What does an auditor actually do?

This is what I wish I knew before I started my role as an audit junior, because no one really talks enough about what you ACTUALLY do day-to-day.

Also knowing this information helps potential grads applying for jobs to think of questions to ask in an interview!

General context of an audit job

  • An audit file is structured through planning, testing, evaluating and concluding.
  • This is a very high level overview and depending on the client there will be other parts.
  • Juniors will probably be involved in planning and testing, but testing lower risk areas
  • The team will determine what’s lower risk in planning, but it’s often cash, PPE, accounts rec, accounts payable.
  • Your team will have decided what are your jobs before you actually join.
  • If its not a new client, you’ll likely be rolling forward a lot of prior year files and updating them in the planning stages.

How you actually will contribute

  • Documenting your knowledge of the client, any events in the year relevant to the audit etc.
  • The team will put you on this as it helps you get to know the client. The better you know your client, the easier it is to solve issues when they arise later.
  • When rolling forward docs, think about how you can add value and if any areas were missed in prior years.
  • Do google news searches, if the firm has a media resource tool look through there, FT etc. Companies house.
  • When you’re actually doing the testing, make sure you understand really well what’s required of you and what everything means and don’t be afraid to ask for more detail on this.
  • For example, testing accounts receivable means you’ll need a listing of all the individual invoices due to the client, the total of which should tie to the number sitting under the trial balance. You’ll have to ask the client for this as it’s your job. Once you’ve sampled the listing, you’ll then need copies of invoices that you’ve picked up and proof of payment if they’ve paid, and if they’ve not paid you’ll have to ask why that is.

So usually there’s a lot of back and forth between the client depending on what they’ve given you, if it’s correct and appropriate, then samples, then support. Then more if the details aren’t right.

  • Timing wise, you’ll be working around partner review deadlines.
  • Every piece of work goes through at least two rounds of review, manager/senior manager and then partner.
  • You’ll usually work to get it through the first round, clear any points raised from this and then final review by the partner.
  • Partners have to sign off almost everything on the file so inevitably, you’ll probably also be doing more than one section at a time, so learn how to project manage and prioritise well as early as you can.

The job on a yearly basis is doing this on different clients all year with some periods being more time pressured than others depending on the reporting deadlines and statutory deadlines you’re working to.

What actually happens in busy season – why is it so infamously stressful?

‘Busy season’ is the first quarter of the year that’s stressful due to the fact that most clients accounting year-ends are 31st of December. And for a lot of companies that are part of big international groups, there’s usually a deadline to submit the financial statements to the SEC (if the parent is U.S. based for example), and if the entity you’re auditing is part of the US scope.

So then the first 2-4 weeks after year-end is when we’d have to go through everything: the hours are long just due to the volume of work to get through and the team size.

Stress management and keeping your mental health in check is important to offset the long hours and mundane part of life during this time.

Speaking to the client

It will feel really nerve wracking speaking to the client in your first few months due to not really knowing what you’re asking for half the time.

I’d always double check with your team when asking the client something and always write everything down. Your notebook should be your third arm.

It’s incredibly important to build a good relationship and rapport with the client – it makes things easier in the long run.

I personally had a lot of retail jobs so this wasn’t too hard but I’m awkward and generally hate asking for things so it was hard at first, but it’s now just second nature.

Speaking to your team

The same applies here in terms of building a rapport and relationship and writing everything down. Your team relationship gets you through the long nights and makes it easier to ask questions when you get stuck.

Talking a problem out is literally the best way to get out of a rabbit-hole problem on Excel, for example.

If you have the capacity, it’s also good to pay attention to what your senior is doing as it’ll be your job in a years time. I mentioned more of this in my career tips content.

Excel tips/technical stuff is usually provided by your firm, and remember: anything is Google-able!

You’ll get taught the majority of stuff you need to know on a technical basis from your firm, as a lot of training is provided.

And because of how much knowledge and resources are provided and done on excel, you’ll learn it all really quickly. What I used a lot were SUMIFs, VLOOKUPs, concatenate, if, subtotals, pivot tables, filtering and manipulating large datasets.

If you don’t know how to do something, google it – you can literally do ANYTHING on Excel.

Also, there’s a shortcut for everything and if you have time, learn how to set up and use macros to make your life easier.

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