A career assessment is a tool, similar to a test, that is used within career development and career management programs. These tests are designed to help people articulate their skills, interests and values in order to engage employees and get them on track for growth in their careers. These various factors play a significant part in the success and satisfaction of a person in their career and work environment. Career assessment tests demonstrate to employees that managers are willing to work with their employees to build the necessary skills to achieve personal and professional growth. The general goal of these types of assessments is to help people make better informed decisions about their paths in life. This can lead to employee engagement, an increase in productivity and even employee retention.
There are many different types of tests and assessments used in career development exercises. Since every individual has unique needs when it comes to their careers and lifework, assessments can be personalized to each client. There can be several different points that vary between tests and peoples goals and objectives. These points of variance relate to methodology, measured attributes, validity and target customer profile. Below is a brief description of the types of variance that can be seen when comparing tests and those who have already done assessments.
In terms of methodology, there are assessments that are qualitative in nature, and others that are quantitative in nature. Some of the different attributes that are measured can include personal interests, aptitude or skills and even values. They vary greatly depending on the type of career development assessments taken. The tests can also vary based on target customer profile. Some tests are designed to be all-encompassing and to serve broad markets, while others are more narrowly defined and intended for specific types of individuals. Therefore, explaining exactly what is involved in a career assessment is very hard to specify, unless you’ve actually completed one. The diverse nature of the exercise makes it hard to provide insight on all of the details of all exams an individual might take.
Personality tests such as the Myers Briggs test can be insightful in the sense that it can give you a relatively accurate assessment of your personality type and potential occupations that your personality type fits into. For example, I completed a free online Myers Briggs test (which I was initially skeptical of) consisting of 72 behavioural based questions that produced the following results: I am an extrovert (true) and I prefer to think, rather than feel (true). The career paths I was given were: business management (which I am currently involved in), business education (which I completed) and politics (which I am passionate about). The results from the online Myers Briggs test were fairly accurate, albeit very broad. While I would not base all of my career decisions on the results of one free, online personality test, it is a helpful tool when combined with other assessments. The downside to these questions is the yes or no answers. There is no scale or ranking possibilities which forces users to choose yes or no, when they may only agree slightly.
Another point of variance when it comes to career assessments is the validity of the tests themselves. Many assessments (especially ones offered free online, like the Myers Briggs test I took) lack validity. This means that the interpretation of the results and the decisions made from the results may not be entirely useful in guiding one’s career path. It’s important to evaluate the assessment and determine whether it is making valid observations or frivolous ones. Weighting each of the results in terms of how useful they may be in guiding an employee’s career will increase the validity of the assessment. The Myers Briggs test told me my personality type and what kind of career path would best fit that type, and the same result would most likely occur if tested on the same subject (me) again. This means the test is pretty reliable. However, it’s questionable whether the test really measures what we want to measure – that is, do my answers to their predetermined questions really provide enough information to provide me with the best career path? In this sense, the test lacks validity. The measurement instrument does not completely accurately measure the property I’d like it to measure, there is too much leeway between personality types. In other words, had I changed my answers would I still get the same personality type and the same career path? It’s difficult to make judgements based on this one test, but it does provide some insight.
Despite these points of difference and the uncertainty related to the validity of the assessments, the outcomes of the tests are beneficial. It’s a useful exercise in that it can provide employees and employers with insight into career choice, goals, skills and passions. I enjoyed taking the test, and I was pleasantly surprised that I had, according to Myers and Briggs, chosen the right career path. While these career assessment services can be very enlightening, it is important to be careful of the way the tests are implemented. Career assessments should be only a component of the decision making process, and not the sole basis for interpretation. HR professionals have the knowledge and expertise to properly execute career assessments to obtain accurate and valid results. The assessments are offered alongside other career management services.