People Searching – Be Prepared
Researching or investigating people can be one of the more challenging types of online searching – for several reasons: Precision is everything, good sources are hard to find, and the information can be error-prone.
Like any difficult endeavor, we generally get the best results when we prepare for the task at hand. People searching takes patience, and there are no shortcuts. Depending on the level of due diligence, we don’t want to miss anything. Even after all these years, I still take certain steps before starting the research for our investigative profiles. Here’s my list and why each step is important:
Determine level of risk/due diligence – Before you can start, you need to know how far to go. Perhaps your client is in the early stages of their process, and they just want to do a preliminary background check. Create products that match needs.
Manage expectations – Always discuss the problems inherent to online searching, especially what’s included and what’s not. It’s never a good conversation to have after you deliver the report.
Develop a process – While you want to customize for every client and the stages in their operations, creating a basic process ahead of time makes it easier to move forward. Use client conversations to learn what works.
Collect sources – Spend time selecting trusted sources that you can use at a moment’s notice, and keep updating the list. Searching for sources on an as-needed basis can delay the start of the project and waste your clients’ time.
Create checklists – Use checklists for your processes and sources as guides or reminders, but don’t be afraid to wander from your path. You may have to follow an unexpected lead or two, but use your lists to get back on track.
Gather everything you know – Sometimes we’re provided background information or other clues that we can use for leads to new information about people. It’s best to keep everything in one place, and I use a simple Word document. New pieces of key information are added as they’re found.
How do you prepare for researching or investigating people?