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    Characteristics of Relatively High-Performance Auditors
    research summary posted October 29, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.04 Staff Hiring, Turnover and Morale, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.01 Supervision and Review – Effectiveness 
    Characteristics of Relatively High-Performance Auditors
    Practical Implications:

    The findings of this article have implications important to both accounting firms and auditors. If pertinent behavioral skills can be learned, auditors could increase their level of performance by engaging in training to enhance those skills. CPA firms could benefit from identifying characteristics that lead to higher job performance by making those characteristics a focus in the process of hiring personnel. Existing firm employees could emphasize their understanding of the importance of taking a more comprehensive view of the auditing profession and CPA firms could emphasize hiring employees that exemplify a balance of task-oriented aspects, personality aspects, and a willingness to extend standardized tasks to ensure high auditor performance.

    For more information on this study, please contact Constance A. McKnight.


    McKnight, C.A., and W.F. Wright. 2011. Characteristics of relatively high-performance auditors. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 30 (1): 191-206.

    job performance; tacit knowledge; task structure; locus of control; expertise.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The job performance of auditors is a main driver of the quality of financial statement audits. Accordingly, audit firms find it appropriate to give auditors performance evaluations to maintain audit quality. This study examines the characteristics of relatively high-performance auditors to assess how the determinants of auditor job performance have evolved from concentration on the quality of judgments made based on technical knowledge and ability to a more overall view of performance which includes tacit knowledge on a broad set of performance attributes. The following are the three possible characteristics of higher-performance auditors that the authors chose to assess:


    • Ability to identify  technical knowledge and ability, client interaction skills, and professional attitudes and behaviors as more relevant
    • Higher inclination to extend the standard audit procedures
    • A more proactive and involved internal locus of control i.e., the extent to which a person chooses to be involved with, and influence, a process leading to an eventual outcome.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This study was conducted using directly reported CPA firm performance evaluations from public accounting firms including the ranks of staff auditor, senior, and manager. The two most recent supervisor-assessed performance evaluations and annual compensation were used. Additionally, auditors provided self-assessments of their performance over the same period. The data was gathered prior to 2011.

    • Higher performing auditors exhibited higher technical knowledge and ability and they placed and emphasis on client interaction skills as well as professional attitudes and behaviors compared to low performers.
    • Auditors who did not rely on standard audit procedures and were more inclined to extend those procedures performed at higher levels than auditors that were more inclined rely on the standard procedures.
    • When auditors are more proactive regarding the performance of audit judgment tasks and decisions i.e. have more of an internal locus of control, they will be associated with a better job performance.
    • Secondary Findings:
      • The relatively high-performance auditors indicated significant awareness of their superior performance in their self-reported performance evaluations indicating confidence in high-performers.
      • Although, compensation varies according to rank and is higher at larger firms, the authors found that firm-reported job performance evaluations do have an impact on auditor compensation.
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Audit Team Composition
    Staff Hiring - Turnover & Morale, Supervision & Review – Effectiveness