Top 10 Problems with Most Career Assessments

There are many different career assessments and quizzes that exist today, but it is difficult to identify which is the best or most accurate. These assessments can be a powerful tool to provide some guidance and direction to a student that is unsure of the type of career they want to pursue, but so many of them fall short in several different ways.   

Having reviewed many of these assessments, I have noticed some common problems most of them share.

1. No Validation

Many career assessments out there have not done any sort of research to validate whether or not they are accurate in predicting the best matched careers.  Many of those that have used very small sample sizes for this research or haven’t re-validated the assessment for many years to make sure it remains predictive with the current generation.

2. One Dimensional

There are strengths assessments, interest inventories, values quizzes, etc. Each of these match you to a career based on that particular dimension.  None of them encompass all of those aspects of a person to come up with full picture of you as an individual and where you might best thrive.

Take for example a student who has the temperament for STEM based on their strengths assessment, but hates math. Combining their strengths assessment with an interests inventory or alternative assessment that looked at their personality in a different way could have made a significant positive impact on their results. Rather than suggesting some poorly matched, highly abstract, academic careers in STEM, they could have been shown ones that properly leverage their technical strengths in ways that are interesting to them.

3. Way Too Long

Who has time to sit through 150 - 300+ questions? This is one of the biggest deterrents for many students that might otherwise take an assessment and benefit from it. Even if a student has the time and attention to complete an hour long test, test fatigue can easily set in after 20 minutes or so and risk the validity of the results.

These assessments don’t need to be that long. In most cases 20% of the questions are likely to predict 80% of the results. Users should able to finish some sort of basic test before deciding whether or not they want to continue with the more robust assessment for more accurate results.

3. Not Smart Enough

Every question I answer should better inform the next question to be asked.  Don’t ask essentially the same question 10 different ways or a question whose answer should be predictable based on answers to prior questions. The next most important, predictive question should be the next to be asked at all times, thus allowing someone to stop the assessment part way through and see the results based on the current information given before moving on.

4. Unclear Questions

Many career assessments have been in use for over 50 years. While the test may still be valid, the language is rarely updated. As a result, many questions don’t make any sense to your average student today.  Either the question is out of context (i.e. talking about land line telephones in a world of mobile smart phones) or the actual vocabulary used is unfamiliar.

5. Career Recommendations from the 1800’s

As many as 50% of the jobs posted on Monster.com didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Yet, many career assessments haven’t updated the list of careers they recommend in a long, long time. I will never forget the test that included “butcher” and “bricklayer” in the list of recommended professions. Not helpful!

6. Ignores Job Demand and Earnings

Choosing a career should not be all about money, but it should be a factor. Suggesting a student pursue something like “Medieval Studies” or “Archeology” as one of the top 10-20 best matches for them among the tens of thousands of careers out there is doing them a massive disservice.  

7. Poorly Organized Results

Some tests will give you a combination of generic and very specific jobs all listed together with no sort of organization. Your result may include Engineering as a generic result (when there are 100s of careers within that field) or ten recommendations that are all some form of teaching position (i.e. chemistry teacher, math teacher, art teacher, high school teacher, elementary school teacher, Tutor, etc.). Many of these are redundant and should be organized by field.  

9. No Explanation of Results

Most assessments do very little to explain how or why I match a particular career and don’t match another. What strengths will this career leverage? What interests does this career correlate with? How does this career align with my values? I’m just expected to take their word for it and trust that the 20 seemingly random career names in my report are what I should base my entire future on.

10. Results Aren’t Actionable

Almost all assessments recommend a career and then stop there. They don’t offer any information on the career in order for me to assess whether or not I am interested in it. They don’t offer any next steps on the pathway I might need to take, such as which major or college would best get me there, and whether I need an advanced degree or may need to move to a certain part of the country. These assessments are usually interesting, but not actionable, and as a result I would question how much they actually do to improve decisions.

At College Factual, we are working on a career assessment that resolves all of the above issues, so stay tuned.