A detective is an independent professional who carries out investigations and examines situations and people to accumulate data for their clients. For an investigator, it is just as important to interrogate people as it is to conduct surveillance. They have to do paperwork, record the responses and observe what was unsaid.
To become a successful field agent, one must be dual skilled in mental agility and physical flexibility. It is asked of a detective to possess a perfect balance between his/her brain and his/her heart. Starting with a good academic background, a knack of dealing with people, great writing skills, emotional maturity and flexibility in the legwork, a detective can become proficient and effective in the field very soon.
A detective should also be genuinely intrigued by their line of work with bouts of perseverance and determination.
Although there is no specific characteristic or skill that can make one a successful detective. Here are some essential qualities that can contribute to the fine making of a leading private investigator.
- Good or average academic background: An individual who wants to become a detective or a private investigator must be educated up till the graduation level. It is even more fulfilling if the person has a Master’s degree in Criminology or has a formal education in Criminal Justice, Law, Security Management or Computer Forensics. However, there is no universal training path to become a private investigator. Instead of some academic courses, a career in the field of detectives requires professional experience in a governmental agency or bureaucracy. They just have to be a formally educated, well-informed and aware individual.
- Likable personality: The personality of an individual dealing with new clients day in and day out really determines the output that comes at the end of the day. The word personality is made from the Latin word, persona, which means mask. It is the exterior, more importantly, an alluring and assuring persona that would attract more and more clients to a detective. S/he must be honest, charismatic, comforting, well-dressed and intelligent. Often, contradictorily, TV shows and films show that detectives are unpleasant and cynical to be around and yet they attract clients. This cannot be more falsely displayed. S/he must be well-groomed, exercising etiquette, maintaining calm and polite behavior and respecting others.
- Sociable: A private detective deals with and comes to face with lots of people on a daily basis. These people are diverse, coming from all walks of life, with different personalities, attitudes, and outlooks towards life and the world in general. Despite all the differences and paradoxes, a good investigator is expected to be agreeable, amiable and pleasant to be around. While doing so, s/he must also be intelligible in his exchanges with the client. It is almost a necessity to be an extrovert and to know how to initiate a good conversation, maintain interest, win the confidence and easily mix up with new people every day.
- Healthy and energetic: The job of a private detective asks for maintenance of good health, bouts of energy and mental work. To completely and extensively conduct investigations, and survey assigned situations and people, a detective needs to be omnipresent.
- Good retentive memory: Memory is critical if one has to store and remember a lot of intelligence regarding What to do? How to do it? Who to contact? What to ask? What to avoid? What to record? What not to miss? If one’s memory is not strong, it results in reduced retention ability, and this can majorly affect one’s routine and effectiveness at work. To make sure this doesn’t happen, a superior memory is pretty much indispensable for the success of an investigator. In the case of a field investigator, s/he is overloaded with information, others’ opinions, questions, etc., which he has to manage dexterously. He must document and systematize essential data, also not miss any key information and promptly provide accurate answers to all reservations by clients. It is only achievable if s/he has a retentive memory. A good memory boosts the speed, accuracy, efficiency, and self-confidence of a private investigator.
- Technical knowledge: A field investigator must have an exceptional technical understanding regarding how to conduct a survey. S/he is expected to have an understanding of diverse methods of investigation, methods used for doing research, statistics, etc. Once the information is gathered, s/he must know how to organize it well so that it can be further delivered with ease and without any difficulties. For doing this resourcefully, s/he must also be on familiar terms with which equipment to choose and utilize for the right purpose.
- Job integrity: Integrity means not to give and take or bargain with moral values and strictly remain truthful and earnestly dedicated to achieving one’s mission by any means. A field investigator must possess such integrity. S/he must be very candid, genuine, devoted and reliable to investigate the issue handed over to him/her. S/he must take a keen interest and get pleasure from doing his/her work with optimal precision. S/he must get in touch with and interrogate all concerned clients. S/he must ask all questions from the questionnaire and record their respective answers immediately. S/he must complete his/her work on time. S/he must not delay his/her work-related activities, nor avoid asking some questions. In short, s/he must not cheat his research work. If s/he cheats, then the quality of his/her investigation will become worse, and this will be distrust and a loss to his/her employer. Hence, integrity is a prime quality of an honest and good field investigator.
