Hit the ground running: with internal audit filling many of its open positions from intern pools, a well-designed internship program is a must.

Author:Applegate, Dennis
 
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College interns have become a key source of new employee hiring in Fortune 500 companies, according to Jeffery Selingo, author of There Is Life After College. Data from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University presents compelling evidence supporting Selingo's claim. Based on the Institute's 2015-16 Recruiting Trends, companies with more than 10,000 employees now convert about half of their interns to full-time employees.

The trend in hiring interns and retaining them as full-time employees has impacted many major internal audit departments. Nestle Purina not only advertises its internship program, but empowers its interns to join the company full-time immediately upon graduation. Interns travel up to 50 percent of the time auditing Nestle business units in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., working within operational audit teams of the Nestle Market Audit group. Through this experience, interns "accrue a deep knowledge of the business very quickly," the company reports. As such, interns are viewed as a rich source of new audit talent.

"Internships have changed the dynamic of recruiting on a national scale," says Jon Gonzalez, a recruitment partner for Deloitte. "Most CPA firms are making their intern hiring decisions much earlier in the process to compete for top talent."

Because employers are increasingly hiring from their intern pools rather than through traditional college campus recruitment, many college career service organizations have had to change their on-campus internship recruiting schedules to stay in sync with recruiting practices. For example, the University of Pennsylvania's Career Services moved its internship recruiting from February 2017 to October 2016 to stay in sync with employer recruiting practices.

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TRADITIONAL STAFFING SOURCES

Historically, many companies filled their vacant internal audit positions from within the company, selecting employees with broad financial or operational knowledge or with solid management experience. Looking inward to fill open positions stems, in part, from the idea that internal auditors must have experience in the complexities of a company and its processes and procedures to successfully accomplish professional audit work. Indeed, some chief audit executives (CAEs) have recruited existing managers from within their organizations not only for those reasons, but also for their ability to connect, given their background, with client management.

However, in recent years, internships have increasingly become an important source of internal audit hiring given the technical training that interns receive and the performance capability that they have already demonstrated. Equally as important, skilled interns learn how to interact professionally with the company workforce and client management during their internships. These soft skills vary depending on the industry and corporate culture. But such skills give certain interns a performance advantage, if hired, because they already know the corporate behavior expected. Because of the reduction in hiring risk, the strategy of some firms is to always select internal audit interns with the goal of offering them full-time employment.

CAE SUPPORT

CAEs rarely hesitate to hire an intern whose work performance comports with expectations. Robert Thieling, former executive director of Audit Services at Group...

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