I’m a quality manager and I’m thinking of branching out to become an auditor. Where should I start?

 

First, you need to make sure it is the job for you. You need to be suited to the loneliness of the long-distance auditor. You will be working on your own and, believe it or not, external auditors are not everyone’s favourite person!


Second, you need to consider whether you are approaching this to be a full-time employee or to be a contract auditor working for one or more certification bodies, perhaps involving some consultancy. The role of the quality auditor is different from any other quality role, but there are similarities.



For example, for any role you will need:


Integrity – this is very important as an auditor. Not only do you have duties to your certification body, but also to the organisation you are auditing, its customers and even its competitors


Impartiality – your role is to audit to requirements, not to your opinion. You can’t give your favourite an easy ride and others a hard time. Being asked to pass judgement takes a lot of getting used to, but if you stick to facts then you should be all right


Quality tools and techniques – all organisations you audit will be working with these, so your experience will be valuable here, as will any knowledge of one or more management systems In terms of how attractive you will be to a certification body the following areas are always important:


Technical areas – auditors have to be competent in the market sector in which they are asked to audit to maintain credibility. This includes knowing legal requirements, technology and jargon used in the discipline. Breadth of experience will be attractive to the certification body as you will be able to audit a wide range of organisations


Management systems standards – in order to keep customers happy through auditor continuity, certification bodies are looking to employ auditors with ability in multiple standards.



Most certification bodies prefer allocating work to local auditors, but there is significant trade-off with knowledge of technical areas and management systems standards. This could mean your portfolio has a mix of local and wide-spread clients to serve. You need to be well organised. You will be booking your own appointments, planning each audit, carrying out audits to programme and plan, dealing with cancellations, preparing and submitting audit reports, handling expenses and communicating with the certification body and clients – not to mention keeping your knowledge and skills up to date for all technical areas and management systems that you cover.

 

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