- Unbiased accurate recording: One of the most essential parts of the job as a private detective is to instantaneously record the evidence or almost any kind of intelligence received from the concerned parties in the best form and structure possible. S/he has to take good care to see that no time gets wasted in the loop while recording, stupid mistakes are best avoided, and the validity and reliability of the data is at all costs preserved. In addition, s/he also has to keep an unprejudiced attitude when gathering the data. S/he must not put in his/her own language, views or judgments. S/he must take the information neutrally as it was found or discovered, unabridged and in its truest form.
- Awareness of the current affairs: Humankind is ever-changing in nature. It links itself to the change in progress by gradually forsaking primitive methods or traditional techniques. A private investigator must be updated with the latest advancements in the world. S/he must run by with the basic information and different dynamics of what happens in the world. S/he must also be acquainted with the many kinds of common problems associated with companies, competitions in the market, issues related to sales and advertising, etc. With this overall understanding, he can quickly know the purpose of his survey, investigation or research work.
- Inquisitive mind: As you would expect, a probing mind is unsurprisingly leaning towards and keen to find out more about something. It always inquires and is not satisfied with the available information at hand. It often tries to dig deeper so as to know a little extra. A good field investigator must have such a mind. S/he must not get easily satisfied only with facts else find out what more lies behind. In other words, s/he must try his/her level best to dig out maximum information from clients to enhance the quality of his/her research work.
- Computer skills: Computer skills are also necessary for investigative work performed by detectives. In today’s world of hi-tech crime, detectives must have a strong knowledge of computer encryption and security in order to beat the criminal at his own game. Computer skills are also necessary for communications purposes and for other clerical skills needed to work as a detective. Detectives must be detail-oriented and keep extensive written records of their investigations. Much of this information is recorded using various computer database, word-processing and spreadsheet computer software.
- Problem-solving skills: Detectives must be able to put their investigative and communications skills together to solve problems. Problem-solving skills involve the ability to piece together seemingly disparate strands of information and solve a crime, much like piecing together the various parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Problem-solving skills include critical-thinking skills, or the ability to solve problems through the use of logic and reasoning. Reading comprehension skills are also a necessary component of the problem-solving skillset that the detective must-have.
- Investigative skills: The most important set of skills needed by a detective are the investigative skills that they gain along the way throughout the course of their education and training. Many law enforcement officials are required to have an associate’s degree or higher, and the research skills gained along the way can prove invaluable for detective work. Detectives who have a degree in police science, criminal justice or criminology will gain many of the necessary skills utilized by law enforcement officials. Other skills, such as those used in crime scene investigation, are learned as part of police academy training and as part of hands-on experience from working in the field.
- Observational skills: A person’s observation plays a vital role to understand the world around him/her. Minute details are easy to identify and not missed if one’s view is focused and profound. A field investigator with good observational skills can make a great justice to his/her job. S/he can observe the facial expressions, body language and non-verbal responses of the clients. With experience, s/he can quickly sense whether the information being told is a truth or fabricated lie.
- Communication skills: Communication skills are essential to detective work and go hand-in-hand with investigative skills. Detectives must be outgoing and comfortable speaking to strangers. They must have the ability to use interrogative skills to gain the information they need in order to effectively conduct investigations. Detectives need to have active listening abilities which entail the acquired skill of asking the right questions to elicit a response that gives them the information they are looking for. Ongoing communication with police and other law enforcement officials is also necessary. An investigator’s primary task is to collect information from people. To do this, it is crucial he communicates correctly, freely and frankly with them. S/he must not only be able to share and collect data from them, but also manage to remove their doubts. S/he must be able to make them feel comfortable so that they can open up, to share more useful information with him/her. Hence, good communication skills are essential for the success of an investigator.