What they are?
How they can help?
Which are the best?
by Michael T. Robinson
Entrepreneur, Executive, Career Coach
(In a hurry? No time to read?... just jump to the conclusions)
Career Tests (also known as Career Assessments) are tools designed to help you select your first career, or a better fitting career if you don't like the career you already have.
Most Career Tests will ask you a series of questions and then will provide a list of careers that match your answers.
Career tests have been around for a long time, and the better ones have a proven track record.
There are no career tests that will tell you the single best career for you. It's not possible for a test to do that. Rather good career tests will provide a list of career choices.
From there you narrow down your choices using the process of elimination and then doing research and then finally by spending some time in the actual work environment. The latter is called "shadowing" and it's described elsewhere on this site.
Three Different Types of Career Tests
There are three different types of career tests and they each work a different way.
- 1) Personality / psychological career tests
- 2) Interest based career tests
- 3) Aptitude and ability based career tests
Personality / Psychological Career Tests
Personality Tests can help you select the right career by showing you what types of work and careers your brain is best wired for, and what your values are.
Knowing how your brain is wired, i.e. what tasks your brain likes to do and which it prefers to avoid will help you select the best career choice (or your top 3 choices if you don't want to make a final decision at this time).
Some people prefer work that is theoretical and conceptual while others prefer to do work that is physical, straightforward and more concrete. If you prefer the theoretical work, being an engineer, scientist, psychologist might be a better fit. While the person who prefers physical, straightforward work might enjoy being a policeman, detective, race car driver or veterinarian.
A personality test will show you which you prefer.
Knowing how you brain likes to operate will also help you identify what type of college degree or vocational certification you would do the best in.
However, when people reach their 40's, having a career that is "in-line" with their values becomes more important. After 40, people change jobs not so much because of the type of work they are doing, but because the work environment, the people, the culture no longer matches their personal values. A Personality Type Test can help you understand your values and thus provide you mid life career direction.
How Personality Tests Work
Most Personality Tests are based on the work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung. These assessments try to determine how the test taker prefers to use his or her brain, how they prefer to live their lives, and that has a lot to do with what types of careers one is best suited to. (Jung's work was published in English in the the 1920's.)
Carl Jung first observed that people either preferred to live in the "internal" world of the mind with their thoughts, ideas, concepts, images and theories, or they preferred to live in the external world of people, things, and real live events. He dubbed these two different types of people:
- Introverts: prefer the internal world of thoughts and ideas
- Extraverts: prefer the real external world of people, things and events
Jung then determined that the brain has two primary ways of taking in information and two ways of making decisions.
These describe four functions of the brain that are fundamental to who you are are how you like to go about your life. They are as fundamentally different as being left or right handed.
- Two Perceiving Functions: Sensing and Intuiting
- Two Judging Functions: Feeling and Thinking
Thus, when you combine Introversion and Extraversion with the Perceiving and Judging functions of the brain you get what is known as the 8 Cognitive Functions.
When you prefer to use something, you become good at it, and it becomes a strength. You can't be equally strong at each of the 8 functions. The different ways people use their 8 functions contributes to a large extent as to why people behave differently. Add culture, education and early family life and that explains why people are so different.
In the 1940's, Myers and Briggs took Carl Jung's work, and made it more accessible to non- psychologists, by inventing the Personality Type Code, or Type Code, or just Personality Type.
There are 16 Type Codes in the Myers-Briggs® system and one of them will match the test taker much more closely than the other 15. You only have one Type. You can't be two Types.
Also, there is now strong evidence that you have the same Type code your entire life, from birth to death. Psychologist have actually been able to observe "differences in Type in 18 month old infants.
Also, researchers, by using EEG and monitoring a person's brain waves, have recently shown that each of the 16 Types use their brain differently.
So one's Type code, relates to how one prefers to do things, how one prefers to go through life, which activities and work one prefers to do, and what one's values are. Thus knowing one's Type is very powerful.
The most famous Personality Assessment is the Myers-Briggs also known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®).
This assessment has been given to over 100 million people and in over 25 different languages.
Thus it is a proven tool that is useful in career counseling, career selection, team building, and relationships.
Developed during World War II to help place people into jobs with a better fit. Many men had gone off to battle, leaving thousands of open positions that needed to be filled quickly.
The Myers-Briggs will indicate which of the 16 personality Types you are. There is a 4 letter "Type Code" for each Type. Extensive research over the years has shown which Types prefers which careers.
CPP®, the company that owns the Myers-Briggs technology will not allow just anyone to use the test. The official MBTI can only be administered by a trained and certified (qualified) individual. They are required to offer you a short interpretation / debrief which can be done over the phone or in person.
Because it's easy to get the wrong Type it's critical that the person offering you the assessment and who will do the interpretation and debrief is an experienced expert. It takes at least five to eight years of near full time work to become and expert.
It turns out that most Personality Tests, including the MBTI are only 60 to 70% accurate. That's why you should take your test from an expert. If you want to know how to get the most accurate results, click here.
You can purchase the official Myers-Briggs (MBTI) here and it will come with a short, phone or email based interpretation and debrief by a trained expert.. Depending on which report you choose the fees tend to run from $49 to $99.
There are many free Personality Tests on the web. Some are more accurate than others. They will all indicate which of the 16 Types is yours. The best Personality Tests will, after asking you yes or no questions, have you read descriptions of the nearest Types, so that you can make what's called a "Best Fit" choice.
