Tips for first-year auditors

By Matt Lator, CPA

For a new auditor, the first busy season can be an exciting time and a fantastic opportunity for professional growth. Here are suggestions for new auditors and those who nurture their development.

Stay calm. New staff members often put immense pressure on themselves. Don't. Public accounting veterans understand that there is a steep learning curve for new auditors. An in-charge auditor will lead the way, explain procedures, and answer questions. The team leadership also should assign you tasks that match the level of your skills and competence. New auditors should know that the solutions to some problems are beyond their skill set.

Show up on time with a smile. Attitude and punctuality are two things every new auditor can control. Staff members who are present and pleasant to work with will find themselves in demand throughout the firm, which may present unique work opportunities not afforded to their peers.

Be conscientious. The routine work done by new auditors, such as cash confirmations, may seem mundane, but it is critical to the integrity of the audit.

Know your limits. One of the hardest things for new auditors to learn is when to ask for help. Accounting is highly technical, and it's unlikely that a new auditor will be a financial statement and accounting expert. If the solution to a problem is beyond your capacity and skill as a new auditor, talk to a more-experienced teammate who can help before you spend hours of labor without results. Ultimately, knowing your limits can save audit teams time and energy, and reduce frustration and misunderstandings.

Organize client communications. It is essential that new auditors understand the importance of organizing questions so they will distract clients as little as possible. It may be more efficient and less intrusive on the clients' workday for auditors to ask several questions at once, when possible. This is why client communications often are directed for the engagement team by the in-charge auditor according to a protocol established with the client.

Get clarification upfront. As a new auditor hoping to make a good impression, I overestimated my ability at times and was unable to find the answers to problems on my own. It's best for new auditors to obtain a clear understanding of the engagement's objectives and roles as well as clarification on information provided by the client upfront to prevent delays and excessive client communication.

Enjoy the experience. You are only a first-year auditor once. Experiences and growth during early years in auditing should be embraced. There is no other time in a public accounting career when so much knowledge is obtained in such a short period. In addition to the new experiences and learning curve, new auditors are exposed to a vast array of unique individuals with wonderful backgrounds. Embrace the relationships you develop and the things you learn along the way.

By Matt Lator, CPA (mlator@walburg.com), an auditor at Walburg + Associates PC in Grand Haven, Mich.

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