Having access to up-to-date job outplacement coaching can make the difference between a quick transition and a prolonged, frustrating search.

Today more than ever, executives facing transition — the result of a layoff or termination — should ask for outplacement support to expedite his or her job search. The job market is changing and many executives are ill-prepared to compete effectively based on rapidly changing employer expectations. There are well documented stories of talented executives who reluctantly accepted early retirement because, after a layoff, they could never seem to break through to land another position.

Experienced outplacement consultants, those with up-to-date intelligence regarding how the job market is evolving and what prospective employers are seeking in candidates, can be invaluable. If only you will ask.

Who you select as your coach is equally important. Here are six questions to consider when selecting a coach to help you transition.

  1. How current is their market intelligence? Some coaches simply are not keeping up with market changes. They are relying on the tried and true processes of the past. In many cases now, boutique search firms are providing transition coaching which means their clients benefit from up to the minute information.
  2. Engaging a big national firm is no guarantee the information you are provided and the service you receive will help you achieve a market advantage. Look for firms that provide customized service from consultants who treat you as an individual, not a sales target.
  3. Who will do the work? In some firms, executives meet with a team leader and then they are referred out to junior associates who may not be as connected or as knowledgeable. At some big-name firms, your consultant may not have industry-specific experience. Clarify that point before getting your former employer to pay the fee. Know specifically with whom you will be working, the agenda for the initial kickoff meeting, the frequency of the coaching calls and time limit of the engagement. Some firms limit the amount of coaching time you will receive.
  4. Mock interviews based on work situations relevant to your experience and scope of responsibility are an important part of the process. Ask how the firm handles these interviews and whether they are based on real-world situations. Are they videotaped for future coaching sessions?
  5. Will the firm develop a resume? This is less important today than three to five years ago because a one-size-sits-all resume is a thing of the past. Because resume customization is an essential part of the job search, look for firms that will give you an in-depth guide and then coach you on how to adapt it to various situations. Moreover, with the increased use of applicant tracking systems that use scanners to capture candidate information, resumes must be tailored to make it through the screening process.
  6. What is the goal of the outplacement firm — are they teaching you the skills necessary for successful career management, or are they positioning you to be a repeat customer?