What Is the One Quality That Every Investigator Should Have?

Brian Willingham 2016


Private Investigator. Devoted husband and father. Passionate about food + drink. Sports junkie. Fierce competitor. Wannabe Spaniard.

What is The One Quality that Every Investigator Should Have

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Afew weeks back, I was on a radio show (~18:50 mark) with Los Angeles private investigator Scott Ross, where he asked me about the one quality I looked for in a private investigator. The question came up again in a PI Education webinar with Hal Humphreys titled “The Business of Investigations,” when a listener asked what traits to look for in an private investigator (~42:57 mark).

Both Scott and Hal gave very different answers. Scott said that common sense was the most important quality. “If you don’t have that common sense to take yourself to the next level,” Scott said, “the bottom line is that it’s all for nothing.”

Hal replied that curiosity and being comfortable talking to people were the two characteristics he looked for in an employee. Hal does a lot of criminal defense work, so both traits are essential.

Both of those are great answers. But before I get into what I think is the most important quality and before I get a bunch of nasty comments, hate mail, spam, or an envelope of glitter sent to my office, I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer to this question.

I could make a pretty good argument for a number of skills and qualities. Organizational skills, patience, an even keel, and an understanding of one’s limitations are just some of many good answers that come to mind.

But the one quality that I think separates good investigators from great ones is persistence. There is nothing quick, easy, or simple about an investigator’s job (despite what you see on TV), but the more persistent you are, the more rewards there are for the taking.

What do you think is the most important quality of an investigator?

7 replies
  1. Marsha Shulman
    Marsha Shulman says:

    As a PI myself who used to hire and train research analysts, the one quality I looked for was the ability to think outside of the box!

  2. Yolanda H
    Yolanda H says:

    Patience and being able to communicate to get the answers one is seeking without judging the person giving the information.
    Many times. One thinks because a person is offering information, that person is confessing to a crime or wants to make a deal.
    Just be yourself and look for body language.

    Thanks and have a great afternoon

  3. Jackie Phillips
    Jackie Phillips says:

    Independence. The ability to step out on your own, believe in yourself and not follow a cried or what a crowd tells you or wants you to believe.

    Also, the ability to ask for help when necessary and not let your ego get in your way.

    Constant training and skill building and looking for ways to improve and grow.

  4. Scott Ross
    Scott Ross says:

    There are several traits required, all of them have been mentioned. But I still maintain that when either assessing a situation, relating to a witness, searching for that crucial information, without common sense to get you to the next level, it’s all for not.

    I’d also like to invite my colleagues to call in and join the show Thursday mornings, http://www.kcaaradio.com on All Things PI at 9:00AM Pacific and comment on our unique industry. Thanks again Brian for being on the show

  5. Brandon Bazinet
    Brandon Bazinet says:

    All of these are definitely great qualities and you’re correct that there is no right or wrong answer. As a private investigator, we wear many different hats and I think the qualities we regard as important, depends on the type of cases we work. One that goes without saying is integrity. If I can’t trust you 110% then I don’t need you. I also look for people who can think outside the box. A lot of our work requires you to get creative and do things you would never learn from a book.

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