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Dealing with Nerves for First Time Auditors

We’ve all been there. Our first time with a client as an auditor or a consultant. We worry that we might not ask the right questions, or you’ll get found out that you’re a phony and don’t know what you are doing!

We all get Nervous Sometimes!

Let me share something with you – we all go through this. It is normal. We are human. I know that people think that Auditors are robots but we are not! It is ok to show our human side too.

Have Fun and Be Curious

Asking questions is great fun! It's like being a kid all over again. How do you do that? Why do you do that? Can you show me? It’s all about being curious and learning new things. You are just using guiding questions to take you back to the criteria you are auditing against. And this is all in YOUR head, nobody else’s.

Be Prepared

My biggest tip is to be prepared. Auditing isn’t just about turning up, asking questions, and taking notes. There is some planning and preparation that needs to be done first.

This planning and preparation includes:

  • Document review – review the previous audit report (if there is one) and become familiar with previous findings raised, whether they are nonconformances or observations. These need to be followed up and are great ‘ice-breakers’ after the opening meeting
  • Audit Plan and timetable – you will need to map out the plan for the audit. The timetable itself is a great checklist that I use. You should plan ahead what activities and processes you will be following and reviewing and in what order. By doing this it will help with the flow of your questions.
  • Audit Checklist – this is simply some opening questions that you will use to start the conversation in the areas that you are auditing. These are inquisitive, curious questions to get the auditee talking. Then the child in us comes in and we keep following the trail by asking to see the evidence. I always love ‘doing’ a process with my auditees. So if an order has just been received, show me (and let’s do it together) the process that you follow now.

The audit checklist is your tool to use, so you develop it how you work best. Personally, I tend to be a bit ‘free-range’ and add questions as I go, referring back to the timetable as a guide.

Other auditors that I work with have strict electronic checklists that they work through on a tablet. That works for them so as long as the output is met then that is ok as well. Figure out what works best for you. You might find when you are first starting out that a good solid electronic checklist works best for you. It gives you something to follow through the audit.

Take a Breather

If you ever get to the point in an audit interview that you are uncertain of where to take the questioning, take a breather. That’s perfectly ok. I am very comfortable saying this to auditees. I will thank them for their time and then let them know that once I’ve gone through my notes, I may identify gaps and if that is the case I will be back. If I have everything covered our time together is done 😊

Then you do have the time to work through your notes, compare them against the criteria and give yourself some breathing space to prepare more questions if you find gaps.

Follow up Questions

Remember as you are asking questions that not only do you use opening questions to get the auditee talking you also need to back them up with follow-up questions to collect the evidence. That is what the overall intent of the audit interview is. You need to see what they have done, whether it is demonstrated (observed) or backed up with completed documents, forms, communications etc. This is the ‘juicy’ stuff you need to confirm conformance to the criteria. If you keep this in mind as an auditor, then it will help prompt your questions.

We are Human

The big takeaway with this is as I mentioned earlier that we are human. We don't have to be perfect. Yes, we have to be competent in what we are auditing or consulting in and ask great questions, but it's okay to hit pause and take time to regroup. Look through your notes because you might find, that when you pull yourself back and reflect on the conversation, you might find some other areas or questions that you need to ask to fill that gap.

When you’re ready to become an awesome auditor, be sure to enrol with ATOL. We support you all the way.

This is an excerpt from a Facebook live. To watch the facebook live, click here