What is ISO Auditor Competence and Who Decides on It?

Competence-1

The Certificate, even if recorded on a professional register, is never enough

Competence is defined as ‘ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results’.  And so it is with ISO Auditor Competence.  For Lead Auditors and their Audit Team Members, the requirements are clearly spelled out.

Do you have what it takes to be a Lead Auditor?

In clause 4.3.3 of ISO 17021-1, the ISO Standard for Certification Bodies - competency is a key requirement for the certification body to have an implemented process for the establishment of competence criteria. This will be used for the personnel involved in the audit and other certification activities as well as to perform evaluation against the criteria.

Also, 'the certification body shall have processes for selecting, training, formally authorizing auditors and for selecting and familiarizing technical experts used in the certification activity'.

The initial competence evaluation of an auditor, by the Certification Body, ‘shall include the ability to apply required knowledge and skills during audits, as determined by a competent evaluator observing the auditor conducting an audit’.

Knowledge and Skill Sets an Auditor Must Demonstrate

For Audit Team Members

For Lead Auditors, in addition to the four Knowledge and Skill sets, the following are also required:

  • Knowledge of business management practices
  • Knowledge of audit principles, practices and techniques
  • Knowledge of client products, processes and organization
  • Language skills appropriate to all levels within the client organization
  • Note-taking and report-writing skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Interviewing skills
  • Audit-management skills

Auditor competence, then, goes beyond a knowledge of the standard or the completion of a Certified Auditor Course.  

We've got Certified Auditor training for ISO 9001, ISO 13485, ISO 14001, ISO 17025, ISO 27001, ISO 45001 and more

Who sets the criteria and who evaluates, and decides on, ISO Auditor competence?

Competence is defined as ‘ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results’ (EN ISO 9000:2015, para 3.10.4).

In clause 4.3.3 of ISO 17021-1, the ISO Standard for Certification Bodies, competency is a key requirement.  The certification body must have an implemented process for setting competence criteria for the personnel involved in...

  1. the audit,
  2. other certification activities and
  3. performing evaluations against the criteria.

Also, the Certification Body must have processes for selecting, training, formally authorizing auditors and for selecting and familiarizing technical experts used in the certification activity. The initial competence evaluation of an auditor, by the Certification Body, ‘shall include the ability to apply required knowledge and skills during audits, as determined by a competent evaluator observing the auditor conducting an audit’.

So, the application of which knowledge and skills must an auditor demonstrate?

Can a Training Organization or a professional body determine an ISO Auditor's competence?

No! The two things to note are...

1) in determining competence, the auditor must be observed conducting an audit and

2) the observer must be provided by the Certification Body.  

So, as required by ISO 17021-1, this is the certification body's responsibility and it is the Certification Body that decides on an auditor's competence and maintains evidence of such competency.

Must an ISO Auditor maintain an Auditor's Log and be re-trained or re-certified every 3 years?

Again, no!  There are no such requirements in ISO 27001-1.  The certification body must, of course, ensure the auditor's ongoing competence.  Re-training, conversion training, extension of scope (add other ISO standards) may be part of maintaining competence.  Experience over 25+ years tells us that practical and frequent experience in carrying out audits is a more significant component in maintaining competency than training.

Certified Auditor Training is important, but it is only one step on the way to your becoming a competent ISO Auditor.

For further information…

If you'd like further information, try these links.

Assess Your Auditing Skills

Curious to know how how your auditing skills measure against ISO standards? Try our internal auditor skills checker for free by clicking the button below.

Check your internal auditing skills now

Written by Dr John FitzGerald

Director & Founder of deGRANDSON Global. Spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry and 25 years training, consulting & auditing management systems

Subscribe to Email Updates

FOLLOW US ON...

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic