11 Questions To Consider
Before Hiring A
Career Coach

By Rob Sullivan, Author
Getting Your Foot in the Door 
When You Don't Have a Leg to Stand On


There are a number of factors to consider before investing your time, money, and effort in hiring a career coach.

To save you time upfront, let's start with the first and most important question: "Do you even need a coach?" 

After all, if the answer is "No", there's no point in reading the rest of the article. If the answer is "Yes", we'll look deeper at the other issues you'll want to consider. 

Do you need a coach?

To begin, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever thought to yourself?:
    "I know I'd be great at that job if only someone would give me a chance" or "I would love that job, but I could never make any money doing that."

  • Do you struggle with the concept of networking and/or feel that you have fewer valuable contacts than others?

  • Do you ever find yourself apologizing for your age, level of experience, or education?

  • Have you sent out résumés for jobs you know you'd be perfect for and have not received a response?

  • Do you have trouble getting interviews or turning interviews into job offers?

  • Are interviews uncomfortable because you find it difficult to talk about yourself without feeling like you're bragging?

  • Given the economy, do you worry that you may have to settle for a job or salary below what you know you deserve?

  • Do you worry that your unemployment compensation and/or severance will run out before you find another job?

  • Have you been out of work longer than you ever expected?

  • Do you feel stuck in your current job or no longer find it satisfying?

  • Do you feel your job, and the jobs of your co-workers, are in jeopardy?

If you answered "Yes" to even one question above, working with a career coach could help you streamline your efforts.

If you answered "Yes" to more than 3 questions, the right career coach could help you shave weeks or months off your search. When you think about what you expect to earn in a typical week, the opportunity cost of NOT working with a coach is probably a lot higher than the investment you'd make with even the most expensive coach.  


Other Questions To Consider

To help you make the best decision about what makes sense for your situation, I've compiled a list of answers to the most common questions I get regarding career coaches.  

What is a career coach?

A career coach is a person who provides objective feedback to help job hunters (and employees working toward advancement) approach the process more efficiently and strategically.

What areas are covered?

A good coach can add value to every part of the process including, but not limited to, the self-assessment process, resume writing, cover letter writing, networking, interviewing, negotiating, and career change. Some people only require assistance from coaches in limited areas like interviewing. Others need help across all areas.

Why should I hire a coach?

The primary reason to hire a coach is to improve your chances to compete effectively for the positions that most interest you. The fact is, very few people enjoy—or are particularly adept at—marketing themselves. As a result, many people endure job searches that are longer than necessary.

What can I expect from working with a coach?

A good coach will work with you to set objectives upfront. From these, you should work together to establish an action plan that makes sense. Remember, there are no cookie-cutter solutions or plans. Everyone is different. Beware of any coach who doesn’t take the time to tailor an approach consistent with your background and objectives.

How do I find a coach?

The best way to find a career coach is through word-of-mouth. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone who has ever worked with a coach. Once you find someone, take time to interview that person. Be sure to get answers to the following questions:

  • How much do they charge?
  • How long have they been doing this?
  • What is the income range of their clients?
  • Do they have a particular area of expertise (e.g., specific jobs or industries)?
  • Are there any clients they haven’t been able to help?
  • Do they take on all clients or are they selective?

Most importantly, make sure you are comfortable with the person. After all, you’ll be working closely together. The process can actually be fun—enjoy it as much as possible!

At what point in the job search process does it make sense to hire a coach?

The right time to hire a career coach varies from person to person. Some people don’t realize they need a career coach until they find themselves struggling to get past initial interviews. Other people hire a coach the minute they realize they aren’t getting results from their cover letters, resumes, or networking. Still others know they need help from the initial stages of doing a self-assessment and putting a resume together. In general, though, it is far better to hire a career coach early in the process. The longer you wait, the more likely the situation is to escalate into a stressful, emotionally charged, or even desperate situation.

How important is it that your coach be a certified resume writer or member of an organization of career management professionals?

