Auditors in the wild 1: What is an auditor?

What is an auditor?

Auditors are often believed to be a separate species. I don’t agree with this - as I former auditor myself, I have a son with an earthwoman but know nothing about interspecies mating.

In this short five-part series, we get close to the animal in the wild and explain what an auditor looks like, how to recognise it when you see one, and what to expect from the encounter. Auditor-spotting requires no special kit – you can leave the binoculars at home.

Part 1: Recognising an auditor


Auditor at work

Appearances can of course be deceptive, and recognising an off-duty auditor can be hard*. Whilst auditors will often wear a suit and carry a notebook or laptop, this is not enough to distinguish them from other types of business person. So what else can you look for to spot one?

  1. Eyes – do not think that a slight squint and glasses betrays a weakness. Auditors are keen observers, and this is simply a sign of skills honed over many years. They will be closely observing others – and making notes, which are often then jealously protected.
  2. Ears – whilst large ears would appear to be an advantage in a role that requires a lot of listening, this is not the case. Instead, the auditor uses other tools – such as ‘open questions’… and remarkable patience.
  3. Hair – Experience is an asset for auditors and a fair share of hair loss this to be expected, particularly in senior staff. This is in fact a sign of virility – unlike in other occupations, where is just a sign of old age.
  4. Auditor wearing a badge

    Badge – unlike the tail of a peacock, the often present ‘visitor’ badge is not part of a making ritual and should not be taken as such. In fact, many auditors lose these regularly, though they quickly regrow.

  5. Laptop – auditors are not territorial like most business animals. Instead they are scavengers, and have to carry their office with them. If you can rule out senior management, students and those irritating people that do door to door questionnaires, you may well be looking at an auditor. Most other staff will have desktops computers, or not carry their laptops around all the time.
  6. Files – despite most business information now being electronic, auditors like to maintain large, heavy files, which are immaculately cared for and guarded like young. The purpose of these files is unclear –they may be used for nesting, or simply a historical relic from a bygone age.
  7. Legs – Rather like battery hens, it is best not to expect auditors to use these too much. Indeed, it is a miracle of nature that they do not collapse under the weight of the aforementioned laptop and files. You can ease the strain for an auditor by offering to make them tea of coffee, which is often appreciated and – importantly – does not encourage them to return any more often. Whilst they will often walk around between meetings, they will spend much of their time sat behind desks like other staff. As a result of the large amount of travelling often expected of this nomadic species, they will generally expect to drive to work, and will often need access to the visitors car park, even when spaces are short. It is best to oblige.

Auditor on cliff edge

Mating calls

Auditors are not known for mating rituals. It is widely considered that this be because they do not stand out in this area. In fact, they are considerate creatures and do not like to show off and make others look bad by comparison.


Auditors often see themselves as marking out a path for others to follow. Others however often see them as pulling in the wrong direction; the consensus is unclear. Tracks can often be found leading away from the edge of a cliff.


*Note: Yes, I realise it’s easy to recognise an off-duty policeman, but auditors are NOT policemen. They may be distant relatives, but rather like that slightly mad great aunt you only see at Christmas, they try not to dwell too much on the relationship.


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