How to Choose the Right Coach For You

The decision to seek the services of an external job coach is often made because of the many benefits currently recognized. Apart from personal benefits for the individual, (increased self awareness, better goal setting etc), surveys have also found clear links to improvement in business performance metrics, such as quality, productivity and revenue. Once the decision has been made it is then handed over to HR to find the appropriate coach or coaches, and that is when difficulty can occur. HR may not have done this before, so knowing what you are looking for is critical. There are two specific areas that you should consider. The Profile of the coach and the Selection process to use.

The profile of the right coach should cover many aspects including the following: Background Experience References Coaching Hours Types of assignments Professional Body member Professional Insurance Personal Characteristics Supervision Industry Experience Qualifications Training Tools and methods Boundary Management

To expand them further look for the following:


What is the background of the coach, have they come from a commercial background or from a therapeutic background or a mix of both.


What organizational level they have worked with, particularly relevant if you are selecting a coach for a senior leader or executive. What kind of assignments have they taken on.


All good coaches should be able to supply references from previous clients. No specific details but overall performance should be covered.

Coaching Hours:

It is a good idea to find out how many coaching hours they have carried out, more hours usually equates to more experience.

Types of assignments:

Have they focused more on career coaching or work-life balance, this may be useful to see how it matches the individual’s needs.

Professional Membership:

There are a number of professional bodies now in existence, (eg EMCC, AC, ICF etc), all with a “code of conduct” and a set of ethics. Make sure they belong to one.

Professional Indemnity Insurance or (PI):

Not essential, but most established coaches will have this and many organizations now require it. (pays out if for some reason it was proved that the coaches intervention cost you money).

Personal Characteristics:

There are many to consider, here are just a few: How good are they are giving feedback and being challenging. Do they build strong rapport, are they great listeners, can they be flexible with their style and methods, can they motivate and encourage new thinking, do they use situations for continuous learning of their own…..


Many but not all coaches use supervision, separate meetings with another coach to discuss their coaching. Often used as ongoing self development and another perspective for spotting potential areas for concern. Many of the coaching bodies see this as essential.

Industry Experience:

This may not be relevant for the detail, but might be important for understanding context and also for initial acceptance by coachees. But remember it is well accepted that coaches do not need industry knowledge to provide great coaching.


There are many qualifications available now, do your research and ensure it’s accredited to one of the major bodies. (also remember that longer established coaches will not have had access to these, so this does not guarantee a good coach)

Tools and Methods:

A good coach will be able to use a wide range of tools and methods and show flexibility in how and when they use them. Beware of the one size fits all approach. You should also explore how they construct a coaching program, how much will it be aligned with your organization, what reporting will they provide for you. You may also want to find out if they use reflective learning with their learners.

Boundary Management:

Find out how they recognize and manage boundaries. This is often a very sensitive area. Coaches need to recognize their own limitations and should not knowingly accept someone for coaching who really needs specialist support. The above is an initial guide to what you should be looking for. The next stage is to run a process that will allow you evaluate these criteria and then make an informed selection decision.

Peter Green is an Executive Coach at Performance for Growth Ltd. For information on choosing a coach, visit

Read our 101 Tips for Finding a New Job

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