HR Toolkit: Four Questions to Ask BEFORE You Hire an Executive Coach

  • September 19, 2013
  • Evy Severino
  • Comments Off on HR Toolkit: Four Questions to Ask BEFORE You Hire an Executive Coach

Are you responsible for hiring coaches for your organization? If so, here are some tips to help you. 

This article was published in the September issue of the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association Newsletter, Perspectives. 

When a leader in your organization asks for your help in selecting an executive coach, where do you start?  As an HR Professional, your knowledge of the individual(s), your corporate culture and interviewing skills will serve you well.  Asking these 4 questions will not only help you find the right coach for someone you wish to develop in your organization but will build your skill in coach selection for the future.

1)     Where can I find skilled coaches?

  • In Pittsburgh, you can find over 80 qualified coaches in one click at the Pittsburgh Coaches Association (PCA), which is the local chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF) at  Click on “Find a Coach” and you will find bios alphabetically and by coaching specialties including Executive, Leadership, Team, Wellness and Life.
  • Outside of Pittsburgh and outside of the US, you can search the International Coach Federation Website at The ICF hosts a global free searchable directory of ICF Credentialed coach members called the Coach Referral Service (CRS). 
  • Your company may have a list of “preferred providers” that have been vetted by your Leadership Development staff.  Whether or not there is a formal list, it is always a good idea to check with your colleagues to learn about past successes and coaches.

2)     How do I narrow it down?

  • This is where you already know a lot about what you need.  Look for coaches who have expertise in organizations of a similar size or industry.  Often you will see the term “corporate coach” to indicate experience in contracting with organizations vs. a one-on-one contract with an individual. Look for coaches who have worked with clients who have similar needs and goals as the person you are trying to match.
  • You can link directly to coaches’ individual websites from the PCA “Find A Coach” page.  There you will learn about the coaches’ experience, qualifications, approaches and target clients.  You should be able to learn about where the coach was trained and any certifications they have.  
  • You want coaches who have demonstrated command of key coaching competencies and are committed to a code of ethics, such as the ones set out by the International Coach Federation.
  • Once you identify a list of coaches who match your specifications, here are some key questions to ask via a phone call:
    • Can you tell me about your coaching philosophy and process?
    • What assessments do you use?  [Can you use our company’s assessments?]
    • Who is a perfect client for you? (helps you know if your client fits their ‘sweet spot’)
    • Can you give me some examples of the types of successes your clients have had?
    • How long does an average assignment take and how do you measure success?
    • How do you normally work with the client’s boss? HR?
    • Can you provide references from organizations like ours?
    • What are your rates for coaching and the assessments? Do you offer negotiated rates to organizations like ours? If so, what are the terms?

3)     How do I help create the right fit?

  • Pick a handful of coaches and get to know them one-on-one.  Set up calls or ask them to visit your office for coffee or lunch.  Even once you have found the right coach, keep meeting new coaches and you will source the right coach more quickly the next time you need one.  Most successful coaches will not accept a job that is not a fit for their practice and many will help you identify another good coach in their network for your needs.  And they can often give you useful insights or feedback on your company if you ask.
  • Of all of the coaches you consider, pick three to give to the leader who will be coached and ask them which 2 out of the 3 they would like to meet.  Most coaches will agree to a complimentary “chemistry” meeting that can be on the phone, video chat or in person.  This is generally a 30 minute conversation during which the coach and the prospective client have a private meeting to learn a bit about each other and see if they click.  There is significant evidence that allowing the client to select their coach from a small number of candidates increases motivation and follow-through in the coaching process.
  • If you don’t have time to interview the coaches before your executive does, meet the coaches directly before or after they have their chemistry meetings. You can compare notes and help them process their reactions.

4)     How shall I go about contracting and pricing?

  • Once you think you want to work with a coach, ask for a formal proposal.
  • Some coaches charge by the hour, some use a monthly retainer, and others charge two or three times during the process. Regardless, you should think of coaching as a project that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 
  • The proposal/contract should outline deliverables, timing, communication, measures of success, pricing and payment terms. 
  • The contract is between the organization and the coach.  Often the term “sponsor” is used, meaning the person in the organization who is negotiating the contract and budgeting for the coaching investment. The sponsor can be HR or the Line Manager whose budget will pay for the coaching.
  • Best practice is for HR to be involved in coaching regardless of which department is paying the bill.  HR can play a key role to ensure that the manager, the coach and coaching client are being accountable for their commitments and preparing for the time when the coaching assignment is over.  More on this topic in the next article. 

Learn the basics, get to know coaches and look for ways to maximize ROI and you can make a significant impact on the value your organization receives from coaching.

Evy Severino works with successful leaders and teams who are ready for their next big challenge.  She has participated in coach selection from both sides of the desk:  in her previous HR roles at GlaxoSmithKline and in her current role as Managing Director of Severino Consulting, LLC.   





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