How to Answer the Interview Question: “Why Audit?”
During a job interview for a specialist area like auditing, you will be asked specific questions related to the field. One in particular that stumps a lot of interviewees is the deceptively short, “Why audit?”.
What is the best way to answer this? What do you need to demonstrate in your answer to stand out as a strong candidate?
This article examines what the interviewer is looking for when asking “Why audit?”, how you can prepare beforehand, and what to say (and not to say) when faced with this question.
Broadly, interviewers want to know two things:
- How passionate you are about applying yourself to the work involved
- How familiar you are with the details of the type of work to be undertaken
The ‘why audit’ question allows both the interviewer to understand what it is that drives you in this area, and for you to show your personal reasons for pursuing this particular field.
In addition, the interviewer can start to form an idea of the depth of your practical auditing knowledge.
Instead of asking a series of specific questions, the interviewer can establish a general idea of both of these aspects in a single question and answer.
There are many ways to phrase this question. You may hear different versions of it, but the underlying question is basically the same:
- “Why do you want to become an auditor?”
- “What attracts you to auditing?”
- “Why did you choose auditing?”
This short question is deceptively difficult to answer for a number of reasons.
When someone asks a simple question, it usually implies a simple answer. But in this case, the question is not only asking you about auditing, it’s also asking how you came to choose this as your vocation.
This means the answer will be quite involved.
The question also emphasizes the word ‘audit’, but in reality, that is not what you are being asked to describe. You are being asked to talk about your attraction and commitment to the profession.
The question “Why audit?” can be misleading if you’re not paying attention. This type of question can sound generic and your knee-jerk reaction may be a generic answer about the process of auditing.
Look closer and you’ll see the interviewer is actually asking why you, as an individual, are enthusiastic about auditing.
When asked, “Why audit?”, you are not being asked how an auditor helps businesses or why it is necessary.
You’ve made it to the interview stage. They are well aware of your qualifications or you wouldn’t be here, so don’t attempt to impress with those.
They’re not asking you about how much better you are than the next candidate. Auditing is about teamwork, remember.
Try to keep your answers specific to the questions they are asking. Most of the questions they ask will need some unpacking, so if answered correctly, you won’t need to go off-topic. They’d rather you fully answered one question than vaguely answer three or four.
If you’re asked specifically about something outside of auditing, like your interests, then mention them. Otherwise, keep it strictly business.
Two types of responses are common when faced with the question “Why audit?”:
- Letting nerves get the better of you, believing your answer won’t be good enough and eventually not giving much of an answer at all
- Giving a standard answer you may have read somewhere, or heard someone recall
Remember, the interviewer will be seeing several potential employees for this position and will have already heard the generic answers about auditing.
- An opportunity to learn
- Working with people who have a shared interest
- An affinity with numbers
- Thriving on the pressure involved
It’s not wrong to give a general answer to this question. However, if you want to stand out from the pack, tell them about your love of this fascinating subject. Give an answer that only you can give.
Generally speaking, there are three reasons why the answer you give may not get you the job.
It’s always a good idea to allow plenty of time before the interview to explore the ‘why audit’ question for yourself.
Think about what it was that excited you about this subject when you first wanted to study it, and what fascinates you about it now.
The interviewer wants to hear your reasons for your interest in this particular job.
Auditing, like any other specialist field, is constantly evolving, and as a professional, you’ll be expected to keep up with those changes.
Regularly reading online articles from specialist magazines is a great way to keep an eye on emerging areas within your field.
So, you didn’t get the job this time. That doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong, but that candidate whose parents ran an accounting firm since before you were born was always going to get the job ahead of anyone on the day.
You gave all the right answers. Ask for feedback, you will still be in their good books. Coming in a close second means you’ll be remembered next time they’re looking.
