A good auditor is one who listens.

The auditor needs to extract and understand the information that is known by the auditee.

Here’s our list of the top 5 things an auditor should never say:

1) Is there a meeting room that I can use and you can bring everything to me

It will prove very difficult for either party get the most of out of an audit if the auditor does not see what is actually happening on the “shop floor”. Also if you let the auditee bring you information how do you know that they have not selected only what they want you to see. If you get out there and see for yourself what is going on, you might just see the bigger picture

2) The easiest thing for me would be that you……

To make the most out of the audit, the auditee should not (unduly) be put out of their way, or have to adapt what they (or the organisation) does in order to please the auditor

3) This is how I think it should be done……

An auditor is one who listens to the person being audited to ensure that all of the processes and procedures are being followed (also see point 5)

4) I don’t have time to explain that, it will be in my report available in 2 months time

When you make a finding during an audit, the best time to discuss it is at the time as it helps both sides understand exactly what the finding was. If you just put the finding on the audit report it can cause all sorts of problems, including causing undue friction towards the audit team.

5) If you need any help fixing that I can help you after the audit

This is actually technically not correct, depending on whether you are an internal or external auditor. An external auditor is not a consultant, and should never give consultancy advice. On the other hand, an internal auditor is ideally placed to help with the continual improvement of the management system

And don’t forget that how you phrase the question is very important:

  • open questions, like “how do you…” ensures that auditees provide some necessary detail, and are therefore most useful to the auditor
  • closed questions, of the type, “Do you sign the form?” give little useful information, and are normally to be avoided
  • likewise, leading questions should be avoided. These are questions which supply their own answer, such as, “I saw a reference to statistical control procedures in your manual, didn’t I?” The auditee will probably give the answer “Yes” whether or not it is true

Closed questions may have their place when used to confirm a stated fact. Leading questions may be used to help encourage an auditee to provide answers, but must always be followed by questions that confirm the facts.


The key probing, or supplementary questions are “Where, What, When, How, Why and Who.”

These six, plus one extra called “Show Me”, are the auditor’s very good friends. These Open questions should be used whenever possible because they cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”.

Care should be taken when asking a question beginning with “Why…”, as it may imply criticism or disapproval.

At all times, remember that probing is acceptable, interrogation is not.