Whether you’ve never taken an audit class or just passed the audit CPA exam, diving into an internship with an audit firm can be a completely different world than what you’re used to. With high stakes, industry niches, and no end to the variety of procedures you need to master, audit internships are intense and deep-dive experiences. However, with the right guidance and preparation, the experience can lead to both technical and personal growth.
For Students, By Students
Who better to ask about internships than the people, the students, who went through them? We asked a couple of our former interns what audit internship advice they would give themselves on the first day.
1. Seek the Big Picture
At the beginning of your time with an audit firm, and maybe throughout the entire time, you will likely be assigned simple, seemingly menial tasks. It may be all you can do just to get through the tasks at hand, but asking deep questions about why you’re doing the things you’re doing will help you not only become more efficient, but establish a higher, weightier purpose to your daily to-dos.
Big Picture Questions:
- What do you do with this work later on?
- Who does this information affect?
- Why do we do this process in this way?
- How does this further the audit process?
You can ask these questions when you’re confused, curious, or unsure, but as you begin to strike out more on your own throughout your audit internship, create a running list of questions to ask all at one time so you won’t appear to be badgering your supervisors.
2. When in Doubt, Double Check
Though the tasks entry-level interns are typically assigned may be simple, they are no less important than the final steps in the process. That’s because mistakes made early compound throughout the audit.
One of our interns expressed frustration at his own earlier work as he learned the next step in the process: it caused confusion and took extra time to fix rather than getting it right the first time. Though frustrating, it helped him see how valuable the time of partners and managers are in a firm that’s working at scale.
One way to double check your work is by referring to previous examples. You will likely have been trained with at least one specific example, so referring back to that one may help jog your memory.
3. Expect Variability
Wade into your checklist of procedures knowing that every client you work with will be different. Even if there is a standardized process, there’s a reason your job isn’t just done by a computer. You’ll need to know not only what to look for, but also how to adjust your process accordingly from one job to the next.
4. Get Familiar With Clients
Every audit firm will do things a little differently, and this may seem like a disadvantage if you plan to work a different one full-time. However, being able to absorb the details of your audit internship’s specific niche will prepare you to do the same thing no matter where you end up working.
For example, learning clients’ names is the first step to being able to communicate effectively with the rest of the team about the work you’re doing. Internalizing what’s unique about each client will help you jump from one to the next more seamlessly, and also may help you appreciate the different audit tactics and methodologies used for different situations.
Firms to Look For
Though students will typically have only a handful of potential employers to choose from for an audit internship, it helps to be prepared for the environment that will best suit your working style and personality. Plus, some firms are better equipped to learn from today’s students than others, which my influence your decision as well.
1. Ask About Technology
You’d think it was a given in the 21st century, but some audit firms either don’t use audit software or don’t use it to its full potential. Even after a crop of digital natives started working at firms, there are many areas firms can improve their use of technology, and interns can prove helpful in generating these innovative ideas.
Find out what technology, software, and applications the firms you’re looking at use to help determine where your efforts and expertise will be most welcomed.
2. Request Flexibility
We get it — your schedule is crazy. It feels like college students are asked to give 110% every day to their myriad activities: sports, art, classes, and still having time for sleep and a social life. Before you sign an offer, find out if your employer will be flexible in scheduling your hours. You’ll thank yourself during mid-terms.
Pick Your Internship Intentionally
So whether you’ll be working at a multi-national firm for the first summer of a long career, or apprenticing at a local CPA firm, as long as you begin your audit internship with clear intentions, you can be sure of your success.
And if you’re looking for a place to work that supports this intentionality and places intense focus on growing the whole team personally and professionally, check out our open positions to see if Donovan CPAs may be a fit for you!