Three Auditors You Should Fire Now

The war for audit talent is very competitive.  Finding, developing and retaining talented professionals can be very difficult.  Oftentimes, bad auditors remain at organizations because managers are either too lazy or too afraid to (1) identify talent gaps and develop employees with appropriate training or (2) let go of blatant slackers (because training does nothing for slackers).  If you are confused about what a slacker looks like, here are three types of auditors you should fire immediately.

The Know It All

This is usually the auditor who has worked in the industry for a very long time and has accumulated a lot of wisdom.  On the surface, this is a good person to have on your team, however, in reality this person is mutilating department moral and derailing client relationships.

The Know it all thrives on the attention from other staff members seeking him out for assistance. He gladly helps when needed, however, he does not promote and encourage employee growth. He provides information in a manner that requires employees to constantly seek him out. He becomes a crutch instead of a teacher or mentor. This is dangerous because it prevents employees from becoming the best that they can be.

With clients, the Know it All attempts to provide solutions before understanding the area under review.  You’ve seen them in entrance meetings, “The last time we were here there was problem with abc.  I bet that problem still exists.”  Or “You should do it this way”.  The Know it All does not exercise objectivity and therefore will be ineffective when evaluating control environments.

The Quitter

The Quitter is typically good at observation and inquiry.  They are objective and provide sound audit recommendations.  However, the Quitter has issues completing audit engagements.  This person typically hates completing/documenting workpapers and writing reports.  These are elements of the audit process that keep them from being more productive.  The Quitter typically suffers from burnout at the end of engagements (but don’t we all).  This results in incomplete documentation, delayed reports and budget overruns.

The Liar

The most dangerous is the Liar.  This auditor does not intend to lie. Oftentimes, they are incompetent in a certain area and mask the incompetence with lying instead building their skills.  For example, have you ever met an auditor who was charged with reviewing an area they were not familiar with?  Sure you have, it happens all the time.  We are risk, compliance, and process experts, but not necessarily experts in everything our clients do.  When faced with this situation, the Liar will attempt to “fake it” instead of learning the industry or processes.  This is dangerous.  The Liar prevents the completion of productive engagements. The evaluation of the control environment is not based on a truly objective review.  This compromises the integrity of the entire audit.

There you have it, at least three types of auditors you should fire now.

Can you add to this list?

Robert Berry (107)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

13 thoughts on “Three Auditors You Should Fire Now”

  1. I would add one more, although they can be found in both the “Know It All” and the “Liar” category.
    That is the “Work Program Fanatic”, the person who follows every jot and tittle of the work program without looking to see if anything else requires audit’s attention. Generally this person identifies lots of findings, generally of low value, and provides recommendations that never identify the root cause.

    My favorite is the “so-n-so” failed to reconcile “Report X” 3 times in the sample reviewed. The recommendation is that a supervisor should verify that the report is reconciled daily.

    As audit’s client I wonder if that’s the best internal audit has to offer, recognizing that some compliance audits never get beyond that type of finding.

    1. Karl’s reply is flat out stupid. Here’s why.

      There’s nothing wrong in being a “Work Program Fanatic”. Is there something wrong with paying attention to detail and being thorough through an audit? Unless the auditor is designing his/her own “work programs” (i take it he means audit procedures), then you cant blame an auditor for weak findings. Its managements responsibility to implement effective/efficient audit procedures to uncover substantial, high-value findings.

      Also, the “so-n-so” failed to reconcile “Report X” 3 times is a weakness in controls. Failure to do reconciliations is a legitimate control weakness, is it not? Why would you get angry at an auditor for pointing that out? Either hire someone competent or re-train the analyst on how to reconcile.

    1. Jean Louis my friend, funny and yet sometimes painful.

      By the way, have you guys seen the CAATs in Excel book Jean Louis has produced for free. That’s right free. Head on over to Auditor Exchange ( and check it out!

