What is ISO Auditor Competence?


Lead Auditor Certification Or, have you got what it takes to be a Lead Auditor?

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

In clause 4.3.3 of ISO 17021-1, the ISO Standard for Certification Bodies, competency is a key requirement the certification body to have an implemented process for the establishment of competence criteria for the personnel involved in the audit and other certification activities and 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’.

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

For Audit Team Members

  • Knowledge of specific management system standards/normative documents
  • Knowledge of certification body’s processes
  • Knowledge of client’s business sector


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

ISO 19011: 2011 - Guidelines for auditing management systems

ISO 17021-1: 2015 -  Conformity assessment -- Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems -- Part 1: Requirements

ISO/IEC TS 17021-2:2012  - Part 2: Competence requirements for auditing and certification of environmental management systems

ISO/IEC TS 17021-3:2013 -  Part 3: Competence requirements for auditing and certification of quality management systems


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Written by Dr John FitzGerald

Director and founder of deGRANDSON Global. After 15 years in manufacturing industry John has spent the past 25 years training, consulting and auditing ISO 9001 and other management systems. 'Our objective is to be a world-class provider of e-training using the best proven technology so to satisfy and, hopefully, delight all of our Learners. Great commercial success and professional esteem will surely follow.' Full profile:
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