CareerPlanner.com offers one of the most accurate Free Personality Type Tests, which does allow you to read descriptions written by expert psychologists. Their test will indicate what your 4 letter Type is, but then if you want a complete report and list of matching careers, there is a paid career personality report which runs up to $35 or more.
Interest Based Career Tests
Identifying your "Interests" and matching that to a career is key for early career success.
It is easier to be good at a type of work if you are interested in it.It is hard to be successful in a career if you hate the work you do. Thus knowing your interests and matching those with different types of work can help you pick a career where you can be both successful and satisfied.
During the 1970's, two different types of assessments were developed that would help you identify your interests and then match those with types of work and thus careers.
E. K. Strong Jr. and Dr John Holland and were the main researchers in this field. Strong published his work in 1927, while Dr. Holland published his "Holland Code" system in the 1970's.
They both looked at successful people who enjoyed their careers and the types of work they did.
They found patterns that showed there were 6 basic, fundamentally different types of work (shown below). Most people prefer a combination of two or three of these types.
Most career interest tests will show you your "Holland Code" which is usually the top two or three types of work that match your interests.
The Holland Code System
The Holland Code system uses six letters to describe the six fundamentally different types of work. All work and all careers can be described by a combination of these letters.
Most career interest tests will show you your top scoring two or three letter "Holland Code."
From that you can look up a list of matching careers.
For example, if your Holland Code was R-I, then the careers that match your interests would be a combination of "Realistic" (physical, hands on work) and "Investigative" (technical, scientific.) Careers that fit this Holland Code would be Park Rangers, Veterinarians, Fish and Game Preserve Wardens, Environmental Scientists, Deep Sea Fishermen, Oceanic Researchers etc.
Another example would be a Holland Code of E-C. This includes Enterprising and Conventional careers. Enterprising would be business owners, shop owners, business leaders, community leaders, ministers, political leaders. Conventional careers are those that require repetition, repeatability, discipline and attention to details. This might include accountants, administrative assistants, project managers, etc.
The 6 Different Types of Work
Physical work, mechanical work, working outdoors, working with animals and working with your hands.
Science and technology including medicine, software, computers, pure science, mathematics
Creative expression via the arts such as writing, drawing, painting, music, performing, also the culinary arts
Working very closely with people, helping people or teaching people
Leading people, supervising people, persuading people, managing a business, politics
Repetitive work requiring organization, highly structured work, highly detailed work, most clerical and financial tasks
The 2 Best Interest Based Career Tests
The Strong Interest Inventory® career test, is owned by Consulting Psychologist Press (CPP) and must be administered by a trained and certified professional who is ethically required to give you a short debrief / interpretation session which can be either in person, via email, or over the phone.
Depending on which report you choose the cost runs from $50 to $99.
Click here to see the Strong Interest Inventory.
Interest based Career Tests based on Dr John Holland system are available from several suppliers, but the best one, with the best report is available from CareerPlanner.com.
The nice thing about CareerPlanner's Career Interest Test, is that they have made it so simple that you do not need a trained certified professional to understand it and use it. Their report has been written to be easily understood by everyone from a 13 year old to a 60 year old.
Click here to learn about this Career Test
The third type of career test is the aptitude test, but they are NOT all that useful when it comes to selecting a career.
A typing test is an aptitude test that determines how fast you can type and how many typing errors you generate. But it has little to do with whether you could write a book. Ernest Hemingway, one of the world's most famous authors wrote most of his books by hand.
There are aptitude tests that can tell how good you are at math, or languages, or reasoning, or 3-dimensional visualization, but none of these can really point to a list of career choices.
What most career counselors have found, is that career success and job satisfaction have a lot more to to with these:
- 1) How interested you are in the work - can you become passionate about it?
- 2) Are you wired for the work, does it take advantage of your strongest cognitive functions, is it in-line with your personal values?
- 3) Is there a strong demand for people in that career field.
Plus, most career counselors believe that if you are passionate about something, you will probably put in enough effort and time to become good at it, regardless of any aptitudes and abilities you have today.
So, we have not yet found any aptitude tests that are useful in helping a person discover their best career choices.
Conclusions about Career Tests
Career Tests will help you discover which careers could be a good fit.
Interest based career testing and Personality based career testing are the most useful and the most powerful.
Many career counselors and coaches use both types of career tests to help people find their perfect career.
For the most simple and easy to understand assessment we recommend the Career Interest Test (CiT®). There is a 15% discount code (AXZYPQ) that you can use for this career test. The test comes with a ~14 page report which is easy to understand and requires no special training.
If you prefer to talk to a real live expert, rather than read and figure it out yourself, try the Strong Interest Inventory which comes with a quick phone session.
For Personality based career testing, we recommend either the free personality test at CareerPlanner.com (but you will want to buy the personality based career report using this 15% discount code: AXZYPQ) .
If you prefer to talk to an expert for a few minutes, rather than reading a report, we recommend the Myers-Briggs MBTI.
You can take the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs together to save some money. This package also comes with a quick phone based debrief and interpretation.
Finally, if you want to work with an expert career counselor, CareerPlanner offers a complete career counseling package with two career tests and 3 phone/Skype sessions.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Myers-Briggs, MBTI, Step I, Step II, and the MBTI logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc.,
Strong Interest Inventory, CPI 260, FIRO-B, and TKI are registered trademarks of CPP, Inc.
The CPP logo and Strong logos are registered trademarks of CPP, Inc.
CiT is a registered trademark of CareerPlanner.com Inc.