“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” – Richard Branson
All career tests, regardless of their name or methodology, aim to help you find the career that will be the most rewarding for you. Some career tests analyze your personality to find your best career match while others may focus on a few essential skills that employers require. While there is no rigid classification of career test types, most will adopt one or more of the following approaches:
- Interest test
- Aptitude test
- Skill test
- Values inventory
- Personality test
Let's look at each of these career test types in more detail.
Unlike interest tests that measure your passions and hobbies, aptitude tests assess your natural capabilities and potential. They are commonly used to evaluate skills like problem-solving, spatial reasoning, physical coordination and the ability to understand complex topics. High schools, colleges and employers use these tests to discover if someone has potential talents or weaknesses when it comes to certain jobs. They are also helpful in career planning, to learn more about what occupations best suit your abilities, and career development to help figure out suitability for promotional positions and lateral career moves.
Example tests: Clifton Strengths, Slingerland Screening Inventory, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
Skills tests, also known as proficiency tests, assess the technical skills you already have in various areas such as writing, statistics and software development. Employers use them to verify that a candidate has the skills they claim on their resume to possess. While the primary goal of these tests is to help employers shortlist candidates for a job interview, they can be useful for people who already are employed in a job they enjoy and need help identifying which skills they need to develop to succeed in it.
Examples: Criteria Basic Skills Test, Wonderlic Basic Skills tests, various task- and process-specific tests e.g. Microsoft Office Specialist Test, QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
Values inventories measure your values, beliefs and attitudes. They are designed to help you identify values that you relate to and those you don't – for example, whether you are more likely to be driven by a desire for personal recognition, a desire for work-life balance, or a desire to be of service to others. Inventories work by measuring how your “personal truth” corresponds to those of people already employed in various positions.
Examples: Work Values Matcher, Portrait Values Questionnaire, Personal Values Assessment
Unlike other test types that measure one trait or facet, personality tests look at all the personal characteristics that make you unique, such as your extroversion, emotional makeup, decision-making style and how you interact with people and situations. They are much broader than other typologies and include an element of interest, aptitude and values testing within the larger framework.
Not all tests are the same. Some look at your behavior in a variety of situations while others are more focused on how you think and behave in the workplace. You can use both types of personality tests to understand yourself better before you start the process of career selection, and later when you are deciding your next best career move.
Examples: TypeFinder, Big Five, Enneagram, DISC, Truity's Career Personality Profiler.
Interest tests help to identify what you love to do and what you don't love to do, so you can find occupations that match your interests. They ask questions to uncover what subjects you are passionate about, activities you like to do in your free time or job roles that have been inspiring for you in the past. Interest testing is useful for people who have a vague idea of what they want to do with their life, but need help translating their interests to specific career paths or narrowing down their choices.
Example tests: Strong Interest Inventory®, Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential (MAPP), O*Net Interest Indicator, Princeton Review
The Holland Code system
A type of interest test, the Holland Code system is one of the most widely used frameworks for career assessment in the world. The system was developed by Dr John L. Holland, an academic psychologist. His theory proposes that there are six broad areas into which all careers can be classified. These same six areas can be used to describe people, their personalities and interests.
How can I use Holland codes to choose the right career?
The Holland Code theory states that individuals find the greatest happiness and success when they work in a career that matches their personality category. For example, “Building” careers are those that involve working with tools or machinery (e.g. carpenter, mechanic or airline pilot). People with “Building” interests are typically practical types who like working with their hands and creating a tangible product.
To figure out which careers will suit you, simply take a Holland Code assessment. Once you have your scores in each of the six interest areas, you'll receive a list of suitable careers based on how well they suit your style.
What are the six interest areas?
There are six interest areas in the Holland code. These are often referred to as “RIASEC” which is an acronym for Holland's original six types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. However, because these names may not be obvious to everyone, we use different and more self-explanatory terminology.
REALISTIC or BUILDING
Builders are “doers” who like working with their hands and bodies, tools and machines, plants and animals, and working outdoors. They enjoy building and crafting things and many love sports. Most Builders prefer to work with “things” over people. They are practical, no-nonsense types who like to get the job done with a minimum of fuss.
Key traits of Builders: Practical, structured, independent, realistic, sensible, mechanical, traditional, down-to-earth
INVESTIGATIVE or THINKING
Thinkers like working with ideas and concepts, and enjoy science, technology and academia.
