questions about our ‘likely’ behaviour in future employment when our performance will be shaped and influenced by the culture, structure and people we work with. Of course, don’t forget that Interviewers often judge the candidate by different values, such as class, background, presentation and that other variable ‘personality’ rather than technical ability.

So what to conclude. It’s all BS. I would love to turn the tables on the Interviewers and go ‘free-style’ but I’m beholden to our good friends the Recruitment Consultants otherwise I’ll be persona non grata.


1. Audit Monkey - May 31, 2011

In hindsight, I know what I should have said. I should have emphasised Regulatory Risk, Technology Risk as these are always growing areas and have to be covered off. Always wiser after the event.

2. ITauditSecurity - June 4, 2011

Was this question from an HR or auditing bloke?

Did you get the feeling this was a question he had to tick off, or was he really interested in the answer?

Assuming it wasn’t just a formula question, perhaps he was looking for promote-ability and initiative. On the other hand, interviewers don’t understand how many of us are just trying to survive. Then again, perhaps he’s trying to ensure he gets the best candidate, not just a survivor. If that’s the case, then they should pay better, no?

I have long thought that interviews are more about making the interviewer feel good about themselves rather than finding a good candidate.

I find IT audit intellectually stimulating because technology constantly changes and developers dream up new ways of screwing things up.

Sure, it gets tedious like financial and operational audit. You state what I’ve long known, which is that IT auditors can do most of the other kinds of audit without much financial knowledge, simply because it’s verifying amounts, reconciliations, and signatures. But for some reasons, managers hate the thought of an IT auditor doing anything but IT audits.

And then they put non-IT auditors on IT audits all the time, and the results are laughable. Not only is the hood pulled over the auditor’s eyes by the technical SMEs, but they silently slip a noose around the poor auditor’s neck and leave them dangling. But I digress.

I agree: interviewing is BS and most interviewers don’t know how to do it and they hate it, and we wonder why interviews are torture and poor candidates get the job!

As to what to answer, I would describe some of my strengths and then note some small areas where I’d like to improve. Tell stories about past audits, how they went well, and how they could have been better if X. Whatever.

3. Audit Monkey - June 4, 2011

The question was from Head of Finance/Financial Controller. The vacancy was for a contract role; I wasn’t expecting a too much of a grilling as the role was in the back of beyond and suffering from a severe lack of eligible candidates. The phrase ‘false sense of security’ springs to mind.

Sure, there may have been a few prepared questions in the mix but these were included to see the content of my answers.

I do take issue with your comment that “IT auditors can do most of the other kinds of audit without much financial knowledge simply because it’s verifying amounts, etc”. IT auditors often have an IT audit mindset can and do miss subtleties in a financial systems audit, or take the audit down the IT systems route when it isn’t required. (Everyone is always more comfortable on home turf). Consequently, the wool is pulled over the auditor’s eyes.

As an aside, this is why ‘transferring sectors’ in the audit world is so difficult as often, one doesn’t know all the intricacies and nuances of a given industry. Hence, hiring Audit Managers are reluctant to take on ‘fresh meat’, (even though it may be well seasoned like me!). The other reasons are that hiring managers often don’t have the patience to allow newbies learn or coach on the job and most auditors are pretty risk adverse.

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