If I’m approaching the application and interview process with sufficient preparation, it’s essentially like taking on a second job. I interviewed with 11 people at the company over the course of several weeks, culminating in a presentation of my plan for the role. I invested time into researching the company and its founders, their products, their technology, and what they were trying to accomplish. For each of my 11 interviews, I researched the person I’d be meeting to understand their role and their background so that I could speak directly to them based on what I knew about the company.
This degree of preparation is a good practice in the best of times, but it made a world of difference when interviewing during travel restrictions and shelter-in-place measures because all of the interviews were done completely remotely. I didn’t get to meet any of my interviewers in person, which is an added benefit of on-site interviews because you can better get a sense of a person and develop a connection more easily than you can through a computer. I’m glad I invested that time, because it helped me acquire a level of knowledge that led to impactful conversations during the interview process and ultimately led to me landing the position.
Beyond preparing what you’re going to say, it’s also crucial to put some thought into how you present yourself when interviewing remotely. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate attire for interviewing in your living room, simply ask the person arranging the interview what to wear on the call. My contact suggested business casual, which ended up being a good choice because most of the people I interviewed with were dressed casually.
Another tip is to make sure your background is not distracting to the other person in the meeting. Set up your device, turn on your camera, and critically evaluate the video you see ahead of time to ensure the effect is as polished and professional as you can achieve.
I knew the role I was applying for would be responsible for starting the internal audit department from scratch. As part of my preparation for the individual interviews, I put together a comprehensive plan for my first 90 days — establishing expectations for internal audit, developing policies and procedures, an audit plan, performing a risk assessment, and most importantly, establishing relationships with internal audit’s stakeholders.
Along with listing these benchmarks, I also prepared to explain why these were key to success in the position during my conversations with different interviewers and in my formal presentation. Get to know who your stakeholders and business leaders are, what motivates them, what they value, and how to successfully implement those things into internal audit’s processes. In the process of setting up a new internal audit department, I’d also be spreading awareness that, in addition to helping the organization meet its compliance requirements, internal audit can also add value to the business.
I made a point that my first week would be filled with not only writing policies and procedures, but also meeting with key stakeholders and inviting them to share their goals, issues, and expectations, and listening to their responses. Being able to speak compellingly about my action plan helped to put me over the edge in those last interviews — and also set me up to hit the ground running when I finally started my position.
Even when you’re not looking to transition jobs, you can be preparing by continuously investing in your professional development. With the recent shift to remote work, there are more opportunities than ever to obtain certifications, take online classes, and learn a new skill set from wherever you find yourself working. It’s also a great time to join your local IIA chapter and take on opportunities to contribute in a leadership capacity. I’ve done both of these things, and I’m certain it put me ahead of the competition.
My closing advice is that being aware and prepared is key. Cultivate knowledge about the market by subscribing to job search notifications all year round. Be aware of how your company is performing financially — don’t get complacent in your role and hope you survive the next round of layoffs if your company is heading in that direction. When you find an opportunity that’s a good fit, put in the time and effort to put your best foot forward. Try to understand what people’s expectations are and have a plan to address it. Lastly, when you get your foot in the door, keep up these habits and continue to invest in yourself to make yourself the best auditor — and job candidate — you can be.