Questions To Ask A Private Investigator Before Hiring
Let’s face it, there are many private investigation firms out there to choose from but how do you know you are choosing the right one? The answer is by having a good set of questions to ask a private investigator at the start of your hiring process.
Hiring a private investigator is not usually something you would do that often. In fact, you may hardly ever find yourself in a situation where you would need their services. However, it’s those situations where you will find it really counts, and it’s those situations you will find it really counts on knowing how to hire a private investigator - which is what these questions will help you with.
You may have heard stories in the media about unscrupulous private investigators doing some dishonest and unthinkable things – caught up in legal suits and even doing jail-time. Sure, there are some you will want to steer clear from, but there are some that are ethical and do a damn fine job. We can help you straighten out any confusion or doubts you may have by asking the private investigators you interview the right questions. These in-depth questions will help you to better choose the investigation company you want to use for your case.
But first off, before we get into the questions, it will be good for you to know what a private investigator is even before you start asking questions let alone hire one. This will give you a better understanding of what they can do for you, and once you have a better understanding you can then use our questions below to improve your decision making. You can also probably come up with some of your own good questions to ask an investigator that relates to your situation, but here is a list of questions to ask any private investigator or detective before parting with your money.
The Best Interview Questions To Ask When Hiring A Private Investigator
So, to weed out the wheat from the chaff you will want to arm yourself with a bunch of the best questions that will help you decide who is worth hiring and who isn’t, who is a risk and who isn’t – which is why we came up with some of the best questions to ask a private investigator. Here they are:
Q1. Are you a licensed private investigator?
The number one question to ask an investigator is to find out if they are licensed (provided they work in a State or country that requires a license). If they are required to have a license, ask to see it and take down the number. You can usually check the license details in an online database provided by the State or country in which the license was applied for.
Q2. Are you insured as a private investigator?
This is a great question to ask a private investigator as you will want to know - if things go badly - do they have some kind of liability insurance. Ask to see their insurance policy and how much they are insured for.
Q3. How long have you been working as a private investigator?
This question can give you some idea as to the private investigator’s experience.
Q4. What are your professional background, experience, and areas of specialization?
Once you know how long they’ve been working as a private investigator, ask them about their background and experience, particularly with your case type and situation. What service can they offer you? Have they dealt with similar cases before? Do they specialize in cases such as yours? What do they plan to do? Ask them to give you a case sample (omitting names and personal details of course).
Q5. Where is your office located?
If you don’t already know, ask where the private investigator’s office is located so you can go there if you need to. Remember, if the investigator is a one-man business they will probably work from home and will not want to offer that personal information, to protect themselves and their family. So don’t be put off by that.
Q6. What hours do you work? Are you available 24/7?
If the private investigator you interview only works from 9 to 5, keep looking. The nature of the work is such that it requires the flexibility of working all hours. Cheating spouses or criminals don’t just carry on their misdeeds from 9 to 5.
Q7. What professional organizations do you belong to?
Most private investigators belong to professional investigator associations of one kind or another. To become a member of these associations usually requires some proof of licensing, training and experience before they can join. You can usually check online with the association the investigator says they belong to; they usually have a directory of members.
Q8. Can you provide work references?
Ask a private investigator for references of at least two people or companies they have provided services for. It can be a lawyer, business owner, or another private investigator who hired them.
Q9. Will my case be treated confidentially and how do you ensure that?
This question goes without saying. Most private investigators guarantee case confidentiality but maybe a good question to ask is how they can guarantee it. Remember though, there could be special situations where the investigator is bound by law to reveal details of your case, such as a judge or court instruction. So nothing is 100% guaranteed.
Q10. Will the person I am investigating find out or be notified?
This also comes down to confidentiality. When you hire a private investigator they are acting under your instruction and if you don’t want the person to know they are under investigation the detective you’ve hired will try and keep it as low-key as possible. Depending on what you hire the investigator for will determine if the subject (person being investigated) needs be notified or not. If you are getting a private investigator background check on an employee then the employee will need to be notified.
Q11. Do you have male and female investigators?
If you prefer a male or female private investigator then ask. Only large private investigation companies will employ both male and female investigators where you can choose, otherwise you will need to specifically search for a sole investigator of the sex type you require.
