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An auditor trainee serves as an assistant to licensed or certified auditors or upper-level trainees, learning how to perform basic audit tasks such as examining controls. With some exceptions such as offering formal audit results, the trainee does the exact same work a regular auditor does. He simply cannot do so without supervision.
One of the basic skills an auditor trainee learns is to identify the records, controls or activities that need investigation and testing based on the scope of the audit. For instance, a tax auditor trainee might learn specific tax forms to request from clients. This is fundamental to the audit process because it provides much of the information that the auditor uses for analysis and recommendations. As the trainee learns which records and activities are relevant, he also learns how to organize the acquired data for review.
Sometimes the only way to really grasp how a business is functioning is to go there and observe. In these instances, an auditor trainee travels with an upper-level auditor to the company. The upper-level auditor explains how the trainee should observe and what to look for in the company operations. The trainee may take notes of what he sees and how it might contribute to the success or failure of company objectives.
Much of any audit involves interacting with the client. For instance, auditors engage in a preliminary meeting with a client to clarify the audit scope, how and when the audit will take place and what resources will be available. Similarly, during the data collection process, auditors sometimes need to interview certain people to verify information, test controls or make clarifications. An auditor trainee thus comes with the auditor to these meetings and interviews, participating with the auditor's guidance and, if possible, answering inquiries.
Upper-level auditors show auditor trainees how to analyze all the information they collect. Having clear audit objectives helps the trainee understand what data might be relevant and what is not particularly helpful. Trainees hone their skills of objectivity, as well, refining their analyses to be free of personal opinions and to focus solely on the data.
A basic part of any audit is the drafting of a formal audit report. This document contains the audit findings and the auditor's suggestions; the auditor presents it to and discusses it with the client formally. The format is predictable, but the report must be clear and concise. Audit trainees help auditors draft these reports, with the auditors providing tips for both grammar and content. Reviewing previous audit documentation helps the trainee grasp what a good report should say and the tone it must have.
All auditors have a responsibility to conclude an audit in a timely fashion. Thus, audit trainees help upper-level auditors set up a realistic audit schedule with the client. They may send courtesy correspondence or make quick phone calls to remind the client of approaching audit events, needs or deadlines. At the end of the audit, the trainee might draft and send closing correspondence, set up follow-up audits, or file all related paperwork, including the client's response to the audit report.