Evaluate Your Coach Before You Hire

by Adams, Wendy Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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Just as organizations evaluate consultants before hiring them to provide guidance; it is critically important to carefully evaluate a career coach when seeking assistance in your career. Finding the appropriate coach will make all the difference, and can often: 1) increase your chances of finding employment, 2) assist you with promotion opportunities, or 3) get you more money at the negotiation table. Finding the best coach, however, can be daunting. In this piece, I am writing to provide you a method by which you can evaluate those coaches you may consider hiring while avoiding bad coaching experiences.
First a little background; because coaching as a profession that is largely unregulated, it is often tough to tell capable coaches from afar. Coaching, as a professional practice, arose with its original roots in resume writing and job search guidance in the early 1990’s. Soon, the profession was a hot career choice aplenty with certification programs promising to give you a new career ‘overnight’. At one time in recent history, there were over 200 certification programs geared toward coaching and more being created every day. Universities most recently have joined the bandwagon, offering certifications in the subject. Associations have popped up to include a variety of career-related distinctions.
In the running for this new hot career area, find the newbie coach, who is promised ‘a credential to immediately become capable of providing full lifecycle career guidance’. For the experienced worker, the belief is by ‘adding your existing credential to a new coaching credential, you can instantly become a life, career, business or success coach’. Neither of these coaching candidates can guarantee success in guiding your career effectively and many of these situations have resulted in coaching careers with false starts, a string of unhappy clients and poor reputations for the coaching community.
To put the field into perspective, when I began my coaching career, the term ‘career coach’ was not generally known. My practice grew out of sound business experience gained in the world of recruitment and HR consulting. This eventually migrated to outplacement and large workforce transitions. While I have never written resumes exclusively for a living, I have taught resume writing. I know of some excellent resume writers who have honed their skills and matured their practices into career coaching practices and beyond; I also know of some who are practicing smoke and mirrors; often regurgitating old advice and hawking knowledge that does little for their clients who originally came in for a resume update.
Conversely, my spouse began his career in the areas of training and psychotherapy. He also obtained coaching credentials, and other relevant work transition-type credentials, understanding clearly however, that when a specific coaching service is acquired, he does not use the session to practice therapy. With over 30 years of work experience, BEFORE getting his coaching credentials, he brings a different perspective and point of reference to his coaching practice. His coaching practice is very different from mine.
The following will provide some direction to inform your decision when choosing the best coach for you!
1) Capable coaches have a good balance of work/life experience, an appropriate educational focus and a certification or two coupled with direct coaching experience. Ask the prospective coach for their proudest accomplishments and you will learn a lot. Better yet, ask for their resume. You want this person to be as successful as you want to be. If the resume or accomplishments fail to impress, keep looking.

2) Capable coaches have more than just certifications; these do not guarantee competency. The coach should be able to provide a track record of personal successes in the specific areas of your need. This track record should include (again) direct experience. For example, I had worked directly with over 7000 individuals assisting them individually and collectively for more than 15 years before I felt I had arrived at a peak level of understanding in the field. I had another 20+ years of prior general work experience before entering the coaching field. If the professional cannot provide a track record to show how they can meet your needs, keep looking.

3) Capable coaches have more than credentials; these do not guarantee capability. The coach should be able to articulate experiences that prove their successes. Interestingly enough, I achieved my Communications degree after I became a career coach and then acquired two additional certifications to complement my experience. I was able to perform at a significant level of service prior to obtaining an educational credential due to great work experiences, many courses in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences and a propensity to be a self-directed learner. If your coach cannot show proof of successes beyond the credentials alone, keep looking.

4) Seasoned coaches always offer the first session (15 minutes or so) for free. Beware of the coach that wants to sign you up without giving you good reason. A professional and capable coach never needs to sign anyone up. Their reputation speaks on its own. So if you experience a pushy coach, keep looking.

5) Effective coaches will charge more than $19 a month. A good coaching experience is a significant investment in your career. Avoid the ‘fast food’ type of coaching. Typically, the best coaches will charge a flat initial rate and then hourly thereafter. The latest fad you will find however, is offering group coaching calls on a monthly subscription. Some sites use this as a tickler to then sign you up for more. These folks are reading out of the same books you can buy on Amazon. For the $19, buy the book and keep looking.

6) Effective coaches are goal oriented. In your first free session, your coach should know your general concerns and briefly outline a strategy for your future partnership. If this does not happen, keep looking.

7) Effective coaches want efficient results. These folks want to give you what you need and send you on your way. If the coach starts talking about long-term before you get started, keep looking.

8) Successful coaches use good tools. Ask your coach what tools they use in their practice. They should be able to refer to several of these. If there is hesitation or hedging when you ask the question, keep looking.

9) Successful coaches can give client examples without disclosure. Ask the coach to give you an example of a good working relationship experienced with a client. If there is too much disclosure, keep looking.

10) Successful coaches keep their eye on the workforce trends. Ask the coach to give you an example of something recent in their field. A good example of a recent trend is that employers are now using Twitter to hire. If the question is too tough, there is hesitation or delayed answer, keep looking.

In summary, it is this simple. You want to hire a coach who is already successful in what they do, and have done. This permits you to feel that this professional can assist your success in what you wish to do and where you wish to go.