Making the Leap from Counselor to Selection Specialist

by Kent Noel

The lines separating ‘Career Counselor’ from ‘Executive Coach’ and ‘Employment Counselor’ and ‘Selection Specialist’ have become increasingly blurred in our profession. To survive and even thrive, one often has to be wiling to become a “professional omnivore” obtaining “nourishment” (compensation) from multiple sources. And yet, making the transition from counselor to evaluator is not always an easy one.

One of the hardest aspects for many counselors is coming to grips with the fact that they are now working for the corporate entity and not the individual client. Many of us got into the profession to serve in a helping, advocacy role, and can feel like sellouts when shifting to the complementary recruitment/ selection function. The harsh reality is that selection often involves ranking people, weeding out poor fits, and making tough recommendations that directly (and at times, negatively) impact lives.

And yet, a career in selection can be quite rewarding if a counselor can get past his or her initial reservations and misconceptions. The following are points to consider, which may help demystify the process and put selection in a more positive light.

1. Know your mission… and remember who pays the bills.

It is important to not lose sight of the fact that your check is written by the corporate client, not the job candidate. Thus, your allegiance lies with the company or organization. They are putting considerable trust in you to help minimize risk in a new hire, increase productivity, and lower turnover costs. This in turn allows them to stay solvent and feed families.

Just as years of bad draft choices and poor free agency acquisitions can turn a winning pro football franchise into a loser, so too can ongoing poor hires negatively impact an organization. Nobody wins if a company slowly erodes from within. In this sense, you are, as a selection specialist, every bit as much an advocate for the company that you partner with as a counselor is for his or her individual client.

2. Remember, all you are giving is an opinion.

Keep in mind that in your evaluative role, all you are ever doing is giving an opinion (albeit a highly professional one based on both test data and clinical observations). Like a good counselor, you are simply providing information and follow up support.

In no way are you the final decision maker; and you should never position yourself as such. Hiring entities may often override your recommendations based upon performance observations, their own internal assessments, references, etc. Try not to take this too personally. In fact, this should be somewhat liberating to most evaluators.

3. Keep in mind that fit is mutual.

You may often feel badly because a candidate whom you assessed and liked is not someone you can recommend for hiring. He or she, like any candidate, has ambitions and familial obligations and would love to be selected for a position that would, in their mind, better meet these professional and personal needs.

However, don’t forget that fit is a two-way process. You want the candidate to be as happy and satisfied in the role as the company is with him or her in it. You would do a tremendous disservice to a candidate if you recommend him or her simply because you liked them and/or felt sorry for them. Doing so could really set them up for failure and inadvertently do more harm than an initial rejection would do.

4. Stay grounded in career counseling.

As noted earlier, most of us earn money in a variety of practice areas. In transitioning to selection, one does not have to give up career counseling. It can be quite rewarding and intellectually challenging to work with both corporate entities and individuals in transition at the same time, provided that doing so does not involve dual relationships.

Continuing to work as a career counselor can help further satisfy those altruistic and advocacy needs that brought you into the profession in the first place. One does not have to be done at the mutual exclusion of the other.


Selection can be a rewarding part of a counselor’s practice. It does not need to be perceived as some great evil or a selling out of one’s skills. In fact, much good can come out of the process for all involved, regardless of whether or not the candidate was selected. Mutual fit (or lack of fit) is, in the long run, almost always a win-win proposition.

Kent Noel, Ph.D., LPC is the Director of Assessment & Development with Carr & Associates, a firm in Overland Park, KS offering a comprehensive set of consulting services to assist with the human factors of business. Reach Kent at: kent.noel@carrassessment.com; visit his company’s website at: www.carrassessment.com

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