  2. Are you serious? Then we should fire 90% of the auditors because they fall in those categories. I think before firing them, first, you should fire your recruiter who hired those auditors. Recruitment of auditors is a complex process and most often difficult to redo. Regret is expensive.
    I personally would fire non-value adding auditors.

    1. Ramin, if 90% of auditors fall in these categories there is an issue. Take a look at the first set of paragraphs. The first responsibility is to set expectations and provide training that help meet the expectations. This is referring to slackers or those who are not a good fit.

      If you fail to train, you fail.

      If you train to the expectations and the performance does not meet the expectations, you terminate.

  3. These are good classification observations, but instead of firing these types of people I see it as my duty (being in audit management) to help them address these weaknesses. Isn’t that what audit managers are supposed to do?

  4. Great post! And I like Ramin’s response. I could name off almost each person in our office (myself included but I won’t tell you which category, hehe) that fits into one of the three above categories! Yikes!!!! 8-/

  5. Dear Robert

    I see Audit as a tri-partite exercise with the Audit Management Function, Auditor or Auditing Organization and Top Management playing an important role. I think there is a saying, “Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner”. While I fully agree with the kind of frustration it creates in the Auditee Organization if auditors are one of the three categories, we perhaps need to focus on the process and re-evaluate that instead of terminating the people. Only in exceptional circumstances as explained by you, “If you train to the expectations and the performance does not meet the expectations”. Based on this, termination may be of either the Audit Management Function, or the Auditing Organization or termination of relationship between the Auditing and Auditee organization. This hierarchy (form Process to Individual focus) is one of the first things told in the Auditing Training courses. Overall, a good thought provoking article by you. I complement you for the same.

  6. Hi, I’m Nuwan from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Yes, this is indeed an interesting topic. My view is that, first two types of Auditors should be there in a team, but surely not in the way they’ve identified in this article.

    “Know-it all” type of Auditors can bring an additional strength to the team. Because you have some one in your own team to reach out when you need to learn something, improve your understanding on business processes, etc. More matured and senior members are needed in internal audit departments in order ensure retention of knowledge and experiance especially to use for recurring audits. Clients will see them as team members those who have worked with them and those who know the business and processes in and out, thus no need to repeat the typical understanding sessions, walk through tests, etc, etc. Most of the process owners hate doing this over and over again.
    There could be certain disadvantages like what is discussed in the article. Such issues could be handled from the People management perspective. i.e. there should be a career progression path for such team members to move in to different roles and responsibilities within the department without continuing to do audits as a review team member. You could mitigate the disadvantages while retaining most required knowledge and experiance within the dept.

    The “Quitters”, Yes, proper documentation is a must, there is no doubt about it. But what if they are real good auditors? I mean, if they are good at inquiry, observation, examination? You should retain them. Because auditing is a skill. It is a skill which you should develop on your own. Training and experiance can sharpen it, but it cannot be taught always. If you need good findings, you need good skilled auditors. I think, by implementing a sound interim and post review process, proper sign-off process will ensure proper documentation. If your working paper review process is weak, it’ll create “quitters”.

    Thank you.

  7. I think we should build on peoples strengths and not exploit their weaknesses. An audit team should be just that a “team”. When recruiting you should not just look at “that” persons skills (strengths) but analyze how their skills, as well as personality and work ethic, etc. compliment your team! It’s like a puzzle….if you try to fit the most perfect piece into a puzzle that needs a unique piece in that particular spot… will NEVER fit! That being said sometimes the puzzle is broken….missing too many pieces (too little compliment among the team)….the box is broken (weak management)……I’m sure you get the picture.

    1. Vicki. You make some good points. I agree that an audit function is definitely a team and it is very important to build on strengths. I also believe that we should tailor our approach to individual strengths rather than trying to make everyone have the exact same strengths. I also believe that 3 auditors you should fire is based on continuous behaviors that have not been corrected after providing resources staff members to overcome these issues. I love the puzzle analogy. I use it quite often to describe my team. We are so different and fit so well together.

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