Q12. Who will handle my case?
This question will only need to be asked if you hire a firm with more than one investigator. You will want to know and be guaranteed you will have a good investigator assigned to your case.
Q13. Can you or the investigator assigned to my case work with my lawyer?
If you have a lawyer requesting you hire a private investigator, first ask if they can recommend one. Otherwise, when you start looking to hire one, ask them if they will work with your lawyer. They should agree, but if not, keep looking. You can also ask your lawyer to assist you in hiring one.
Q14. How will we contact each other during the investigation?
This is important particularly if you live or work in close proximity to the person under investigation and don’t want to alert them to it. The method of contact will need to be discreet.
Q15. How will I be updated on my case?
Ask the private investigator how they will keep you updated on progress. It may be a daily email report, telephone call, or a weekly report if the case is large and complex. Decide how and in what form you want to be kept up-to-date and ask the investigator can they provide this.
Q16. Will you provide a detailed report?
Most private investigators will provide a detailed written report, particularly a final case report. Ask them what case reports you will receive and in what format, particularly the final report. Also ask about photographic evidence (if applicable) to go along with the report. You will need all of this, particularly if you involve a lawyer or intend court action.
Q17. Do you use illegal or unethical means of investigating or obtaining information?
This question has to be asked, if anything, to protect yourself if the private detective you hire does something illegal. Most investigators are decent but there are a few bad apples as in any profession. See what their response is.
Q18. Are you willing to be a witness in court if needed?
Private investigators generally expect to and are experienced in court hearings as professional witnesses. But ask the investigator just to be certain. If they are not willing and you plan on taking your case to court then find another investigator.
Q19. What happens if you or the assigned investigator gets caught out?
Ask the investigator what his Standard Operating Procedures are if they get caught out investigating the subject (person under investigation). Do they have a back-up story? Do they cease surveillance? What’s their back-up plan? How do they protect your anonymity?
Q20. How fast can you get started on my case?
Ask the private investigator how long before they can get started. What you want to know here is whether or not the investigator you plan to hire already has cases pending or active. If the investigator has other active cases you want to ensure they are spending quality time on your case. Flicking from case to case is like changing TV channels, having to refocus on the case at hand and wasting your time and your money. If the investigator cannot put all of their attention on your case then look elsewhere.
Q21. Do you have a contract or agreement form?
Ask for a copy and if you can amend it if you are not happy with certain conditions. Most private investigator contracts will have certain conditions that remain fixed that you will have to agree to. But there should also be a section in the contract that is personalized for you and your case, as no two cases are exactly the same. You will only sign an agreement form once the costs and terms have been settled and are entered into the contact.
Q22. How much do you cost?
This is another big question to ask a private investigator you want to hire. Get a clear idea of the investigator's hiring costs and expenses involved, and make sure to ask the investigator that this is clearly set out in your agreement or contract before you hire them. Also, ask if they require a retainer (money up front) - most investigators do.
Q23. Can you guarantee the result I want?
One thing that should be highlighted here, which is most important, and which may sting you a little, is that a private investigator cannot guarantee you the result you require or want. What is meant by that?
A private investigator is hired to find out the truth of something regardless of what you think, feel, or expect. If you hire a private investigator for a suspected cheating spouse but in truth they are not cheating, then that is the truth. If you hire a private investigator to find out who in your company is stealing but actually no one is, it’s errors in accounting, well that is the truth. What you want or expect as a result in your investigation is not always what you are going to get, or read in your reports. A private investigator cannot guarantee the results you want. The investigator can only guarantee they do a thorough job; the outcome, that’s another story.
End of PI Interview Questions, Start of Hiring Process
So these are some pretty extensive questions to ask a private investigator before you hire one but it's worth making sure you hire the right one. It is important to set some guidelines for your investigator right from the start and communicate what your expectations and requirements are. A private investigator will handle some of the most private and sensitive work ever entrusted in anyone. So when it comes to picking the right investigator for the job, you don’t want to cut corners. We suggest you write these questions down or save this page for reference so you can quickly have them to hand. Once you are prepared with your questions and ready to start your hiring process, you can search our private investigator directory for an investigator.