How to Interview Your Coach

Career Blog

Career coaching can be powerful when used effectively and with other development actions. Practitioners often highlight potential benefits, such as increased performance, enhanced productivity, greater executive presence, personal brand identification and positioning, and better quality relationships in and outside the organization.  

Attaining these results, however, largely depends on two factors—first, the client’s willingness to put in the work required. Second, take the time to select the right coach in the first place. To help with the latter, remember the following guidelines when interviewing potential coaches.

  1. Coaching Education: Coaching is a relatively new discipline, and although certification bodies such as the ICF are working toward formalizing standards, the field is still akin to the Wild West. Some coaches have been trained via programs such as Coach University, while others leverage practical experience and adopt a quasi-mentoring relationship. Before signing on with a coach, ask about their process, training, and credentials. You wouldn’t trust your car to someone who has never driven or held a wrench. So don’t let the ill-informed tinker with your career.
  2. Coaching Process: Dig beyond the credentials to understand the coach’s preferred process. Helpful questions include: How will they collect data during intake? What assessments will be used? What is expected of you during the coaching program? What can you expect from your coach? What is the duration of the relationship? What are the anticipated outcomes? How will the relationship be concluded? 
  3. Confidentiality: Make sure you understand the coach’s stance on data sharing. This is always important but critical if your employer is sponsoring the coaching. Ensure you know who will have access to your information and how they will use it, i.e., the coaching for development or performance monitoring purposes.  
  4. Coaching Style: Coaching is often most effective when your style fits your coach’s. This doesn’t mean you are mirror images. Sometimes, you need a coach who is a little different. For example, partnering with a laid-back coach will likely be unproductive if your issue involves procrastination. That said, a taskmaster could be equally ineffective. Balance is usually best. Make sure you select someone who can help you grow.  
  5. Trust: Coaching is an intimate process. Often, even those with a strict career or business agenda end up discussing personal issues, feelings, and thoughts as they move through the process. This is not surprising given the reality of today’s work/life pace. The two sides of ourselves are linked to a greater degree than ever before. Selecting a coach that you connect with and can trust to navigate the divide is critical. It’s also helpful if they have the courage to call you out on any incongruences between your words and actions.  

In addition to observing the guidelines above, you must be candid, truthful, and specific about the results you want to achieve when vetting your potential coaches. You should also ensure you have the bandwidth to commit to the process. Finally, it’s important to know when NOT to hire a coach. Sometimes, you can solve your issues via a less expensive, time-consuming, and personally invasive medium.  

A good coach will explore these alternative measures with you. If coaching is the ideal solution, they should encourage potential clients to speak with several professionals before selecting. While time-consuming, this process will ensure you match with a coach with the greatest chance of forming a productive, successful relationship. 

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