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  • Q4 2020

Have you got what it takes to be a good auditor? The required skills go beyond learning debits and credits and completing checklists. The today’s auditor must display dynamism, high technical capacity, and empathy in the discharge of his expected duties but should also not let any irregularity fly across without any form of escalation. In order to be precise and concise, some key characteristics which yesterday’s auditor saw as inconsequential have been itemized below.


A) Vision and Instinct Working as an auditor enables such a person gain experience particularly when he/she works with numerous clients in multiple industries. Such experience allows a good and willing auditor gain the ability to instinctively understand what the client’s business is about. While carrying out the audit, he/she can identify issues within the business and also interpret what they could mean in the future. There is an anonymous quote that states that “instinct is the nose of the mind.” The good auditor does not settle when a client’s answer or transaction does not seem right. Instinct causes him or her to dig deeper to arrive at a conclusion that fits with the vision of the business. To develop instinct and vision, the auditor must develop an inquiring mind and strive to learn from all experiences encountered in client situations throughout his or her career. B) Being able to see the BIG picture This defines that auditor’s ability to quickly frame a picture of the client’s business, the organization, and key attributes within it.

A good auditor is able to sort out connections and linkages within the organization to focus the audit approach. The ability to see this big picture is very important to the planning stages of the audit. Putting the audit plan together requires an appreciation and an understanding of the organization and what constitutes a logical approach to the audit.

The audit checklist approach tends to cloud the big picture because of the large number of questions that are asked. Many auditors in their attempt to get all the questions completed typically do not take to time to step back and ask, “What does all this mean.” Good auditors will have a much shorter list of targeted or strategic questions that are developed specifically for their client which allows him or her to focus on the big picture. C) People Skills The audit profession is not all about ticking and tying; it is about people.

Auditors need to have exceptional people skills. They need to have the ability to deal with all types of clients in all types of clients’ diverse situations. In certain cases, client personnel have a fear of the auditor because they do not like someone looking over their shoulders. So, the auditor must have the ability to put client personnel at ease and be able to empathize from the client perspective. It is also important for the auditor to show respect for the client.

After all, it is the client who is paying for the audit. The most often overlooked people skill is listening. Listening seems like a simple concept, but few do it well. Many auditors listen to hear the answer they want to hear rather than to listen for understanding. Most audit checklists ask closed-ended questions which prevent the client from elaborating on a situation.

When the client does expand their answer, the auditor must “hear” the client’s answer completely; missing one small piece of the answer can cause them to miss the message entirely. Lastly, people skills are also very important within the audit team. Auditors need to be team players as the entire team is working toward a common goal. D) Decision making ability Once the audit evidence is accumulated, the auditor needs to determine what is relevant and what is not. Making these decisions is, at times, not easy as there is so much different information accumulated or clustered together and review them to bring out value might be challenging. Decision making can be hard. Most decisions involve some conflict or tradeoff. The challenging part is to select the best decision given the information that you have gathered to assist with the decision. There is a tendency to put off the decision by concluding that you need more information, only to again later conclude that you need even more information. This decision paralysis can cause the audit to drag on and on and can ultimately cause the auditor to feel pushed to the wall as they now must decide because the client needs their financial statements immediately. Clients want their auditor to be strong and effective decision makers without prejudices or cowardice. Waffling around on a decision causes the client to lose confidence in their auditor. E) Leadership Great leaders have the desire to help others succeed.

A famous producer once said, “Don’t celebrate a fault, but celebrate the remedy.” This statement is a classic in the context of leadership; leaders find solutions, they do not place blame. An auditor that is a leader finds solutions to complex problems and has the ability and skill to assist in getting the solutions implemented.

A good auditor must strive to become a successful leader. Leadership characteristics can be taught but leadership must be earned day in and day out. Leadership is seen by the client as the auditor being a teacher and/or a trusted confidant. An audit staff member sees a leader as a mentor and coach.

No single audit or audit firm, for that matter, can rise above the quality of its leadership. A common theme on every well-run audit or well[1]run audit firm can be directly linked to leadership. F) Superior Communication Skills This skill enables the auditors to have connection and rapport with others on the staff, managers, partners, and clients. The technological world in which we live today can negatively impact the audit staff’s ability to become an effective communicator, especially when e-mail becomes a substitute for face-to-face communication with audit clients.

A good auditor recognizes the importance of face-to-face communication and strives to make it the primary mode of communication. It is essential that all auditors work to make verbal communication a priority rather than a last resort. In most cases, e-mail should be the last resort rather than the first resort. Clients want to talk to the auditor, and the better the auditor is at effective communication, the better the conversation is with the client.

Effective communication occurs when the client understands exactly what you are saying. Achieving this is not easy but once achieved, it will set you apart from the rest. Conclusion The characteristics of a good auditor start with the basics of sound technical ability and solid ethical foundation. A good auditor considers those as baseline and work to grow beyond the “rules and regulations” mindset of the profession. Attaining and maintaining the characteristics mentioned in this article require personal commitment which are crucial to the auditor’s long-term success.

One of the main reasons technology is underutilized is because some people do not have the skills required to use them.

A few tools should be selected and used constantly. Chat tools such as WhatsApp and video tools such as Teams should be implemented. In getting across with one another in a team, chat tools are much easier than having to send an email or make a call. Also, video tools are used by some employers to organize virtual meetings and virtual company parties. Virtual meetings are more engaging with video conferencing due to the face-to-face aspect of it. Members using video conferencing are to ensure that their faces are distinctly visible and well-lit on the screen. 3. Check-in, but do not micromanage Micromanaging has been argued to be the least motivational thing that can be done for an employee. Only few employees feel that their performance is supervised in a motivating way. Innovation begins when there is freedom which is how mutual respect is formed. Virtual team members are to be managed in a non-toxic way by avoiding their disengagement and frustration.

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