Career Tests – An Overview

Career tests will help you to understand more about your abilities, personality, interests and more. Using career tests can be an effective means of making a career choice and increasing career satisfaction. This can be helpful at different times of your life, especially when making choices of what to study for A level, university choice and later to help clarify career direction. They can also clarify more about who you are.

There are a wide number of career tests available, and deciding which to choose can be confusing. Each can play a role in helping you to understand more about yourself. In this article, I’d like to introduce you to the different types of career tests so that you can make an informed choice about which will be best for you, depending on your needs.

No career test will tell you exactly what you should do – you make the decisions; but career tests can provide effective information to inform your decision making. You can then use the output from the career tests alongside your own ideas, skills and background, values, goals and more.

What are career tests?

Career tests are based on career theory which draws on three major domains of individual differences – cognitive (ability), conative (motivation and interest) and affective (personality).

These are assessed via different career tests. Ability tests, personality questionnaires, and interest inventories. Each of these tests produce a wealth of data, and working with a skilled psychologist will enable you to draw together the results of whichever career tests are chosen and are used within an in-depth discussion to lead to meaningful decisions.

Why you need a feedback discussion

Many assessments are available for free online, or at low cost. Spend 20 minutes and get a report sent to you. Some schools also give students the option of taking a career test and then provide a report and you read it through yourself.

Our preference is to use assessments that need to be interpreted. Where you get the benefit of extensive experience to go beyond a computer-generated report. A personal interview allows connections between information to be made, and of course to make sure all questions are answered.

Let’s now move on to the different types of career tests.

Career Ability Tests

Career Ability Tests help you to understand your strengths in a range of areas including problem solving, verbal, numerical and spatial reasoning.

These tests are often used in recruitment, as part of an assessment centre, particularly in graduate recruitment. They are used in senior management appointment too, to check out critical thinking. A popular one being the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal.  These tests are timed and answers are compared against ‘norms’ from a particular population such as graduates or senior managers.

We can provide you with practice assessments against these types of tests along with coaching to help you improve your technique and confidence.

Career Aptitude Tests

These tests are also timed but comprise many different work samples and lead to career suggestions. For example, the Highlands Ability Battery comprises 19 work samples. Each is measured by a short, timed test. The Highlands Ability Battery is taken from a home computer and you can choose to take it in shorter sessions. So, it’s less like being in an exam, and you can take this assessment over time. Another career aptitude test is The Morrisby Profile. The main difference being that this is used mainly in schools and usually offered in an exam situation. They also offer a much shorter version, available online.

We have a separate article providing more detail on the Highlands Ability Battery (coming soon). This allows you to take a sample of the assessment and to read example reports.

Personality Career Tests

Personality profiling helps you to understand your personality preferences and how to improve relationships with people. Knowledge of how you think and solve problems can help you in career decision making, including identifying the type of working environment that will bring out your best.  I’d like to divide personality career tests into two. Those whose main purpose is personal development and those used as part of a selection process.

Personality Career Tests for personal development

The most popular is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI ®). This self-reporting assessment helps people to understand their personal style and you can choose between the regular (Step 1) and the Step 2 which provides a more in-depth understanding of your personality. The MBTI® helps you to understand who you are, your natural preferences, motivations, and potential areas for growth. It is particularly helpful to understand how to relate to people, especially those with a different personality type.

You’ve probably come across the 4 dimensions

Where you get your energy from

Extraversion – prefers to gain energy from the outside world of activity, people and things OR Introversion – prefers to gain energy from the inner world of reflections, feelings and ideas (E/I)

How you prefer to gather information

Sensing – Prefers to focus on information gained from the senses and on practical applications OR Intuition – prefers to focus on patterns, connections and possible meanings (S/N)

How you prefer to make decisions

Thinking – prefers to make judgements on logic and objective analysis OR Feeling – prefers to base decisions on values and what is important to people (T/F)

Preferred lifestyle

Judging – likes a planned and organised approach to life and to make decisions OR Perceiving – likes a flexible, spontaneous approach and prefers to keep options open (J/P)

We have a separate article providing more detail on the Myers Briggs Type indicator (coming soon). This allows you to read example reports.

Personality Career Tests for selection

Organisations want to understand more about the people who may join their organisation, that’s why they will often use assessment centres. Part of the assessment centre, and used as part of the selection process, is the personality questionnaire. There are many in use including the OPQ, 16PF5, 15FQ, Saville’s Wave. Whilst there are differences between them most are based around the ‘BIG FIVE’

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

We have a separate article providing more detail on the 15FQ personality assessment (coming soon). This allows you to read example reports.

Career Tests – Interest Inventories

Interest Inventories help you to understand more about your interests and how to use this to make a career choice. Based on an extensive questionnaire you can see how these interests link to different careers. The Strong Interest Inventory is the most widely used interest inventory available and designed to help you identify your pattern of vocational interests. The Strong is especially useful for people in the early stages of career planning. It will not predict with certainty what occupation you should consider. However, by indicating how similar or dissimilar your interests are in comparison with people in a wide variety of occupations, it can be a useful step towards identifying work settings and occupations that may be satisfying to you.

We have a separate article providing more detail on the Strong Interest Inventory (coming soon). This allows you to read example reports.



This article was written by Denise Taylor, Career Psychologist and Associate Fellow of The British Psychological Society. Denise provides specialist assessment services to Interview Advantage. Her books include Now You’ve Been Shortlisted, a guide to interviews and assessment centres.