7 Skills needed to be a Private Investigator, and How to Acquire them

7 Private Investigator Skills

What skills do you need to be a private investigator? If you ask around, I am sure we can agree that people often provide random answers to that question; others mention traits like courage, passion, and integrity.

Being a successful private investigator, demands that you exhibit particular traits and skills that will prove useful in this particular line of work.

Not having these skills will cost you many business opportunities, or a job.
Let’s get started:

1.  Effective Communication Skills

To be a successful private investigator, communication skills are a real necessity. You will be asking people some questions that, if they should decide to hold back answers, your investigation will suffer a setback. So being able to persuade, convince, and listen to people is vital.

Don Hofstrand from Iowa State University wrote an article entitled “Improving Business Communication Skills.” – One of the actionable tips he provides is:

Listen, not just hear – One of the keys to good communication is the willingness to listen for meaning in what the other person says and not just for the words. Watch facial expressions and body language.

2.  Computer Proficiency

Another critical skill that you need as a private investigator is the ability to use the computer to conduct research on the Internet and also to search for information that is needed for you to work on the assignment.

You will need to be very proficient at utilizing computers so that you can easily locate hidden information about a person; this is information that the typical person would not be able to find. This skill is important because without credible information, a case may go unresolved.

Erick Escobar (tech blogger) talks about 5 quick & dirty tips to help you improve your computer skills, there he says:

The first and most important step in becoming computer savvy is to learn how to use Google to your advantage. It’s important to learn how to correctly pose a question for search, and how to use Google to find your answer. I like to refer to this as exercising your “Google Fu.”

Once you’ve improved your skills, I am sure you can find a way to use these 20 FREE digital forensic investigation tools.

3.  Sound knowledge of the law

In the United States of America, there are laws that restrict certain actions to only police and law enforcement agencies. If you do not have a good working knowledge of the law where you are operating, you may engage in some illegal activities, such as illegal bugging or wiretapping.

Being caught may get you sanctioned and your license might be or revoked. Irrespective of how convincing the evidence may be, if it isn’t obtained the right way, the court will not accept it, and that makes all your efforts futile. So you will need to have a good knowledge of what is right and what is not, of what is legal and what is illegal.

Getting acquainted with laws that affect private investigators will take a bit of research. Here is an article we wrote which list 15 things a private investigator cannot do.

4.  Photography skills

There is this popular saying “pictures don’t lie,” and that is why photographic evidence is one of the most credible types of evidence in a courtroom. Are you following a cheating mate? Or are you investigating a murder? Whatever your conviction may be, you will need photographic evidence to prove any of your claims. And that means, having good photographic skills is something a private investigator will need.

A major challenge you will face is taking photos at night. The challenge is taking pictures that your clients can actually use.

Here are 7 tips to help you improve your night-time photography.

5.  Organization

A time will come when you will have more than one job at hand. If you handle more than one case at the same time, you must possess good organizational skills to prevent you from mixing evidences from various cases together, and in the long run, even loosing the focus of a case. Being a private investigator is the type of job that requires you to be careful because it is really sensitive.

To improve your organizational skills, Leigh Anthony recommends that you start by making a list of the problems that are caused by a lack of organization. Then list the benefits of getting those problems solved, and finally set goals.

6.  Thoroughness

To be able to solve cases that even the police have abandoned because they don’t have leads, you will need to look differently, think differently, and also act differently. You will need to pay attention to all the details, even the smallest ones. You will also need to be very thorough and never leave anything out during an investigation.

Lisa McQuerrey (business writer) recommends the following:

Create a detailed work plan that outlines the individual elements of each of your key job functions. Use the work plan as a guide if you find yourself becoming distracted or frequently interrupted.

7.  Patience

This is a very important skill that you will need in order to cultivate even more information. You may not find what you are looking for even after repeated efforts, you may not solve that case even after many clues, but you should learn to be persistent. If you give up, a case may remain unsolved because you have missed the important details that are necessary in getting to the root of that case.

Darryl Brown made an excellent video which touches on developing patience in the work place:

Now is your turn,

What other skills do you think are necessary for Private Investigators to acquire?  We’d love to hear from you!