what does an external auditor do?

05/01/2019

This article will be of interest to graduates looking for first time employment and part qualified accountants wishing to further their career prospects by embarking on a relevant training course for external auditor jobs. It sets out to describe the role of the external auditor, including possible career paths and how individuals seeking employment with an accountancy practice can use a recruitment agency.

What the job entails

Independent and impartial external auditors have a key role to play in ensuring that companies operate in full compliance with regulations enforced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Companies House. They are responsible for scrutinising their client’s accounting records and financial statements and preparing an impartial report of their findings, including any irregularities, for presentation to the company’s board of directors.

If employed by one of the major international accounting companies, it may sometimes be necessary for an auditor to work away from home for periods of time. London based accountants, for example, may have staff auditing companies in New York, Frankfurt or Hong Kong. Even those employed in audit jobs by local firms may find themselves travelling anywhere within the UK. 

Qualifications for external auditing jobs

Before becoming an external auditor it is necessary to qualify as a chartered accountant. In the UK there are four professional bodies offering the required training courses; they are the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, and the Association of International Accountants. A prerequisite of registering for a course is that the applicant has a minimum of three GCSEs, (A-C), including maths and English, and two A-levels or equivalent, or suitable work experience.

Having passed the relevant exams, the individual must have worked as a qualified chartered accountant for a minimum of two years and be in possession of a practising certificate and audit qualification issued by their professional body.

Essential skills

Along with an aptitude for figures and maths, an auditor should possess a good understanding of IT systems and how businesses operate, whether they are small companies employing only a handful of workers, or multi-nationals with thousands of staff. An auditor must also have excellent communication skills as he or she will have to speak to many tiers of employees, from CEOs to payroll clerks. Perhaps most importantly of all, an auditor must be both discreet and honest.

Career progression in external auditing


There are two main career paths available to an auditor. The first is to qualify while in a small accountancy practice, gain practical experience and then make a move to one of the national or international firms, or be taken on by one of the major companies as a graduate trainee and gain internal promotions while qualifying.

Register with a recruitment agency

Whether fresh out of university, already working for a firm of accountants or looking for a career change, registering with a reputable recruitment agency is the most efficient and effective way of finding work with an accountancy company that closely matches the individual’s desired career path. Applicants’ CVs will be scrutinised and modifications suggested where necessary. Recruitment agencies work closely with client companies to ensure that only candidates with the required skill sets are put forward for interview. Similarly, candidates do not have their time wasted by being nominated to attend inappropriate interviews.