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?

Interview Questions To Ask When Hiring A Private Investigator


Q1. Are you a licensed private investigator?

The number one question before hiring a PI 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 investigator’s 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 is your background, experience, and areas of specialisation?

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 investigations before? Do they specialise in cases such as yours? What do they plan to do?

Q5. Where is your office located?

If you don’t already know, ask where the 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, or 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 organisations do you belong to?

Most private investigators belong to professional investigator associations of one kind or another. These associations – to become a member – require some proof of license, training and experience of the investigator.

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 private investigator 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 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 private investigation 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 a private investigator, 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 when hiring a private detective.

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 the investigation.

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. 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 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 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. 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 personalised 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.

Q21. 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 prices, 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.

Q22. 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 suspect your partner is cheating but in truth they are not, 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.