Questioning Techniques in an Audit

When you conduct interviews during an audit, you are trying to determine if the:

1. Defined system meets the requirements – an assessment of process definitions and documents 
2. Organization has implemented the declared system – do they practice what they preach
 
3. Quality system has been effectively implemented – do the results show the objectives were met

Since interviews are critical for gathering evidence, we need to be careful how we ask our questions. Plan your questions in advance by preparing a checklist for an appropriate sampling of the area being audited. Generate additional questions based upon the responses.

Think before you speak. Phrase your questions simply and avoid sounding judgmental. After asking a question, listen for the answer. Don’t let your mind race ahead to your next line of questioning. Show interest in the answers and the person.

Make sure the person you are speaking to is the right one to answer your questions. Interview the people doing the work, not just the people managing the work. Receive more complete answers by asking open-ended questions:

  • What are the steps?
  • When is it done?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Where is it taken?
  • Why do it that way?

If the person doesn’t seem to understand your question, rephrase it for clarification. Avoid using closed-questions, except for confirmation. Ask for further explanations and examples to solidify your understanding. You can restate the answer in your own words to ensure you understood the response.

Keep neutral during the interview. Don’t disagree or interrupt. Listen actively to what you are being told. Your next question may come from what you are learning, not from your checklist. Show your interest in what the person is saying.

Be prepared to ask simple questions. You aren’t the expert. Don’t fall into the trap of saying you understand if you really don’t understand. Basic flaws in a process may be uncovered with simple questions. Be careful about making assumptions.

Don’t be afraid to ask blunt questions about quality. Your questions may have danced around the real problem. People may be willing to share their views if only you ask for their opinion. Of course, you will still need to determine the facts of the situation.

Avoid any ambiguous or trick questions. Ask one question at a time. Don’t lead the person into assumed answers. Nod your head during the conversation to indicate you are listening. Use silence to possibly gain an expanded answer.

Don’t misread body language during the interview. Rapid eye blinking during a response may indicate a contact lens problem, not an untruthful answer. Be more concerned with your own body language. Don’t let an eye roll, shaking of the head, or an audible sigh reveal your feelings about the response.