News & Commentary on ISO Management System Standards

    What is ISO Auditor Competence and Who Decides on it?

    Photo of a person using a magnifying glass representing competent auditors who check management systems thoroughly


    Being in a professional ISO auditor register isn't enough.

    Competence is defined as the ‘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 spelled out.

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

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


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

    Auditors are required to demonstrate specific knowledge and skills, including the following:

    For Audit Team Members

    For Lead Auditors, in addition to the four Knowledge and Skillsets, 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, therefore, goes beyond a knowledge of the standard or the completion of a Certified Auditor Course.  


    Chart showing the list of ISO Lead Auditor Courses that deGRANDSON Global offers online


    Available ISO Lead Auditor Courses image map. Click on any course you are interested in to see its complete overview.


    So, what knowledge and skills must a Lead 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 Certification Body must provide the observer.  

    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 three years?

    Again, no!  There are no such requirements in ISO 17021-1.  The certification body must, of course, ensure the auditor's ongoing competence.  Re-training, conversion training, and the 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 essential, but it is only one step toward becoming a competent ISO Auditor.


    List of Available ISO Internal Auditor Courses ISO Internal Auditor Courses Image Map. Click on any course you are interested in and see the full overview of each one.



    For further information…

    If you'd like more information, you can just try these links.


    For a bit of fun, assess your Auditing Skills.

    Are you curious to know how your auditing skills are measured against ISO standards? Try our internal auditor skills checker for free by clicking the button below.

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    Note: First published July 2020; revised and updated June 2022.

    deGRANDSON Global is an ISO Certified Educational Organization

    In October 2021, we secured certification to three education-related ISO Standards.  We now have a university-grade management system in place conforming to the requirements of  …

    • ISO 21001, Educational Organizational Management System,
    • ISO 29993, Learning Services outside formal Education,  and
    • ISO 29994, Learning Services – additional requirements for Distance Learning.

    We have chosen ISO 21001 certification because, unlike IRCA and Exemplar badges (which in our opinion are commercially compromised), it is based on independent third-party assessment.  It is a ‘university grade’ standard in use globally by schools, colleges, and universities to demonstrate their competence.


    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
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