Workiva advert TeamMate Ideagen advert

Interpersonal skills

Most internal audit work involves dealing with others, so interpersonal skills are essential. However these skills go beyond just communicating with others to encompass self-awareness and the ability to interpret information, manage change and solve problems. 

Management and managing


Communication skills underpin your ability to perform your other duties as an internal auditor. For our profession, they can be categorised as follows:

1. Receiving (receptive) skills 

An internal auditor needs skills in receiving and interpreting verbal and written messages from many channels. Whether you are a head of internal audit communicating with the audit committee or an internal auditor dealing with a client, being a good listener and reader will help you interpret and respond to messages more effectively.

2. Sending (expressive) skills

An internal auditor must be able to deliver messages - both verbally and in writing - in a range of contexts and for a variety of audiences and purposes. This may include presenting information to the board, interviewing clients and responding to emailed queries. Honing written and spoken skills is key to the job.

3. Non-verbal communication skills

Non-verbal communication can stress, contradict or substitute a verbal message. It includes: 

  • body language such as gestures and facial expressions
  • eye contact
  • non-verbal speech patterns such as speaking style, intonation and volume
  • interpersonal gestures involving touch such as handshakes and cheek-kissing
  • non-verbal elements of written communication such as the layout of reports, and the use of avatars and emoticons in social media.

The internal auditor will use non-verbal communication when delivering information, and will also need to deal with the non-verbal messages of others when receiving information.

4. Managing the process

The internal auditor will also need skills to manage the communication process, whatever form it takes. This may mean taking a planned approach but also dealing with informal communication.

Related IIA resources:

Communicating results (podcast)
Communication skills 
Listening skills and processes (a free short course) 

Management and managing

Most internal auditors 'manage' as part of our day-to-day responsibilities: scheduling our work, controlling the resources allocated to us and getting tasks done by working with others.

However, management is also a distinct occupation, the key tasks of which are:

  • planning
  • organising
  • leading
  • controlling the use of resources.

We can also understand management by looking at the roles managers play. Minzberg (1973, in The Nature of Managerial Work) noted 10 roles, which he grouped into three: informational, interpersonal and decisional. 

Related IIA resources:

Managing dispersed internal audit teams
Supervising audit engagements


Within the context of internal audit, influence refers to the function's overall standing in the organisation, as well as individuals' abilities to persuade or inspire others.

There are different approaches to influencing, and the approach an individual adopts will depend on whether the context requires them to appeal to people's emotions or intellect, and how directive they want or need to be.

Ashridge Business School suggests there are two basic influencing styles: 'Push' and 'Pull':

  • 'Push' styles: directive and persuasive reasoning
  • 'Pull' styles: collaborative and visionary

The key skills involved in influencing are:

  • Social skills: ability to interact with other people in any given situation
  • Information skills: ability to locate, analyse and present information relevant to the conversation or discussions.
  • Listening skills: ability to construct meaning from - and respond to - spoken and non-verbal messages.
  • Judgment: ability to evaluate information content and the context in which it is exchanged in communicating with people.

(Adapted from I&DEA (nd), Influencing skills, London, I&DEA)

Related IIA resources:

Influencing - an introduction
Working with stakeholders 


Internal auditors negotiate at different levels. For example, a head of internal audit will negotiate with the audit committee to agree the strategic internal audit plan and resources to deliver the plan.

The internal auditor will negotiate recommendations and actions with management as part of the engagement. 

Related IIA resource:

Our short course Negotiating: an introduction will give you some frameworks and techniques for carrying out negotiations during engagements

Content reviewed: 2 August 2016
Download PDF

Technical question?

Name: Email: