Five Qualities Every Good Auditor Should Possess

When it comes to selecting an auditor, it can be a daunting task. In conducting evaluations of different firms, the first of several important questions to ask are often, “do they have experience working with businesses like my company or in my industry?” Or “are they a recognized and reputable auditor in the specific type of audit my company requires?”

But along with that assessment of an audit firm’s reputation and technical capabilities, also consider the possible dynamics of the working relationship that will form over time with your chosen organization. Solid business relationships are built on soft skills; while it is important that an auditor “gets the job done,” the best assessors are those with additional interpersonal strengths, as they are more easily trusted to assist in the achievement of their client’s compliance goals.

When rating these soft skills among auditors, the following five qualities are considerations to keep in mind when evaluating what makes an assessor truly “good.”

Good auditors are consistent…

A good auditor is reliable, prepared, and on time for meetings. They are responsive to inquiries and are available to discuss any concerns as they arise—they must be, as this is how auditors primarily build trust with clients. And while each assessment should be tailored to the specific goals of the client, following a baseline, methodical process for each audit—including the planning, understanding and kickoff stages, testing, gathering, and reporting—also helps, both in setting expectations and achieving higher efficiency for all parties. Consistent communication is key throughout, and a good auditor regularly provides feedback on progress, overall status, and results of the audit.

Good auditors are great listeners…

All auditors need to collect key information from clients. During walkthroughs and meetings, a good auditor only asks questions and clarifying responses 20% of the time, letting the client describe processes and respond to inquiries 80% of the time. A good auditor is also listening 100% of that time, documenting context and information about processes and controls accordingly so that there is minimal back-and-forth to clarify information.

Good auditors have empathy…

Unfortunately, even a routine audit can be a distraction to normal business operations at an organization, and the arduous process can also spark many feelings, including anxiety, frustration, or confusion. Good auditors understand this and lead with empathy—they know that gathering documentation for an audit is not their client’s most valuable use of time, and so they maintain a perspective focused on the end goals, which is key to success. In the case of a routine, yearly audit, a good auditor will be upfront with any changes so there are no surprises during the assessment. No matter what, they are a friendly face that leads the auditee through the process, eases concern, provides clear directions, and answers any questions.

Good auditors are proactive…

Though the nature of an audit is generally reactive, with auditors reviewing processes and controls already in place before reporting on those findings, a good auditor also proactively provides clients with additional, valuable information that can help spur a successful audit, such as technical updates, advice regarding readiness assessments, or enhancements to consider for the next year’s examination.

Good auditors have integrity…

At the end of an audit, the opinion is rendered and provided to current and potential clients, stakeholders, and investors. That opinion is the culmination of all the hard work through the review period, so clients need it to hold weight with their own customers—but in fact, it will largely only be as valuable as their chosen audit firm’s reputation. All reputations are built on integrity, and that of an audit firm depends on each individual contributor. To do their part, good auditors lead with demonstrated integrity consisting of honest work and commitment to decent values—in tandem, they provide the trustworthy foundation on which their clients and their customers can depend.

If you have recently gone through an audit and desire a better working relationship with your assessor, it may be time to reassess and find a better fit with Schellman. As a leader in the compliance world, not only are Schellman auditors technically qualified at the highest levels, they also can be depended upon to integrate well with your internal team while delivering quality work and providing honest feedback.

About the Author

Jeannette Buttler

Jeannette Buttler is a Senior Associate with Schellman & Company, LLC based in New York, New York. Jeannette specializes in IT attestation and compliance services and has led and supported various projects, including NYDFS compliance, SOX and SOC projects. Jeannette has over 7 years of experience comprised of serving companies of all sizes, including start-ups, Fortune 1000, and publicly traded companies, with a strong focus on technology (including digital currency and blockchain) and financial services sector. Jeannette is now focused primarily on SOC engagements for organizations across various industries.

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