12 Investigative Skills That Are Helpful To Develop (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 12, 2022 | Published September 2, 2021

Updated August 12, 2022

Published September 2, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Investigative skills help professionals collect relevant data and derive conclusions from the information they gather. These are important traits for professionals to possess in a variety of fields and may be important to highlight on resumes or cover letters. Developing investigative skills can help you advance in your career and emphasize your ability to both gather and analyze information to employers.

In this article, we define investigative skills and list some of these skills, and we provide tips for how to improve investigative skills.

What are investigative skills?

Investigative skills are the abilities individuals use to gather data and generate conclusions to reveal important facts. These skills also help professionals examine a topic closely and discover items of importance that may not have been clearly apparent to those who lack this skill. Some professionals who often use investigative skills include:

  • Private investigators

  • Forensic scientists

  • Anthropologists

  • Art historians

  • Investigative journalists

  • Police officers

  • Legal investigators

  • Detectives

Related: How To Become a Private Detective

12 investigative skills that are helpful for professionals to develop

Here's a list of 12 investigative skills that can help professionals perform their tasks effectively:

1. Curiosity

Having curiosity, which involves asking questions to discover the reasons why a particular event occurred, is a valuable skill when conducting investigations. This skill entails the desire to learn more about a subject matter and can help a professional persist in an investigation when its pacing slows.

2. Problem-solving

These skills help investigators compile pieces of information they gather. A majority of investigation work involves solving a case or attempting to understand an occurrence further, so it's important for these professionals to determine ways to connect series of events. Effective investigators evaluate their data to gather conclusions that guide them on how to best progress forward with a situation.

3. Research skills

When investigating, it's often helpful to know how to collect relevant information and interpret it. Investigators often analyze background information about particular subject matters to comprehend a situation fully. For instance, a legal investigator may research the background of perpetrators to learn about their criminal history and other important facts.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Evidence collection

Evidence collection is the ability to find relevant facts, such as clues that help investigators understand why something may have occurred, that support or verify a certain belief. Often, investigators collect evidence by conducting experiments or visiting and analyzing a crime scene. When collecting evidence, it's often important for investigators to adhere to common legal procedures.

5. Interviewing

Having the ability to interview subjects helps investigators gather essential information. This may include interrogation, where a professional questions a perpetrator or victim to understand what happened during a particular criminal event. Those with effective interviewing skills understand what types of questions to ask that elicit helpful answers and techniques to foster cooperation.

6. Report writing

This type of writing allows those conducting an investigation to properly submit documentation on their findings. It's typically important for these professionals to ensure clarity so readers understand their reports. They also include supporting evidence to verify findings and may present these findings to a court that uses these written pieces to convict or acquit an individual.

7. Critical thinking

These skills help investigators analyze cases objectively and avoid assumptions that can hinder their ability to derive factual conclusions. These abilities allow professionals to evaluate circumstances and, when making important decisions regarding an investigation, can help them either confirm previous inferences or correctly alter their opinions on a case

Related: How To Develop Critical Thinking Skills

8. Honesty

This skill helps those conducting investigations avoid biases and ensure fairness when gathering information. Since investigators may handle confidential information, it's important for them to strategically reveal it or choose to never reveal it. Effective investigators also often adhere to a code of ethics when collecting information and are truthful with the evidence they present.

9. Flexibility

Since the course of investigations may shift as an individual gathers information, it's important for these professionals to remain adaptable. This may require shifting from an initial idea and reconsidering the right path to proceed. Successful investigators are often nonjudgmental and consider other ideas when researching a subject matter or event. This skill also entails a willingness to use new technology and innovative investigation methods to assist them in their work.

10. Observation

Another important investigative skill is observation, where an individual remains attentive to their surroundings. When gathering information, it's often important to survey an area and record important details. Professionals can also use this skill when interviewing a subject to determine non-verbal cues and contradictory statements that can help an investigator discover truthful conclusions.

Related: Observation Skills: Definition and Examples

11. Courage

Some investigations may involve dangerous people or settings and require possessing courage to persevere. Remaining prepared for various situations can help when investigating. This skill can also help professionals gather information that may upset certain parties involved in an investigation.

12. Self-motivated

Remaining self-motivated is helpful for an investigating role since these positions often entail working independently. Professionals who investigate employ perseverance continue researching, even when a challenge or setback arises. Effective investigators often remain focused on their overall goal so they can eventually develop truthful conclusions.

Tips for improving investigative skills

Here are some ways in which you can improve your investigative skills:

Find multiple sources

When investigating, it's important for professionals to seek information supported by more than one source. This can help you ensure the factuality of evidence. Multiple sources also allow you to defend your findings when preparing a report or making recommendations to a client. Attempting to find multiple sources also helps you hone your research skills.

Maintain neutrality

To avoid biases in your investigations, it's also essential to maintain a neutral stance. This often involves separating your personal beliefs from your investigations. You can accomplish this by removing prior judgments and considering each case as unique.

Practice interviewing

In order to improve your interviewing and evidence collection skills, consider questioning family members or friends. Conducting this can help you develop confidence when interviewing. For mock interviews, try to write effective questions that elicit helpful responses.

Pace your investigations

Prior to analyzing the causes of a situation, it's important to gather all relevant evidence before progressing. It's also essential to analyze collected information first to determine whether there's a relationship between events. Once you feel as though you've conducted a thorough analysis, try to develop a root cause.

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