Not at all important. Organizations that offer “certifications” in different aspects of career development exist purely as a means to make their founders rich. The fact is, anyone can create an official-sounding “institute” and offer certifications on a variety of topics. More often than not, these organizations are not out to improve the quality of career coaching, resume writing, or any other area. If they were, hiring managers and recruiting professionals wouldn’t find themselves constantly wading through a sea of resumes to find the estimated 1% that are actually effective.

Incidentally, this 1% estimate has been confirmed time and again by spontaneous surveys of HR professionals and hiring managers who have been in my audience over the past few years. Judging from the thousands of resumes I read as an executive headhunter, I personally think 1% is on the high side.

Is it true that hiring a coach is tax-deductible?

The fees you pay a coach, like other job-search-related expenses, are tax deductible in many areas. Check with your tax advisor to be sure.

What is the cost involved?

Here again, there are no rules of thumb for what you should pay. Ideally, you, the job hunter, should be able to look back and think, “That was a terrific investment.” At the same time, the career coach should be able to say, “I was fairly paid for my services.” To achieve this win-win scenario, be open to the possibility of a value-based fee. While more and more people are adopting this approach, the majority still charge hourly fees ranging anywhere from $75 to $500 per hour. Whatever you do, avoid companies that charge exorbitant fees upfront. More than a few times, I’ve heard about people who paid $10,000, $20,000 or more with the “guarantee” that they’d find a job. Unfortunately, not one of these people had anything to show for it.

Some coaches offer on-going programs. Is that a good idea?

Many coaches and companies will attempt to sign you up for ongoing or monthly programs before you've ever had your first session. When this happens, run fast and far? It doesn't make sense to commit to an ongoing relationship when you don't even know if they are able to provide value. I would never ask anyone to commit to more than one session for two reasons. First, if we don't enjoy working together and there isn't value, neither of us should be obligated to continue the relationship. Second, it's possible you may not need more than one session.

How many sessions does the average person need?

In my experience, there are effective no cookie-cutter formulas and no "average" people. Every situation is different. It truly depends on the person and his or her individual goal. Some goals are more challenging and face greater competition.

My goal is not to make you or anyone else dependent on me. My goal is to teach you what I know so you can apply the principles as needed. Given this, about 50% of my coaching clients do not require additional sessions. The initial two-hour session is enough.

Another 30-40%  of my clients return for an additional session to focus on a particular area. Of these, most fall into two categories: people who want additional help with resumes and cover letters, and people who want to do mock interviews to get feedback on how they are presenting themselves.

The remaining 10-20% of my clients take advantage of the various coaching packages to gain the benefit of ongoing feedback on all aspects of their job search.

Will this work for you?

Let's say you decide not to work with a career coach. Where will that leave you? Will you get the job or promotion using your current strategy? Probably not.

Will you be kicking yourself for the rest of your life if you didn't try everything possible to get that job?  Only you can answer that question.

I can't make the decision for you. It's 100% up to you. I can help you, but you've got to take the first step. If you get stuck or need private coaching, I've included my contact information and a link to additional information about my coaching below so you don't have to go through this alone.  I've also included a free eBook to get you started. Just click the link below.

All the best,

Rob Sullivan

P.S. For almost 20 years I have worked as a career coach to job hunters of all levels and across a wide range of industries. If you have questions about this article, or if you’d like to talk to me about your specific needs, send an email with the subject “Career Coaching” to rob @ careercraftsman dot com. 


Click here to find out about Rob's work as a career coach!


Rob Sullivan has been instrumental in my career development, playing a key role in two successful job moves over the past 3 years. From re-working my resume and how I viewed my strengths to coaching me on interviewing and job offer negotiations, his help has been invaluable. Rob was able organize and craft my complicated background into a compelling story via my resume. I got more responses from my new resume in the first 3 weeks than I had in the prior 6 months with my old resume. Three recent interviewers specifically commented on how much they liked my resume and how well it answered all of their questions. One recruiter said that mine was his favorite resume and asked if he could use it as an example when working with other clients. He has also helped me to conduct my salary negotiations in a straightforward and open manner that didn’t paint me into a corner. I point all of my friends in the job market to Rob and he holds my highest recommendation.

--John Marcos 






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