Five Qualities Every Good Auditor Should Possess
If you ever went to college, you might remember how you considered where you wanted to go. The academic distinction, the on-campus facilities, their post-degree outlook—you wanted the best of the best education if you were going to pay a premium for the experience.
Audit firms are the same—they’re expensive to engage, and so organizations want to ensure they select the right one for them just like students choosing schools. But universities aren’t just their prestigious name, brick, and mortar—what really makes them up is the people.
Beneath the veneer of any organization—audit firms included—are the individuals that, in their own ways, contribute to the overall success of the institution. We may all be small cogs in a larger machine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to still distinguish yourself among the rest of the moving parts.
When a business first engages an audit firm, of course, they’ll first investigate the reputation and experience, services offered, etc. But what will really matter in the end is the individual auditors that deliver thorough solutions and provide a smooth experience.
In this, technical skills are paramount, as you likely know—certifications and the like. But at Schellman, we also prioritize soft skills among our people because it makes every difference to our clients.
What do we mean when we say “soft skills?” In this article, we’ll tell you. You’ll learn what else makes a truly great auditor and how to separate yourself from others. In cultivating these less heralded aptitudes, you’ll round yourself into a truly “good” auditor, setting yourself up for future success.
1. Good Auditors are Consistent.
Let’s start with the basics of professionalism: these may seem obvious, but you need to be reliable, prepared, and on time for meetings.
More than that though, constant communication is crucial. A good auditor regularly provides feedback on progress, the overall status, and the results of the audit. You should also respond to any inquiries raised throughout and make yourself available to discuss any concerns as they arise.
All that helps build trust between you and the client—when people understand that they can rely on you to help them work through this difficult process, it eases some of the familiar friction audits connotate (especially year over year as audits recur).
But you aren’t the only thing that needs to stay consistent—your methodology should too. While each assessment should be tailored to the specific goals of the client, following a baseline, systematic 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 everyone involved.
2. Good Auditors are Great Listeners.
An enormous part of this job is collecting important information from clients—“collecting” being the key word there.
During walkthroughs and meetings, a good auditor only asks questions or requests clarifying responses 20% of the time, letting the client describe processes and respond to inquiries the other 80% of the time.
As long as we’re talking percentages, you should be listening 100% of the time during an audit. At the same time, you should also document context and information about processes and controls accordingly so that any clarifying back-and-forth you have with the client is minimal.
Understand that an organization would rather be doing anything else than enduring an audit—be respectful and take advantage of the time they give you by gleaning all the information you can.
3. Good Auditors Have Empathy.
That’s a perfect segue into our next point. As we said, even a routine audit can be a distraction to someone’s normal business operations, and our work can also spark many feelings among client personnel, including anxiety, frustration, or confusion.
But 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.
If your audit is routine—i.e., it takes place annually—be upfront with any changes so there are no surprises during the assessment. No matter what, be a friendly face that leads your client through the process, eases concern, provides clear directions, and answers any questions.
Making things as easy as possible for them will go a lot farther than you think.
4. Good Auditors Are Proactive.
Yes, the nature of an audit is generally reactive—an auditor’s job is to review processes and controls already in place before reporting on those findings.
But if you want to elevate yourself, you’ll also proactively provide clients with additional, valuable information that can help spur a successful audit, such as:
- Technical updates
- Advice regarding readiness assessments
- Enhancements to consider for the next year’s examination
5. 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 completed during the review period, and clients need it to hold weight with their own customers. In fact, it will largely only be as valuable as their chosen audit firm’s reputation.
Reputations—especially ones in this industry where independence is so important—are based on integrity, but as we mentioned before, every firm is dependent on its individual contributors. You’ll need to do your part and perform honest work with a commitment to decent values. In tandem, these things will provide the trustworthy foundation on which your clients and their customers can depend.
Moving Forward in Your Career as an Auditor
Universities are generally very picky about which students to admit to their programs—after all, they only want the best of the best representing them. Employers are the same, which is why it’s so important that aspiring candidates—no matter where you’re trying to get your foot in the door—distinguish themselves by any means possible.
While you’ll also need to get your formal and technical education up to par, now you understand that being an auditor isn’t just about credentials and that soft skills can help you do better work as well.
Schellman is a leader in the compliance world—not only are our auditors technically qualified at the highest levels, but we’ve cultivated a methodology that helps our people integrate well with clients to deliver both quality work and a positive experience for organizations.
If you’re interested in joining our team and developing your IT audit skills, we have several opportunities posted that might suit you well. But if you’d prefer to learn more about Schellman and what we have to offer you, check out our other content. These pieces were all written by different team members in different positions, with different tenures, about what it’s like to work here:
About Jeannette Buttler
Jeannette Buttler is a manager with Schellman based in New York, New York. Prior to joining Schellman in 2021, Jeannette worked as a senior manager, for an accounting firm specializing in IT attestation and compliance services. She also led and supported various other 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 the financial services sector. Jeannette is now focused primarily on SOC engagements for organizations across various industries.