Interviewing coaches — also known as having free introductory coaching sessions — is a chance for you to get a real sense of what it would be like to work with the three to five coaches who’ve made it to your short list. You’ll see how they treat you, how you feel when you talk with them, and how much you like and respect them. You’ll get a sense of how much they understand, like, and respect you. You’ll subconsciously pick up on many tiny details that’ll help you decide which coach you prefer.
If you’re new to coaching, you’ll learn a lot about coaching from these personal interactions with three to five coaches. And you’re also likely to learn about yourself as you talk with these coaches about your life and what you want.
In this article, we’ll look at preparing for these sessions, what to do during them, and collecting your impressions after them.
Before you start interviewing coaches, you may want to prepare by getting clear about a few things. I suggest writing down your thoughts so they’ll be easily accessible to you on the calls. Even if the information is obvious and easy to remember for you normally, you may find that the answers slip right out of your mind during the call.
You may want to think about:
- what’s prompted you to work with a coach now?
- something small you can work on with the coach during the call
- any questions you have for the coach
- a way to buy yourself some time if the coach tries to pressure you to sign up for your first month of coaching at the end of the interview. One option is to simply say that you’re going to think about it for a few days.
- what you want in a coach. You can take a look at the master list of coaching services and think about what you do and don’t want in a coach.
Right before the call
Generally, the arrangement will be that you call the coach at a time you’ve arranged with the coach in advance. It’s a sign of respect to the coach to call on time and take care of any potential distractions beforehand, so you won’t be interrupted by children, barking dogs, or cell phones.
After the initial greeting, usually brief, the coach may ask you a few introductory questions to get to know a bit about you and why you’re interested in working with a coach. She may ask you how you heard of her. Some coaches also ask what you think coaching is so they can get a sense of where you’re coming from, and then they may tell you a bit about how they approach coaching.
Getting a sense of what it’s like to work with the coach
Then the coach will probably shift the call into an interaction that will give you more of a sense of what it’s like to work with her, though some coaches just let the call be a natural, free-flowing conversation.
The three main approaches I know about are:
- The coach gives you a taste of what it’s like to work with her. You may walk away from the call with strategies you can put into place right away.
- The coach walks you through what she’d do and how she’d approach working with you, but she doesn’t actually do any coaching.
- Sales process
- The coach uses some typical sales techniques, like asking you about the pain a problem you’re having is causing you and the benefits you’d get if you solved it.
The coach will almost certainly give you a chance to ask her any questions you have.
Asking the coach about herself
When you and the coach are comfortable, you may want to ask the coach some questions, in a casual, easy way, to get her talking about herself. Ideally, you’d ask her about topics she enjoys talking about, like what she likes about being a coach, how she got into coaching, or some fun experiences she’s had working with clients. When she’s happy and relaxed, you can get a real sense of who she is, how she works, her values, and her approach to coaching and life.
Experience with clients like you
If you have particular traits as a client, like introversion, high sensitivity, or giftedness, you may want to ask the coach if she has experience working with clients like you.
If the coach makes claims that she can help you achieve particular goals, you can ask her how she’s going to do that. It’s not unusual for coaches to use vague language because they don’t have a real method or approach. You can keep asking politely her how she’s going to do that until you really understand how she’ll help you — or realize that she doesn’t have the goods to back up her claims.
Pressure at the end of the call
To work with the coach
The coach may pressure you at the end of the call to sign up with her on the spot. I encourage you to give yourself a bit of time to make sure that you want to work with the coach instead of agreeing to work with the coach at the end of the call. If you’ve found a coach who’s right for you and you’re honestly eager to work with her, you’ll naturally move forward to work with her after the call.
What do you say to the coach who’s pressuring you for a decision on the call?
You can simply tell her that you’ll get back to her in a few days with your decision. You don’t have to explain why. Some coaches will respond by trying to pressure you into making a decision quickly. They may ask you questions about why you don’t want to sign up now or what’s going to change between now and when you make the decision, or they may use other sales techniques to overcome your objections.
If you have some concerns that you’d like to discuss with the coach, you may want to bring them up at this point. But you have no obligation to answer the coach’s questions or participate in this sort of high-pressure sales conversation. You can just repeat “I’ll get back to you in a few days” until the coach backs off — or you hang up the phone.
It’s your money. It’s your life. It’s your decision whether or not you work with a particular coach — or any coach. Period.
Testimonials, referrals, and feedback
Some coaches will ask you for something at the end of the call, like feedback, a testimonial, or referrals. In my view, you never have to provide these things to a coach, even if you work with her for years, and certainly not after a single, introductory call.
After the call
After the call, you may want to think about how you felt about the coach and jot down some notes so you remember.
- Did you trust her?
- Did you feel comfortable talking to her?
- Would you want to tell her personal information?
- If she has a specialty, how deeply does she seem to know it?
- Do you like the way she spoke to you?
- Did she seem to understand you, to want to know more about you, to like you?
- Did you like her?
- Which of the services you want in a coach does this coach provide? Which ones doesn’t she provide?
- Does the coach do anything that you don’t want in a coach?
- Anything else that you think is important.
You probably won’t get definitive answers to all these questions in one session, but you can make a major start. Perhaps the most important thing to do is to listen to your gut and see if your gut sense is that this person is a good match for you or not.
An ethical note about interviewing coaches
It’s honorable to only have free sessions with coaches with whom you’re serious about working.