What to expect during a certification audit
A certification audit can be a stressful experience. For many people, hearing the word audit is stressful.
The first point is to understand that you are the customer in an ISO auditor. You choose them and you can chose someone else if they do not have a good working relationship. Therefore the auditors want to make you happy so you will continue to use their auditing service. They are not trying to uncover dirt that they can expose to world and discredit you. They are there to help you by finding flaws (hopefully minor) in your system that you might not find by yourself.
Second, you must understand that there are 3 levels of findings:
Opportunities for Improvement - These are like comments for you to keep in mind as you work on improving your quality system. They do not require corrective actions although you probably should them as a finding and fix the problem
Minor Finding - These are none systematic failures of the your quality system. They require a corrective action and the corrective action will be audit in the next annual audit. These are no big deal. The least I have ever seen was 5 minor findings and I think they probably average around 10-15 for small companies
Major Findings - These are bad but not the end of the world. A major finding is a systematic failure of the your quality system, either something is totally missing or they find multiple events that accumulate to a level indicating a systematic failure. These require a corrective action and follow-up audit before they can recommend you for certification. This follow-up audit is additional cost in dollars and time. If you take the problem serious then you will still get the certification.
Most audits will find 10 to 30 minor findings. If the auditor finds a major non-conformance then you may want to argue with the auditor. Otherwise, don't worry about how many minor findings they uncover. The audit is basically pass/fail so all you want to do is pass.
Even if they find a major finding, you simple correct the finding and re-schedule another audit. This can expensive but it is not life or death.
If you are worried about passing the certification audit, then schedule a pre-assessment or gap analysis by an external party. This can make the actual audit significantly less stressful and risky.
During the audit, feel free to joke and stay casual with the auditor. These professional audit one company after another and they will appreciate working with someone who enjoys their work and their company.