Understanding processes, performing testing and evaluating risks & controls not only require good communication skills but it also means auditors must be competent note takers. Good auditors must have a well-organized approach to taking, reviewing and refining notes. Some take detailed notes, while others use outlines. Regardless of the method, it is important to take notes consistently and unobtrusively. Any change in note taking may disrupt the process and cause the interviewee to alter his/her responses. The actions taken shortly after the interview are almost as important as the notes taken during the interview. Good auditors must quickly review their notes and fill in the details for any items they did not have time to record. So what are some interview and note taking techniques?
3 Interview/2 Note Taking Styles to Consider
The Lone Wolf
The lone wolf is the individual who performs interviews alone. This technique is very effective when there is only one interviewee and the goal is to not overwhelm the audit client. The detriment is that the auditor cannot talk, write and listen simultaneously.
The Tag Team
The tag team approach is great. In this approach, each interviewer can ask questions and take notes. Hopefully they are not doing both at the same time. For example, one auditor can ask questions while and another takes notes. Then, the order is reversed. This allows both auditors to ask questions and document responses. This approach allows auditors to compare notes. A modified approach is to assign one interviewer as the “primary” note taker and the other as the “facilitator”/secondary note taker. This technique is very effective. The drawback is that clients may be intimidated when two or more auditors show up for an interview.
The Good Cop/Bad Cop
Okay, so the good cop/bad cop is probably only effective for interrogations or investigations. This approach involves one interviewer truly “questioning” the client while the other takes notes. The questioning is typically forceful. Again, I have found this to be mostly ineffective in collaborative environments where true internal audit work is being performed. However, it can be useful in investigations.
Note Taking Techniques
The Kitchen Sink
In this approach, the auditor takes copious notes. It is very difficult to use the kitchen sink alone. It is also very difficult to maintain eye contact, ask good questions and listen to the client. Overall, this approach is not very effective, however, if used it is best done when there are two or more interviewers.
This approach can take one of two forms. One, the auditor performs due diligence prior to the interview and creates an outline that is filled in during the actual interview. Two, the auditor writes in outline format during the interview and quickly fills in the gaps shortly after the interview. The outline style is more effective than the kitchen sink.
Which interview style do you prefer?
Which note taking style do you prefer?
Can you think of anymore interview and note taking styles?