Job Search Coaching: How to Choose a Job Coach

Job search coaching is a specialized field that not just anyone can do. Over the years I’ve worked with various career professionals who do various things, and not many of them can, or want to, do job search coaching.

Aside from a job coach, you might talk to a career counselor. Career counselors specialize in counseling you on your career (duh). Really, this is an important distinction. If you go to a career counselor looking for job search coaching you might be disappointed. If I went to a career counselor I would expect to talk about who I am, what I like, what I want to be when I grow up, etc.

A career counselor will likely have me take various career and personality assessments… you may remember doing something like that in high school or college. There is definitely a need for this type of professional who helps point people in the right direction and give them guidance on how to get there.

A job coach, though, is very different. I recognize they can be the same person but the skills involved are different.

Job Search Coach - People Talking Picture

In job search coaching I’m looking for someone who will hold me accountable to do the right things in my job search.

Let me say that again, with emphasis:

In job search coaching I’m looking for someone who will (1) hold me accountable to (2) do the right things in my job search.

Job Search Coaching and Accountability

A job search coach will have regularly scheduled meetings with you. These could be daily, weekly, every other week, or maybe monthly. I personally don’t like monthly because I think that is too far apart.

Depending on how often you meet your job coach might check in, or ask you to check in, between meetings. If I were your job coach (NOTE: I do not do job search coaching) I would want you to send me an evening check in, and perhaps a morning “here’s what I’m doing today” email.

When I was in my job search I didn’t have a coach. I was accountable to no one (except the bank, for my bills!). I could do whatever I wanted with my time. I tried to be as diligent as I could but I’m sure if I had someone who I was accountable to, with regular checkins, I would have been more effective.

Accountability is one of the most important things a job seeker needs, and a job search coach is the person who will hold you accountable.


Job Search Coaching and the Right Tactics

Job coaches also know… wait, let me rephrase that: Good job search coaches definitely know the tactics you should use in your job search. This isn’t cookie cutter though. Job search tactics for a kid just out of school vs. coaching a senior executive are going to be different. Location (small town vs. large city), scope of your job search (international, etc.), industry nuances, and other factors can greatly impact what your right tactics are.

In my Big Fat Failed Job Search of 2006 I somehow latched on to the worst job search tactics. A job coach would have immediately identified this as a problem and coached me through what I should have been doing. The job coach would have helped gain confidence to do the things I didn’t want to do (call people), and make sure my time was spent on high value activities.

Job search coaches are in the trenches. They stay up on tactics and watch how their clients do with certain tactics. They become expert in current tactics that work. One of the mistakes we, in the industry, see is people start a job search based on tactics the last time they were in a search, which could have been five, or thirty, years ago!

Job search coaching = accountability + correct tactics

That is a powerful formula.

How to choose a job search coach

So how do you choose a job search coach? You do so carefully. For a minute in your job search you get to be on the interviewing side and look for the most qualified candidate for you!

Interview and research. Call them, talk with them. Scour their website. Ask for references.

One thing I didn’t know was that certain coaches have certain specialties. If you are a CFO, for example, look for a job coach who works mostly, or exclusively, with CFOs. The value they can bring, because of their industry knowledge and insight, can be worth a ton compared to someone who doesn’t understand unique challenges of a CFO job search. Same thing with industries, tenure (new grads vs. older job seekers (ironically, both will face age discrimination), etc.


Choose someone you think you’d like to work with. However, don’t forget this is a business relationship with a very specific objective: to land you a great job! Yes, you can and probably will become friends, or at least be friendly, but not always. Accountability, by its nature, will require some difficult conversation and they might call you on your B.S. This can be hard for some people to stomach but if it is what you need to get your great job, take it. And be thankful they had the professionalism and courage to have those hard conversations!

In your networking you might find people who have the job you want who have paid for job search coaching. If you get to a point in the conversation, or your relationship, ask them for referrals. Job search coaches changes lives and impact families in a significant way, and their past clients remember them for life. Many times they’ll refer friends and family because of the value a job coach has brought.

Of course, money and fees will have an impact on who you choose to work with. But don’t go for the least expensive if they don’t check off your other requirements. I’m not going to promise the most expensive person will be all you want them to be, but most of the coaches I know who are more expensive have earned their wages and are very, very good.

Additional tips

Personally, I would steer clear of shops or mills where you don’t really know who you are working with. Go to a coaching association website (check out Career Directors International or Career Thought Leaders) and look for individuals who run their own business. Maybe look into outplacement companies, if they are highly recommended. But beware of organizations that seem hard to get a hold of and impossible to figure out who actually works there.

You want to, you need to, interview people before you hire them as a job search coach.

I’ve found the services providers in the career and job search space to be exceptionally kind, big-hearted, and competent. This could be one of the funnest, best professional relationships you have.

Good luck!

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