Local and multi-national organizations employ people from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, motivations and resultant behaviors. They all bring to the job their own skills and capabilities; but sometimes, they may engage in activities that may not be legal or ethical, or that may pose a threat to the safety and security of people or property. Sometimes threats come to an organization from the outside.
This is when organizations often ask for the help of outside investigative resources. Whether stemming from the need for a due diligence investigation, resolving an employee or contractor theft or misconduct issue, or dealing with a serious workplace violence threat, it is imperative to secure the best possible investigative service. But how do you select the most suitable and professional investigative consultant?
Here are five ways to ensure you make the best decision that will most appropriately serve whatever investigative need arises:
1. Referral Vetting
Most clients seek or receive referrals from others who have firsthand experience with similar services or know someone that has. Referrals are usually a great way to identify a competent investigations professional, but usually, referrals only provide information regarding successful outcomes and the delivery of sound professional advice. When seeking or receiving a referral, ask specific, targeted questions about the type of service received by the referring individual or company. Remember to include questions about the nature of the work, special issues that may have cropped up during the engagement, and the level of satisfaction with the results.
2. Research, Research, Research
Once a possible investigations consultant has been identified, don’t take a referral as your sole point of reference. It is best to conduct independent research via open sources (online search, media articles, website, etc.) to learn as much as possible prior to making personal contact with the consultant. High-quality investigative services can be rather expensive; however, the results of an investigation can have a significant impact on a company as well as on the private lives of individuals. It is worth investing the research time prior to engaging a service provider.
3. Conducting a Personal Interview is Key
Before hiring anyone, it is very important to conduct a personal interview with the investigations consultant. Ask about approach, past clients, past performance, communication methods, contract requirements, and past issues with clients and how those issues were resolved. At no time should an investigative consultant give answers that will betray the confidence of past clients; if this happens, consider it a definite warning sign that confidentiality is not a priority for that consultant and move on. With a thorough personal interview, you should learn a lot about the potential consultant’s background, experience, attitude, expertise, ethics and approach.
4. Credentials are Important
The investigations world generates a confusing array of credentials. The most important one when it comes to investigations is a Private Investigator (PI) license. Acquiring such a license requires a significant effort in most locations, including successfully demonstrating the required experience and knowledge necessary to perform the work in a professional way. Credentials and licenses can usually be verified with the government body or organization that issued it.
5. Set and Understand Expectations
When preparing to engage investigative services, it is crucially important to be very clear about what is expected. Too often, there is a gross mismatch between the sides regarding what the situation is about and the tasks to be accomplished. This can be easily resolved by including a written and detailed Scope of Work (SOW) as part of the negotiating and contracting process. The “Deliverables” clause in the SOW should be as clear as possible, and should include objectives, proposed methodology, and schedules.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” is generally true, but even more so applicable to sensitive issues such as investigations. There is much at stake in these situations. Cost is certainly an important consideration for any organization. The ability to mitigate liability is another significant factor. But most importantly, hiring an honest, credentialed and experienced consultant could have greater implications for the safety and security of an organization’s people and property, its professional efficiency and protection of its brand.
Read more about investigation services