Identifying the Best Coach to Help Boost Your Career

by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

Be sure to read our main career coach article, FAQs to Consider about Working with a Coach to Enhance Your Career.

What process should an individual should go through to find the right coach? Our panel of coaches shares advice on the essentials of locating the best coach:

“Checking out the types of coaches available in order to identify the types potentially most relevant to the person’s needs would be a good place to start.”

Georgia Adamson of Adept Business Services

“Choosing a partner for career change is not to be taken lightly. Referrals can be obtained from associations such as, The National Board of Certified Counselors, American Society for Training and Development, National Career Development Association, Career Planning and Adult Development Network, and Career Masters Institute.” Editor’s note: Also see Find a Career Expert.

Andrea Howard, employment counselor with the New York State Department of Labor

“Talking with others who have used coaches might also be helpful, as long as those people can clearly communicate what was good or bad about their own experience with coaching, and why. Contacting professional associations with members who offer coaching is another excellent avenue to obtain information on possible coaching providers.”

Georgia Adamson

“Visit the Web sites of coaches, read their bios, read their qualifications, and testimonials and see if there is a match. Most coaches are listed in at least one referral search engine, can be heard speaking somewhere, have a book or article published, or are interviewed in the press or media. Next, most coaches offer a complimentary interview session to further determine if there is a match. You can also ask for references of clients who were in a similar situation.”

Janine Schindler, Personal and Career Coach

“Many coaches offer a complimentary session enabling you to determine if the chemistry is right.”

Beverly Harvey of HarveyCareers

“Interview several coaches and try sample sessions.”

Liz Sumner, Life Coach

“The most important thing is that you truly connect with the person assisting you. Look for someone you can speak with openly, who is not judgmental, and is only there for your success.”

Ellen Cahill of Leaps & Bounds: Pathways to Success

“Find someone you have instant rapport with and feel is trustable because you’ll have to give a high level of honesty to yourself and your coach throughout the process in order for the coaching to work best.”

Maria Marsala of Maria’s Place: Coaching, Consulting & Courses

“Interview two to three different coaches. See which one feels right for you — you will know.”

Ellen Cahill

“One-on-one interviews with coaches on your short list should be the determining factor. Questions about professional qualifications including professional memberships, articles/books published, conferences attended, certifications held and how their education has prepared them for a coaching career should be asked. Services, success rate, cost, contractual obligations, payment options, coaching style and services should also be explored. Although your decision needs to be based on the above factors, you need a coach that understands you, has enough understanding of your industry and career experience to help you move forward and can be sensitive yet tough enough to help you with the current setback or decision. Your comfort level is the most important factor.”

Andrea Howard

“The No. 1 quality anyone should look for in a coach is rapport. A client needs to be able to trust the coach and feel comfortable working at a level where real change can happen. The relationship is key.”

Liz Sumner


Katharine Hansen, PhD, Creative Director
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, and is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website.