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11 Skills of an Effective Private Investigator

11 Skills of an Effective Private Investigator

Every job requires certain skills and qualities. In the case of a private investigator (PI), you’ll need more than the basic training and an Ontario private investigator license. Whether you’re preparing for PI or security guard license training, you’ll need certain skills to help perform as expected. 

Here’s a list of the skills you’ll need to need to make yourself a successful PI: 

1. Observation

Keep your eye on the details

An eye for detail is a must-have in this line of work. Catching the smallest pieces of evidence can make or break a case. Every clue is important to an investigation, so it pays to be thorough. 

Good observational skills also play a major role in surveillance. People can often leave little clues that indicate their intentions. For example, thieves can often give themselves away by taking a quick look around, allowing you to spot them if you know what to look for. After you’ve caught those details, it also pays to have excellent report-writing skills. Your investigation will need those details later, and being able to write quality reports helps you log relevant information for when you need it.

2. Sound legal knowledge

Earning your provincial private investigator’s license involves learning some basics of the law. Private investigator training includes education on the relevant codes, acts, and statutes, and how those ordinances apply to your work. Private eyes are often required to present evidence in a legal environment, so it pays to be prepared for judicial proceedings. A good rule of thumb is to treat every investigation as if it could go to trial. 

Another thing to keep in mind is intimidation as defined by the Criminal Code, particularly how you can become involved in intimidation while undertaking surveillance.

Brush up on photography to find evidence

3. Photography skills

Photography and video evidence are some of the most common types of evidence you can find, particularly if a case makes it to trial. As you investigate, you may need to snap some pictures to prove your findings (e.g. in case of a cheating partner). Good photography skills are a great way to ensure you perform this part of the job. The same applies if your client needs video surveillance done. 

Look into some essential photography basics to help take quality photos. This information could make a case, so it pays to take some practice shots first.

4. Tech skills

Being at least a little computer-literate is a necessity in many fields; private investigators are no exception. Aside from knowing your way around digitized databanks, private eyes also need to know how to use devices like GPS trackers and video surveillance equipment. 

Having a good understanding of your technology is a great way to make investigating far more efficient. It also helps to familiarize yourself with your surveillance tools in particular. You may have to operate different tools (e.g. still cameras, video cameras, and audio equipment) as part of an investigation, so study how to make optimal use of your gadgets.

Sharpen your people skills to interact with persons of interest

5. Communication skills

PI work is often a solitary job, with the long hours doing surveillance or writing up reports. However, there are also times when you need good people skills. 

A private investigator needs a good understanding of how to communicate effectively and courteously with people from different backgrounds. Whether interviewing witnesses, collaborating with the police, or speaking with family members of missing persons, remember to be tactful and compassionate.

6. Confidentiality

Discretion is always appreciated, especially when you’re privy to sensitive information. Private investigators generally aren’t bound by the same confidentiality agreements as medical or legal professionals, but clients appreciate it if you can stay tight-lipped. Always maintain high levels of confidentiality in all your interactions. Think of it as a great way to get your clients’ trust. You can also go the extra mile of having a confidentiality policy. 

In case a client asks, articulate the details of your confidentiality policy to assure them you’re the type to be trusted with sensitive information. Off-the-clock, remind yourself to watch what you say to avoid sharing any details with anyone not related to an investigation, even by accident.

7. Organization

Organize your workspace to stay on top of your cases

It’s likely you’ll have more than one client at one time. When dealing with multiple cases, you must remain organized to keep them separate. Without the right organizational skills, it’s easy to mix up evidence or lose focus. Having a reliable system is essential for a private eye, considering the sensitive information you’re handling. 

Look into some simple techniques to stay organized. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” is a great rule to ensure everything is right where you need it. 

8. Responsiveness

Investigators are expected to handle cases swiftly and efficiently, so time management is a vital skill to cultivate. Be prompt when responding to emails and phone calls whenever your clients need to reach you. Another thing that helps is maintaining open lines of communication with all relevant parties. Making yourself available to your clients at all times is a great way to keep them satisfied. 

9. Analytical skills

Logic is one of a PI’s greatest assets

Well-developed reasoning skills are integral at every step of an investigation, from start to finish. When it comes to gathering and analyzing the evidence, it’s vital you stay objective and refrain from making decisions based on emotions. Investigators may also encounter situations where logical reasoning is key to deciphering the truth. A good grasp of analytical skills is also key to helping decipher the evidence and come to the correct conclusions. 

10. Resourcefulness

Thanks to new technology, it’s usually faster and easier to get any relevant information you need for a case. A successful private eye knows how to make use of all possible resources. 

Learn how to utilize public records searches. Digital technologies make it easier to access databases like employment history, criminal records, and driving records to find the information they need for a case. PIs who take on cases for corporations may need to know how to take a look at financial dealings, to name one example.

11. Tenacity

Investigations don’t often yield instant results; you’ll generally run into obstacles in the course of your work. However, a dedicated investigator doesn’t give up. Your determination is often the deciding factor in ferreting out the truth. Whether it’s waiting long hours doing surveillance or interviewing difficult persons of interest, a little patience is key to your success.

There’s more to being a good PI than having a private investigator’s license in Ontario. Like any other job, a private investigator needs the right set of skills to excel. In brief, you’ll need an ability to collect information, good communication skills, and a talent for discretion to succeed as an investigator. Keep these skills in mind as you move forward to help give yourself an edge. The more you cultivate these skills, the better you get, and the easier it is to get more job opportunities.

At Centre for Security Training & Management Inc., we provide the quality private investigation training you need to gain an employer’s trust. We will give you the skills you need for success. Call us now at (416) 750-4747 for training that’ll  that will give you a competitive edge.