High-profile certification and licensing audits in large corporate companies can be very strictly managed.  From experience, we know that the following can happen;

  • The Auditor isn’t left alone, even chaperoned to the bathroom!
  • They eat separately and strictly no conversation with unauthorised persons
  • The Auditor is kept away in a closed environment with an audit leader and someone transcribing the conversations
  • There is a ‘back-room’ preparing the compliance evidence and runners to take it to the Auditor.

However, for those of us on a smaller budget and maybe with less resources we have taken some of these external audit management techniques and come up with a few suggestions on making the process as simple and stress free as possible.

Have a ReadyBox

Auditors will always want to cover the basics of your management system, so get a few things ready.  Ideally, have a folder with your latest procedures neatly presented and easy to retrieve.  Include your current NCR register, maybe your customer feedback register, as well as your Organisation Chart.  Depending on the scale of your audit and access to technology, it may be that having a laptop set up in the audit room to access system documents is the most appropriate way to do this, but the Auditor may wish to have a hard copy to refer to later, so make sure you have printing facilities set up.


You might be surprised at how much this can help!!  Have a practice run with people taking on assigned roles; be clear on who will be doing what and run through an agenda, remembering your opening and closing meetings and the possibility of a site tour.

Set up a suitable environment / Tidy Up

Identify a room or a meeting area in a quiet space and have it prepared.  Send an email a week ahead, and again the day before.  Staff should be reminded to keep working areas tidy, limit noise and disruption around the meeting room.

Have refreshments available

Not bribery with doughnuts, but it is appropriate to provide a light lunch, and of course plenty of water, tea and coffee, not just for the Auditor, but for anyone involved in the process.

Limit exposure to anyone not participating in the Audit

You should inform everyone on site, or likely to be visiting, that an external audit will be taking place.  Anyone that doesn’t need to be in the office should stay away!  Whilst you know that your teams are well briefed on policies and procedures, it will help to have completed a short refresher on the basics, so that if the Auditor does request a tour of your site and talks with anyone, they will be rehearsed in current practices.  Also, it’s worth remembering that people do get nervous, some will cope better with answering an Auditor’s questions than others, so be prepared for this and manage appropriately.

Finally, Relax and Be Confident

You can’t really bluff your way through an external audit, but you can present yourself as assured and competent, which goes a long way towards making an Auditor confident in the management system they are assessing.  Remember that you aren’t expected to know everything!  But you are expected to know where to look for the answers.

“Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est”. Freely translated, this means ‘The greatest part of knowledge is knowing where to find something’.

If you have any questions or would like some more guidance on managing an external audit drop QBH Solutions a line today.


01303 297034 / 07795 564089