There are three main things the interviewer is looking to find out about you:
- Your knowledge of what the role is likely to entail
- Your understanding of the three types of auditing and their role in business
- Why you want to work for their company in particular, and how you can make a difference
People already established in the industry say things like, “I love exploring how businesses are run and auditing gives me a real insight”, or “Helping a company make the most of its resources gives me a great sense of satisfaction”.
Keep your answers honest. There will definitely be follow-up questions to some or all of your answers, and honesty will prevent you from being caught out.
Follow-up questions are a positive thing. They are your chance to add personality to your original answers. Again, keep it honest – it will be appreciated.
If your answer to a question was light in detail of what you did in a certain situation, or what you would do, the interviewer may ask you to explain further.
An example might be, “What would you say were the advantages of using that software over the one you were used to?”.
Your answer may have given them all the detail they need, but they want to hear about how you’re feeling toward a particular aspect of auditing. Don’t forget to do your homework on your feelings and motivation with regard to auditing.
An example might be, “How do you feel about collaborating with a difficult colleague?”
Remember, the interviewer wants to learn what you can bring to the company and your level of enthusiasm for the role.
Attention to detail and an ability to work as part of a team are important skills an auditor needs, in addition to an understanding of the math involved.
Up-to-date knowledge of the latest practices and software products is also a valuable asset.
Here are three examples of answers to the question for you to build on, coming from different angles. Alternatively, you can build your own based on your experiences and knowledge.
As an auditor, one learns about a wide range of disciplines, from consulting to finance and more. I can see there is room to grow. Working as an auditor is something I have wanted to do ever since I studied for my degree.
My mathematical skills combined with my desire to learn is what makes me so well suited to this vocation.
Also, my strong teamwork ethic means I’ll be able to nurture long-term, rewarding relationships with people who can pass their wealth of knowledge on to me.
I see the role of an auditor very clearly.
I will ensure that financial records are kept accurately – I have an eye for detail that was valued in my last position. This helps to ensure the business is run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
In addition, the global economy requires businesses to have transparency concerning their finances. I will be instrumental in ensuring that remains intact.
As an external auditor, the work will be different all the time. I enjoy meeting and teaming up with other people. The idea of networking ideas and knowledge, within the bounds of the work, appeals to me.
It’s interesting to see how all these businesses operate – with each other and as separate entities, all with different models.
Ask for help – Friends and family are surprisingly good at helping when they see how enthusiastic you are about something. Getting that job is no exception. Ask them to pose difficult questions to you. Even if you don’t know the answers, at least you’ll learn where your weaknesses are and can bone up before the big day.
Make a list of reasons why you love auditing – Don’t be afraid to go crazy at this point, it’ll all help you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your abilities.
Read, read, read – There are plenty of free online resources and articles that specialize in auditing. You can’t know too much. Knowledge of up-to-date articles is often the difference between an average candidate and a great one.
Find out about the company – Their website will have a mission statement in most cases. A quick Google search can also bring up some interesting facts.
Remember that you do this job because you have a love for the process of doing it. Like all jobs, once you get good at it, the company will reimburse you accordingly.
If the interviewer brings up this sticky subject, it’s almost always a trick question. Polite avoidance by talking about the personal reward you get from helping the company is normally the best tack in this situation.
But try not to keep on about it. After all, money is the last thing you’re thinking about. Right?
However funny or insightful that anecdote about your friend’s cat might be, leave it for the office party. You’re there to work in a professional manner at the top of your ability.
What the interviewer is also not looking for is a person who tries to sound convincing by reeling off facts and numbers. Facts and figures are helpful, but only in context and in combination with an enthusiasm for the role being offered.
Auditing is a specialized field, requiring good math, good teamwork skills, practical knowledge of relevant software, good analytical skills and attention to detail, and a commitment to stay up to date with the latest developments.
Try to keep in mind the interviewer needs a good auditor just as much as you need this job. Nine times out of ten, they’re not trying to catch you out, they’re trying to ascertain who will be the best asset for their company.
The question “Why audit?” is hard on purpose. They need to know you are definitely the right fit for the post.