So, you just completed all of the paperwork, detailing all of your applicable education and work experience. PMI has given you the green light to schedule a date to take your PMP® exam. But what if you are audited? Wouldn't that just suck!?
Well, you met the requirements. PMI didn't say anything so you must be in the clear. Time to sign up to actually take the exam. Through a link on the PMI website, you pick a testing center in your area and find a time that will work. You enter your credit card number and click submit. Surprise! Instead of getting a confirmation page, saying thank you for paying for the exam, you get a "you've been audited" screen. What the hell!?
So, as soon as they have your money, you go into audit limbo. The audit process has started and there are only two ways out.  You withdrawal your application to take the exam. You will get "most" of your money back.  You complete your audit, submit your paperwork, and PMI allows you to take the exam.
With all of the figurative threats PMI publishes about not embellishing your experience, you better not have done it! I would compare this to going to a job interview. Your potential employer says they like what they see. You can continue on in the interview process, as long as you take your resume back to each of the employers you've listed and get them to sign a document agreeing you actually did the work.
What if your application is audited?
PMI answers a group of questions about this. First things first, stay calm. If you didn't lie on your application, you have little to worry about. You should have honestly detailed all of your work experience during the application process. For every project you submitted, you're going to be sent an audit report in PDF format. (see the 3 graphics to the left)
Page 1: What you entered during the application process.
Page 2: Stakeholder information and a line for them to sign, agreeing you did the work that you say you did.
Page 3: PMI Address information.
The pain of original signatures
For every one of these packets, you're going to need 2 original signatures. You can have a colleague, peer, client or sponsor who has intimate knowledge of the project sign the audit. You will then put the signed audit into an envelope (addressed to PMI), seal it, and have the same person sign the sealed envelope seam. Once you get all of your packets signed, sealed, and signed, you mail all of the envelopes to PMI.
The actual audit by PMI will only take about a week. You will receive an email notifying you if you pass or fail.
What is my advise?
Go into the application process with the expectation of being audited. Identify the people you want signatures from while doing your application. Identify a backup (signature) for each project. I spent more time tracking people down and getting signatures then I did completing the original application. I had 20 signatures I had to get. When budgeting the cost of the PMP exam, don't forget the cost of dinners and drinks for people who you need to track down to sign your audits. I had to manage my audit process like I would a mini-project.
Is it all worth it?
From my personal and professional experience? Yes. Though I do believe the ever-increasing number of PMPs in the market may commoditize the certification, it's still in high demand. Regardless if you're a good PM, if you have a PMP® or CAPM®, there is an assumption you're a good Project Manager. Because I was audited, I feel everyone should suffer the same scrutiny. Perhaps there will be fewer paper PMPs, if they knew up front they would be audited.
Thank you to Joseph Gruber for verifying the current audit process. He also suffered through a PMI audit. I remember the PMI audit process being a little different, when I went though it back in 2006. His personal experience was very helpful.
Did I miss anything specific you wanted to know? Just leave a comment.