Almost every new caller has said to me “I’ve never hired a private investigator” or ” I never thought I’d need a private investigator”. A long time ago, I said the same thing about a primary care physician. My point is, it’s no different than any other occasion that calls for you to exercise good judgment as a consumer. If you need the services of a professional, you have several options you can explore.
My first recommendation is to choose a local private investigator in order to forego any complications that can develop with larger multi-investigator firms. With a local investigator, you will usually communicate directly with your investigator, typically 24/7. Large firms will usually assign an anonymous investigator through an anonymous supervisor. More often than not, you can only reach the contact person during normal business hours. Work with a local investigator and you will likely avoid a number of pitfalls often experienced with an out of town company.
What can you do? The internet is, by far, the most valuable of your resources. A simple keyword search is the best place to start. Just remember that the first listings posted at the top of your results page are typically paid ads and not always the best choice. These paid listings go the highest bidder and not earned through their delivery of service. You may want to look beyond the first page of results at several different investigators before you find one that makes you feel good and provides the answers you are looking for during your consultation. You can also follow-up by checking other sites such as Yelp and your local Better Business Bureau.
What to look for: People who are looking for a private investigator need to consider one very important characteristic. Professional work ethics. The difference between a good experience and a bad one can fall on this simple rule of “professionalism”. Unfortunately for me, I have experienced the full ethical spectrum of professionalism in the field of professional services. I have experienced first hand the police officer that had no tact, character or compassion for the community s/he serves. I’ve experienced the nurse that didn’t have a clue of the emotional impact his/her thoughtless behavior had on a patient in the emergency room. A true professional will display good personality characteristics such as tact and compassion.
What to watch out for: Remember this, there are investigators that are only concerned with getting paid. This should not be a big surprise. But in my humble opinion, the biggest differences between the good ones and the bad ones can be something as simple as character and professionalism. A lack of such can be a red flag. Make sure you talk to the person you want to hire. The more you talk, the more you will learn. Just be mindful of their response to your concerns, as well as your budget. Hopefully, they will also talk to you, and not just listen. The more questions they ask of your situation, the more eager they will likely be to deliver quality efforts. The less they ask, the more likely they are only interested in getting their retainer. Perhaps they are very busy and unable to take the time to talk to you. A busy investigator may not give their best efforts during the investigation process.
Other thoughts: Do not hire anyone based solely on a phone conversation. Tey to meet with them, shake their hand and look into their eyes. This alone can tell you a lot. And if you simply don’t have the time to set up an appointment to meet with your potential investigator, just make sure the phone conversation covers more than just money and cost. Every private investigator I’ve met charges by the hour. They also charge for expenses like mileage and lodging for travel. This is very common, and is to be expected.
Finally: Don’t let your emotions make the decision for you. And don’t think you have to make the decision hastily. Take the time to look for feedback, and to get feedback from friends or family. Keep in mind, your situation is unique in the sense that it’s happening to you. Make sure your potential investigator treats you like a person, not like a client, from the beginning, and through the course of the entire investigation.