Investigators are one of the coolest jobs that you can have. Whether you are working as part of a law enforcement team or as a private investigator, there are a large range of skills necessary to be a good detective.
As an investigator, you get to investigate everything from civil cases to missing persons reports, or performing background checks and interviewing potential suspects. These detectives need to be able to think fast and draw on a large range of abilities.
If you’re interested in pursuing a detective career with a law enforcement or an independent service provider, you made a great choice! To help you get started, here is how to learn detective skills and become a bonafide investigator:
1. Improve your problem solving skills
Strong critical thinking and problem solving are fundamental detective skills that you must learn. In every case, there are going to be complex dynamics that need to be analyzed in order to steer the investigation in the right direction. Critical thinking is necessary for private investigators to reach logical conclusions based on the evidence that is discovered.
Detectives must use these skills to remove personal prejudice and opinions and objectively investigate cases. The same way that the winning strategy when playing chess involves working the problem backwards, reverse analysis also lends itself well to detective work. To learn these detective skills, it is advisable to practice logic puzzles and other games in order to build up brain muscle and develop new problem-solving techniques.
2. Cultivate an attention to detail
A good detective will be adept at paying strict attention to detail to ensure that nothing is missed. In the event that the investigation they’re conducting will ultimately result in legal action, it is critical that all variables are accounted for.
These detective skills also come into play when identifying and examining evidence, following legal procedures and during interviews. You can improve your attention to detail by using a few strategic planning and organization techniques such as creating a work or action plan and making lists.
It is also a good practice for detectives to limit all other distractions while working on an investigation and to maintain a schedule in which they set aside a certain amount of time for specific tasks.
3. Learn computer and technology skills
As in many other professional capacities, computer skills and knowledge of technology are becoming increasingly important for detectives. The latest software has automated many routine detective tasks, such as conducting background checks and using financial records to look for missing people.
Detectives must also be well-versed in using search programs and quickly navigating databases. These are detective skills you can easily learn at home thanks to the many online tutorials and explainer videos available.
4. Improve written and oral communication skills
Sophisticated and developed communication skills are key for any aspiring detective to learn. Strong written communication is necessary to file clear reports and properly document investigations, which might end up being submitted in court cases.
Oral communication, on the other hand, is critical for the success of interviews with clients, witnesses, suspects and victims. It is necessary that a detective is able to ask clear, articulate questions and actively listen to the answers so that no details are missed.
A sensitivity to body language and vocal inconsistencies is also important so that a detective can tell when the person being interviewed is being deceptive or hiding information. In some cases, it will also be necessary for a detective to testify in court and they must therefore be able to clearly communicate any findings to the judge and jury.
5. Get some professional training
In the event that you feel your communication skills are really not where they need to be, it is advisable to enroll in a business writing course at your local community college.
Generally speaking, these courses are inexpensive, are often held in the evenings and on weekends, and will be a great resource for improving your communication skills. Remember, the more you can learn about modern business communication, the more detective skills you will be able to learn.
6. Develop patience as a detective
Patience is another critical detective skill you must learn. The job often involves dealing with slow-moving cases or conducting surveillance. For this reason, detectives need to be able to maintain focus even when there isn’t a lot of action going on.
This is a detective skill that can be cultivated while off the job too and is best achieved through mindfulness practice and concentrated effort.
7. Learn about current laws and regulations
In order to avoid breaking any laws that could ultimately invalidate the investigation, it is important for detectives to stay on top of current laws and regulations. This means memorizing everything from a national to local level and knowing how the criminal code applies to all potential situations.
This information that is freely available and any hopeful detective would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with it extensively before applying.
8. Learn how to protect yourself
Although a detective’s role is to investigate and report, there is always the threat that conflict could arise while on the job. For this reason, detectives should know how to use a weapon and have a reasonably high level of self-defence training.