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Should I Use an Internal or External Investigator?

Should I Use an Internal or External Investigator?

How to decide what’s best for your investigation.

As an investigator, there may be situations when have to decide if it is best to conduct an investigation yourself or hire an outside firm to do it. There are definite pros and cons to each choice and while every situation and investigation is unique, you should understand the considerations when making your decision.

When evaluating the options, you'll need to consider:

  • costs
  • control issues, such as disclosures, both internal and external
  • investigative timing
  • the ability to be objective

The important thing here is to decide how to proceed based upon what is best for the company.

Need help with the interview? Download our Top 20 Questions to Ask in an Investigation Interview Cheat Sheet.

Internal Investigator

If you decide to conduct the investigation internally, you must take into consideration how this will affect your objectivity, your ability to remain impartial, and the time and cost for you to conduct the investigation. It's also important to think about how this may impact your relationships with co-workers, management and others. Be sure you can be comfortable notifying any law enforcement agencies in the event that is needed.

Take stock of the needed resources and make sure you have them available. While some investigations may only take a short time and an interview or two, other more complex investigations can take up to a year or two and require much more time, resources and money. Give thought to how this can affect the company’s image and reputation. Is there a chance of any misrepresentation or risk of being seen as covering anything up? While you can keep a tight reign on the investigation by conducting it in-house, it can be viewed as trying to keep from disclosing information, conflict of interest or even lack of objectivity.

External Investigator

If you decide to hire a consulting or outside firm to conduct the investigation, you reduce the risk of being seen as not objective. The perception of objectivity is critically important in an internal investigation.

Outside firms often have subject matter experts and specialized skill sets. They also may have legal counsel on staff to assist, as well as a depth of staff to bring in if needed.

While you will lose some control over the investigation process, you will gain expertise and objectivity. As an objective third party, an outside firm does provide credibility and non-biased results. However, this does come at a price, as an outside firm can cost a significant amount of money depending upon the depth, time and resources needed to conduct the investigation.

Choose Wisely

There is no right or wrong decision here. The decision must be made on the type of the investigation as well as the regulatory issues, time needed, objectivity issues, disclosure issues, control issues, costs and other factors that are involved. The ultimate measure of the success or failure of an investigation may depend on your decision to conduct it yourself or use an outside firm. Make a well-informed decision that will achieve your goal of a successful and objective investigation.