Everything You Need To Know Before Hiring an Investigator

It doesn’t happen often, but there may come a time when you need to obtain some extensive information on a person or company. When that happens, it’s best to turn to a professional private investigator.

Unfortunately, not all PIs are created equal — so how can you ensure that you’re hiring the best one? We’ve put together a quick guide to hiring a private investigator, including when you might need a private detective, how to spot a great PI, and some common questions to ask an investigator during the hiring process.

What is a private investigator?

Private investigators (also known as PIs, private detectives, undercover investigators, etc.) are trained and licensed individuals who can help you gather evidence and facts relating to your case. PIs use various methods such as:

  • Investigations
  • Surveillance
  • Research
  • Interview
  • Documentation

When you might need to hire a PI

Private detectives often have a wide range of skills — which is ideal because PIs often perform a wide range of jobs. You may need to hire a PI if you:

  • Are concerned that your partner is being unfaithful
  • Are going through a divorce and worried about losing assets
  • Need to perform a background check on an employee or another individual
  • Are involved in a child custody battle
  • Need to locate a missing person
  • Are a company looking for external assistance investigating a workplace incident

What to look for in an investigator: 3 qualities all great investigators share


It’s important to know that you can trust your PI, as they will often have access to a variety of confidential or private matters, documents, events, etc. A great investigator will be discreet, thorough, and handle every case with the integrity and professionalism it deserves.

A critical thinker

Great PIs need to be able to handle anything a job has to throw at them, which is why problem-solving skills are an absolute must. All good investigators should have well-developed analytical skills that will help them approach problems creatively and handle them successfully, even when under pressure.

Good communicators

Great communication skills are a must, as investigators are required to interact with a variety of people in many different situations. Whether they’re meeting with their client, interviewing witnesses and suspects, or testifying in court, a great PI will be able to communicate clearly and effectively.

How to hire a private investigator: 9 questions to ask an investigator

Finding an investigator online is easy enough, but finding a quality one? That can be difficult. Use these nine questions to help you narrow down your search and find the perfect PI.

1. Do you have a private investigator license?

Many states require private investigators to have a PI license. Ask to see their license and ensure that it’s valid for your state. You can do this by checking with your local state licensing agency.

2. Do you have proof of insurance?

The life of a private investigator isn’t all sunshine and roses — PIs can do some pretty dangerous things in the name of their job. Insurance is an absolute must for any PI, especially if the investigator is planning on working out in the field. Remember, accidents happen — you don’t want to be responsible for paying for them.

3. What investigative experience have you had?

Even if they can’t go into great detail, a quality investigator should be able to discuss their previous success stories. Ask for samples of their work, including the reports they’ve made, or for relevant newspaper articles or other documentation of past jobs. You may also wish to ask for a resume so that you can get a better understanding of their relevant work history and education.

4. How have you handled cases that are similar to mine?

Ask the investigator how they will conduct their investigation on this particular case and how those methods have worked in the past. Remember to steer clear of PIs that promise results by any means necessary. You don’t want to engage a detective that doesn’t respect the law.

5. What organizations do you belong to?

Additional credentials — such as membership in a genuine PI organization — are a good indication that your chosen PI takes his work seriously.

6. What education have you had as an investigator?

You can often tell a good investigator by the effort that they put into continuing their education. While many PIs have a background in law enforcement or the military or have earned degrees in relevant areas, it’s also important for investigators to stay on top of the latest trends and changes in the industry.

7. Do you have a website?

A well-maintained and up-to-date website can tell you a lot about a PI. Find out if the investigator has a website or a social media presence and visit them if you haven’t already done so.

8. Can I speak to some previous clients?

Always ask for references — every good PI will have them. Be sure to speak directly to the reference. Ask them how they felt about the investigator’s:

  • Performance
  • Results
  • Methods
  • Standards/ethics
  • Communication

9. What is your pricing?

To avoid any nasty financial surprises down the road, be sure to determine pricing before you hire a PI. Many investigators charge hourly rates, though you should also be aware of other potential costs such as expense reimbursement, retainers, etc.

Talk to a PI near you today

Here’s one last tip. When you’re setting out to hire a private investigator, always be sure to meet with them in person before making the final hiring decision. A face-to-face meeting can be a great indicator to determine whether or not the PI is professional, competent, and a good choice to handle your investigation

In a perfect world, every professional private investigator would be trustworthy and capable enough to handle your problem. Sadly, that’s not the case. Hiring the right PI is imperative to ensure that you get the help you need and the best possible outcome for your situation.

Ready to put your new knowledge to use? If you’re looking for the right investigator for your case, start the search with us. Our team at Barefoot Professional Investigations will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our team, our process, and how we can help you.

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