So you Googled “private investigator” and found a handful of web pages that look like they haven’t been updated since 1995. On one site, a guy was even wearing a trenchcoat and fedora. Ugh…NEXT!
You’ve never hired a private eye, so you have no clue what to look for. But some of the bios sound promising. Former law enforcement? Sure, that’s nice. A college degree? Great. Years of experience? Excellent!
But what about the stuff you can’t include in a resume? What intangibles make a good private investigator great?
After working for a decade with some of the world’s best private eyes, I came up with some answers.
Here are 13 essential qualities you should keep in mind when hiring a private investigator:
- A healthy distaste for conventional wisdom. A great PI continuously asks, “Why?” It’s the essence of what we do: the ability to cut through B.S. to find the truth. After all, conventional wisdom is often neither.
- Problem-solving ability. Our clients need someone who can figure stuff out. We’re their “ace in the hole.”
- Leadership. A movie quote in the recent self-titled Steve Jobs film says, “Artists lead and hacks ask for a show of hands.” The great ones don’t wait around for someone to pave the way; they take the reins. Case in point: fieldwork is not as valuable as it once was, and modern-day private investigators who haven’t adapted will be gobbled up by an automated program or an algorithm. Pave the way, or be paved over.
- Ethics. ‘Nuff said.
- Business smarts. Without a thriving business, you can’t be a private investigator. That is unless you’re working for someone else.
- Uniqueness. A great PI has developed an uncommon service, It’s okay to steal or copy ideas – even the great ones do it. But if you do, add your own twist. A great PI is authentic and original.
- An incredible work ethic. Private detectives may work surveillance cases 22 hours straight, or entire weekends and holidays on top of their 9-5 advertised business hours. There is no substitute for hard work.
- Humility. There’s nothing worse than some bloated blabbermouth who thinks they know everything. Ego is the enemy.
- Controlled aggression. A baseball coach of mine once said, “Take the extra base until the other team proves they can stop you.” As private eyes, we’re covert. We may avoid the limelight by hiding in the shadows, but a great private investigator isn’t soft-spoken. He or she is assertive and forward, constantly pushing the boundaries.
- Connections. Has your private eye done surveillance in other states or dug up dirt in other countries? A great PI may not be able to get every answer for you, but they’ll certainly put you in contact with someone who can.
- Attention to detail. Paying attention is incredibly valuable. The most minute detail could be a lead, and great investigators are willing to dig into each one.
- Fearlessness. We’re often put into situations where the weak of heart shy away. Life, not just investigations, is about getting outside your comfort zone. That’s where the magic is, right? It’s also where great investigators find the evidence.
- Two ears, one mouth. Listen first, then talk. You’d be surprised by what people are willing to tell someone who shuts up.
So, the next time you’re looking for a private investigator, consider asking your candidate if they possess a few of these traits. Then ask them if they can elaborate on how they’ve displayed them on the job.
Ask them to tell you a story. After all, a great private investigator knows not to let the herd decide what is heard.