They typically are intellectual and rational people who enjoy searching for facts and understanding. Thinkers often choose careers that involve research, theorizing, experimentation, problem-solving and intellectual enquiry. They do not enjoy working with people as much as they like working with ideas.
Key traits of Thinkers: Intellectual, curious, logical, analytical, scholarly, independent
ARTISTIC or CREATING
Creators are energized by using their imagination. They like to express themselves and produce something unique. As such, they are most likely to find fulfillment in jobs that involve creativity and originality such as careers in the arts, design, performance, music, writing and language. Most Creators shy away from routine work in favor of unstructured environments where they have the freedom to express themselves and create something original to them.
Key traits of Creators: Original, creative, independent, intuitive, sensitive, imaginative, spontaneous
SOCIAL or HELPING
Helpers are “people-persons” who work cooperatively to improve the lives of others. They are compassionate, caring individuals who like to see the impact of their work on others' lives. Helpers place a high value on relationships and dislike working alone. They prefer jobs that involve assisting, teaching, coaching and serving people in an environment where they can work closely with others to make a positive impact.
Key traits of Helpers: Compassionate, patient, helpful, friendly, generous, cooperative
ENTERPRISING or PERSUADING
Persuaders like working in positions of power and gravitate towards jobs that involve leading or motivating people in some way, such as careers in business, management, sales, politics and the law. They typically are energetic, dominant people who enjoy a certain amount of risk in their work. Most Persuaders dislike working in isolation. They prefer to team up with others and use their considerable influence and networking skills to achieve results.
Key traits of Persuaders: Assertive, energetic, confident, ambitious, adventurous
CONVENTIONAL or ORGANIZING
Organizers like to work in structured environments to complete tasks with precision and accuracy.
They prefer jobs that involve working with data, information and processes, such as careers in business, administration, accounting, information technology and office management. Organizers are typically orderly, methodical people who like to follow procedures and complete tasks efficiently and with great attention to detail. They value predictability and dislike unstructured work environments that lack clear expectations and require you to make things up as you go.
Key traits of Organizers: Orderly, precise, detail-oriented, conservative, thorough
Tests that use the Holland Code
Numerous providers have put their spin on the Holland Code over the years. Tests such as Self-Directed Search®, the Strong Interest Inventory® tool and the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey are all informed by the Holland Code. Some tests add additional interest areas to the six RIASEC categories while others stick more closely to the original framework.
Truity’s Career Personality Profiler is based on the Holland Code and Big Five systems.
How accurate are career tests like the Holland Code?
The Holland Code is one of the most popular and widely used career test frameworks available. Numerous academic studies confirm that it has high levels of accuracy and reliability when determining a person's work disposition, and is consistent and coherent when matching people to jobs with compatible interests and work styles. Any test that is based on this framework is likely to be accurate and helpful in helping people discover their career direction.
As always, it’s recommended that you choose a reputable provider and read the customer reviews to ensure you get the best possible results.
What is the best career test?
Different tests have different goals, so the “best” career test is one that meets your needs. Some (like the Holland Code) are great for exploring different job options, while others (especially those offered by job-search agencies) are better suited to helping individuals match their skills to jobs that are currently available.
Additionally, some tests may be more appropriate for those who have an idea of what career path they want to pursue while others are better for those who are just starting out and exploring different possibilities. Ultimately, the best career test is one that helps you achieve your goals. The following resources should help you.
What type of career test is best for me?
Best career test for students
When planning your next move after college, you'll need to choose a test that gives you clarity over the realistic possibilities that match your path of study, interests and career goals. Read about the best career test for students.
Best career test for adults
Thinking about your next career move or contemplating a significant career transition? You'll need to select a test that delves into personality, values and transferable skills so you can find a job that is meaningful to you and hit the ground running with confidence. Read about the best career test for adults.
Best career tests for going to school
The choice of a major can orient the rest of your life, so you should select a test that brings your passions to the surface and helps identify the right course of study for your future. Read about the best career tests for choosing a college major.
Best career tests for high school students
Wondering what your next steps are after graduating high school? The world of career options can be intimidating, so choose a test that gives you an honest picture of the prospects that fit your preferences. Read about the best career test for high schoolers.