Conducting due diligence and research up front is the best way to find a career coach who will best fit your needs.

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While career coaches were almost unheard of 20 years ago, their use has grown rapidly over the past five to 10 years. Paid sports coaches have been around for a long time, but the profession of career coaching is still a fairly new concept, with disagreement on the definition and the necessary qualifications.

So when it comes to hiring a career coach, what should you look for? Here are some tips for choosing the right person:

Look for extensive experience. Your goal should be to find the most highly qualified person — someone who has “been there, done that.” If you want help updating your resume and improving your interviewing skills, look for career coaches who have worked as hiring managers or recruiters. Is your goal to advance into an executive-level position? Seek career coaches who are former corporate executives.

Analyze their education. The lack of clearly defined professional qualifications and industry standards has meant few to no barriers for entry into the career coaching profession. To ensure that you find a qualified coach, look at their education. Do they have college degrees or other educational training in the areas in which they coach? If not, that should raise a red flag.

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Check certifications. Because the career coaching profession is in its infancy, there is disagreement on what qualifications are necessary. Because of this, the industry lacks a standardized credentialing process. Check to see whether the coaches you’re considering hold any certifications. While certification does not guarantee the quality of work, it at least demonstrates which coaches have gone through the time and expense of a certification process.

Do an online search. Type their names into Internet search engines and LinkedIn. Are they well known in their industry? Do they have articles published, or are they quoted in numerous articles as experts in their field? Are they published authors with books in their area of expertise? The more experienced and successful they are, the easier it should be to find information about them.

Review testimonials. Read the testimonials from clients on LinkedIn and on the coaches’ websites, and even comments from readers about their published books and articles. Are the remarks generally positive, or does anything jump out as a potential concern?

Ask for a free phone consultation. A live discussion will give you the opportunity to have your questions answered. Still not sure about your choices? Ask for references (or consider finding someone else).

Bottom line: Conducting due diligence and research up front is the best way to find a career coach who will best fit your needs.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.