The purpose of this study is to identify the attributes – skills, education and qualifications – required to be a contemporary corporate investigator. Design/methodology/approach To address heretofore unexplored areas in the literature, this study used data collected from semi-structured interviews with 33 corporate investigators in Australia. Findings This paper highlights the complexities that surround corporate investigations and identifies nine attributes critical for investigative success. The findings identify some commonalities with police–detective skills and suggest that the corporate investigator needs the skills of an accountant and a lawyer to complement these investigative skills. Originality/value Studies of private investigators are rare as such; therefore, this paper fills a gap in academic literature by examining the skills necessary to conduct private investigations of corporate and white-collar crime.