• Jim


When I perform consulting or training (and even while I am doing 3rd party audits!) one of the questions I am always asked is “How do I handle an external auditor?”. I never mind answering this question since I really want to make sure that the folks being audited are comfortable and can answer questions quickly and easily without too much concern. 

I have listed some tips and pointers for what I sometimes call “The Care and Feeding of Your Auditor”. Please feel free to adopt any or all of these tips to help you make sure your audits go well:

1. Auditors will be asking questions. Don’t take it personally – This is at the heart of what auditors do. The vast majority of auditors are not trying to trap you, they are just seeking to understand the process. Be patient and ready to answer these questions. 

2. Auditors will be taking notes. Again, don’t take it personally – See the points above. Auditors need these notes to help them generate the audit report. So, resist the urge to peek at what the auditor is writing and don’t worry about it. The notes are generally part of the audit report and you can see what they wrote when you get the report. 

3. Don’t know what the auditor is trying to ask? Ask for a clarification or a rephrase of the question – It is far better to ask for this than to start talking about something totally unrelated and open up another can of worms. Some of my best audit trails are ones that people have revealed while answering a question I didn’t even ask! 

4. Keep a guide with the auditor at ALL times! – This seems like simple common sense,

but you would surprised how often customers just want me to roam an area by myself. If you stay with the auditor, you can often head off any questions or put issues to bed before they even become issues. 

5. Talk to the auditor like they are human Because, you know, auditors are! Have a normal conversation. 

6. Do you disagree with the auditor? Discuss it! – Make sure you speak up! The auditor can’t know you have an issue unless you mention it. Further, see point 5. 

7. Is the auditor sticking to the position even when you feel it is wrong? Challenge it! – You have some options. First, ask to see justification in the standard being audited. Ask, "can you show where this is in the standard?". For extreme cases or if this doesn’t resolve the issue, you can either challenge the nonconformance with the certification body or call the certification body to report the issue. 

8. Make sure you provide your staff and employees with training about how to handle the auditor- Provide them with training like this and some type of printout of tips and suggestions. They will thank you! Subscribe below for a free printable employee cheat sheet for handling an auditor.

This is just a partial list of ways you can work more effectively with your auditor. Remember that the key to a good audit is working well with your auditor! 

Need help with QMS or EMS certification needs? Contact Bannan Quality Consulting Group today for a discussion about your needs! 

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