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The changing face of audit talent

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

As the tax and accounting landscape continues to evolve, so too does the talent that firms need to thrive.

Firms are now turning to audit talent with new skillsets to help them navigate new challenges. From data analytics and management to cyber security and risk assessment, today’s auditors are expected to be well-versed in a variety of disciplines.   

As the demand continues to grow, let’s take a look at the changing face of talent within the profession and what it means for firms looking to stay ahead of the curve. 

New paths for audit talent

It isn’t news that the rise of technology caused dramatic changes in the audit profession. Now more than ever, clients are generating electronic data that is complex and constantly changing. With the volume increasing and systems growing more complicated by the day, new tools and skills are needed to keep up.  

Consider what the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited as the most important qualities in 2022 for accountants and auditors: 

  • Analytical and critical-thinking skills 
  • Communication skills 
  • Detail oriented 
  • Math skills 
  • Organizational skills 

What skills do auditors need in the future?

More than ever before, today’s audit talent needs more than technical skills. These ‘soft skills’ such as critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal relationships are now more weighted in the audit profession, and they are essential for rounding out the technical skills and creating more than an auditor, but a business advisor. 

While technological advancements have created opportunities to use data analysis and other digital skills in accounting and auditing, today’s auditors not only need analytical and technical skills or the understanding of processes and systems — they also need to communicate what they know and how to strategically act on that knowledge.

It isn’t enough to simply analyze data; auditors must also be able to effectively communicate and present their findings in a way that clients can understand and act upon.  

After all, many technical skills can be taught (and the audit profession has always been an “apprentice on-the-job” learning type), and some might argue that the technical skills can be done better by advancing technologies and programs. Take a look at the recent World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs Survey,” which looks at the expected progression from 2020-2025 of tasks performed by machines versus humans: 

  • Information and data processing: almost 70%  
  • Looking for and receiving job-related information: more than 55% 
  • Performing complex and technical activities: about 50% 
  • Administering: about 50% 

Machine learning and automation are adopting many of these technical tasks, which means it’s more important than ever for auditors to understand this information and translate it for the client. Technical skills may be the foundation, but strategic skills are what truly rounds out a great auditor.   

What does this mean for audit talent? Gone are the days of focusing on remote, technical, and manual tasks — the modern auditor is a strategic bridge between digital services and business insights.  

How audit hiring practices are changing

As businesses grow more complex, audit firms are looking for new ways to find professionals who can help them meet the challenges of the new environment. In the early days of auditing, firms sought candidates who had strong accounting and math backgrounds. They needed people who could analyze financial documents and provide accurate results.

However, today’s audit firms are looking for candidates who have a deeper knowledge of business. They need people who can identify issues in internal controls and business operations and suggest solutions — people who are skilled in communication and data analytics.  

One way that firms are doing this is by looking for candidates who have a powerful curiosity about technologies, business, and data, as well as the ability to think critically.  

For example, in the past, firms relied on math, accounting, or CPA backgrounds to fill positions; however, in recent years, non-traditional accounting backgrounds are becoming the new trend. In fact, the AICPA 2021 Trends Report shows that 42 percent of newly graduated hires came from a non-accounting/taxation background. These degrees include: 

  • Non-accounting business 
  • General math and sciences 
  • STEM 
  • Computer science 

Firms of the future need people who are curious enough to explore all the data available and find the connections between different pieces of information. They need candidates who can think quickly, critically, and identify potential problems and their solutions — and they’re finding them in non-traditional audit backgrounds.  

How can I keep up with the changes?

Yes, audit talent skills are changing. But these changes mean the auditing profession will continue to grow, presenting exciting new opportunities. However, with an ever-evolving profession, your firm’s future depends on its ability to adapt to change. Are you ready to meet the challenge? 

Stay on top of audit talent hiring trends and provide your audit team with both the technical and non-technical skills they need for success with tailored training from AuditWatch. With specialized training and consulting services, you can ensure that your team is ready to face the audit challenges of tomorrow.  

Learn more about how audit talent is changing, and how to stay on top of changes. Check out the Progressive Firms Guide to Attracting and Retaining Audit Talent and find tips and tricks on how to attract the best and brightest audit talent, as well as how to keep them on your team.