Private investigators conduct surveillance, find people, examine documents, perform background checks, and screen tenants, among other things. These jobs require patience and objectivity along with technical skills such as the ability to analyze legal filings. Technical skills can be taught. Meanwhile, soft skills are more innate but just as important. Look for these when you look for a private investigator for your case.
Most PI work is not glamorous. In fact, the work can be quite stressful and can involve working odd hours. Passion is one of the key characteristics of a good private investigator. It shows the PI is internally driven to do well and to deliver a result no matter the case. For good PIs, passion equals dedication.
Private investigators don’t have the law on their side the way that police officers do. For example, members of the public aren’t required to tell investigators the same information that they might have to share with police officers and other authorities.
That’s where ingenuity comes in. The best PIs possess creativity in spades so they can legally access the information needed to further their case. For example, they might create the impression they’re a police officer without actually identifying themselves as such. Alternatively, they might seem to be just another friendly stranger striking up a conversation in a coffee shop.
Private investigators must be friendly. It’s how they get people to talk to them. It’s how they cultivate allies and informers. They manage to get information without coming across as too nosy, memorable or pushy. They quickly gain people’s trust. Affability enables investigators to blend in well and to be appropriately sociable.
Would you feel comfortable hiring an investigator who told you private, in-depth details about previous cases? Probably not, because what would stop the investigator from telling future clients about your case? That’s why discretion is another one of the essential characteristics of a good investigator.
Now, you do need to know about previous cases on some level. It’s one way you can assess an investigator’s level of skill and success rate. Suppose you are interviewing investigators for a child support case. You suspect your ex has more income than he’s letting on. The private investigator candidates should be able to tell you how they handle such cases and what type of results they expect to deliver (for example, to find out who your ex’s current employers are, your ex’s income and the spending choices affecting his lifestyle). The PIs can tell you in broad strokes how they’ve gone about such cases in the past. They should not, however, mention names and other types of identifying information.
As a general rule, PIs never share identifying details about their cases with third parties or other outsiders unless the client approves. The best investigators walk the fine line between being too tight-lipped and too gossipy. Discretion can be a gray area, but good investigators handle it brilliantly.
An investigator must be trustworthy. Otherwise, how can you trust your PI’s report? The best investigators are objective and strive for the facts. That can upset some clients, who come into the case with a narrative they already see as the truth. Sometimes, it is. Other times, it isn’t. Principled PIs deliver the truth even when it might anger or upset their clients.
Moreover, principled private investigators explain to clients upfront about how the fees and the billing work. They don’t spring surprises on clients. For instance, if long-distance travel seems like it’ll be required, PIs say that right away instead of sending clients a bill for things they didn’t know about, much less approve. A good number of investigators need retainers or deposits before they start work on a case. That’s normal and not a sign of a dishonest investigator. Just be sure the PI gives you a crystal-clear picture of how the billing works.
Need a Private Investigator?
Many people can learn the technical skills that private investigators use. It’s characteristics such as passion and discretion that are more innate. At Beau Dietl & Associates, we only hire the best investigators, including former law enforcement officials, and handle all our cases with discretion. If you need an investigator, get in touch or call us at (212) 557-3334.