When it comes to being a good auditor it’s not all about Standards and tick sheets. It has everything to do with trust.
If the organisation being audited doesn’t trust the auditor then the whole exercise is a lost cause. But how do you position yourself as a trustworthy auditor? Below are the dos and don’ts of making the right impression on your clients and employer.
1. Don’t be Shy
A good auditor must be a “people person” who can win friends and influence people at all levels of an organisation – from the Chairman of the Board to the person cleaning the toilets. I once heard an auditor say “I’m not here to win friends, simply to audit” , how wrong they are. Inviting an auditor into your workplace is literally that…an invitation. You must be likeable and tactful or you will fail to get future invitations.
2. Be Friendly and Tactful
A good auditor once told me many years ago that “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”. Being friendly and tactful will make your job as an auditor easier and produce a factual report for the client. While your report must be accurate and factual, make sure you include positive points where possible.
3. Communicate Carefully
Ensure the client knows the good points in their organisation and what improvements have been made since the last audit. This will head up the audit report helps management to better understand their organisation. The next step in the report is to offer possible suggestions for improvement that the management may wish to consider with no strings attached. Finally, document any observations and non-conformances. This is a psychological approach to report writing and is one that is especially helpful to the management when trying to install improvements in an organisation.
4. Don’t be Arrogant
A good auditor doesn’t walk into an organisation and start telling people how good and qualified they are. They certainly don’t try to give the impression that they are “holier than thou” and that the organisation should be grateful to allow them to advise them how to run their business.
5. Be a Good Listener
As well as being trusted, you need to be a good listener. You should use the same principles that are used when interviewing an applicant for a job (listen before you talk, develop rapport, respect their needs, determine their objectives etc).
6. Be Careful of Arguments
There is an old saying that “arguing with an auditor is like wrestling a pig in mud…sooner or later you are going to realise that the pig enjoys it”. If you want to be a good auditor you should be very careful when getting into an argument with a client or their representatives. You must know when to stop and move on to another subject, using your experience and skills to recover the potential argument later. This is often tricky because you may get frustrated by some auditees not getting the point of the discussion. Hopefully the point can be discussed with the management and professionally discussed away from the point of audit.
7. Know Your Laws and Standards
Good auditor’s don’t necessarily need a good knowledge of the product/service he/she is auditing. In fact, lack of knowledge can be a bonus because it will cause you to ask basic questions about the product that the organisation may not have asked themselves. Don’t use this as an excuse to be unprepared – you must balance this with other knowledge. For example, when auditing a safety management system the auditor MUST have knowledge of the different legislation in each State or Territory as this can have an impact on the audit criteria.
8. Look the Part
Finally, a good auditor MUST look professional. Invest in a clean shirt because looking the part will instil confidence. There’s nothing worse than an auditor who looks like a scruffy labourer, especially if the audit involves an overnight stay and you are invited out for a meal. This might seem picky, but the dress code for a professional auditor needs to be professional. Also some breath mints in your pocket are a useful accessory if you’re in close contact with people. Being a good auditor requires attention to detail on a number of levels – attitude, approach, communication and appearance. It might seem like a lot to remember at first, but once you get into the habit of applying these tips they will become second nature to you. Furthermore, when you consider the impact they can have on your career, it’s certainly worth the time and effort to keep them in check.