Career Tests for Students: Beware

If a career test is really good at identifying what career a person should consider, wouldn’t that career test be a valuable tool for employers to use in the selection process?

Ask your high school career guidance counselor that is overseeing student career testing to explain which “employers” are using the assessment for hiring purposes. You might be surprised, and disappointed, to find that “no” employer is using the assessments the career guidance counselor is using.

There is a reason for this. Some career tests tell you that you are one thing when you are actually something else. Worse, they can match you with jobs, training programs, or College majors that don’t fit with your talents. For example, one “Holland-based” test (reports results using Holland Codes) might report that your highest score is for the Artistic personality type when actually it is Enterprising — a very different personality! This is exactly what happens to people taking a publicly available career test. Know the Truth

How do we know this? It is what their own research shows. The problem with many of the Holland-based and MBTI tests is that they do not measure what they are supposed to measure. Experts would say the test lacks test validity. Also, the way an assessment is used can create confusion and poor advice. To focus an individual in careers that provide only partial consideration for the student’s talent profile is about as helpful as using the horoscope to select careers.

Unfortunately, the Internet is loaded with career assessments or career tests that don’t measure up. They go by a variety of names, like: sorter, finder, quiz, and survey. They are also a part of web-based career guidance systems sold to schools and other organizations. And to make things harder for you, you’ll find some of the “oldest” and most popular career tests to be guilty of poor validity and poor reliability. The “newest” most likely do not have large population samples to support a validity study (validation studies using a population sample of 100 is not acceptable, look for validation data that uses thousands in their population sample).

Valid career measures are the result of years of scientific study and maintained on a regular basis. The results of these studies are reported in scientific journals and/or in professional training manuals and validation study white papers for the test. This takes time and money. Consequently, anything for free is most likely not something that has gone through rigorous validation studies to ensure it is current, and, most likely has not been painstakingly constructed to ensure reliability. One hint at the quality of the assessment is the amount of time required to complete the assessment. Many poorly constructed assessments can take an hour or more to complete. Test fatigue becomes a significant factor, especially with teenagers, when an assessment takes too long to finish. The Career Coaching for Students™ assessments take approximately 10 minutes each to complete – well within the amount of time before test fatigue becomes an issue.

Two examples that reveal questionable validity are described in articles we found in our research (see links at bottom of article). There are many studies that are uncovering the shortcomings of various career-oriented assessments. To make the issue more confusing, there are many professional counselors and career coaches that have invested years into using a specific assessment, may even be certified, and do not have the desire to change direction. This doesn’t make the career assessments they use more valid or more reliable.

We think that when it comes to career tests, “where” it is being used is a real measure. Why?
If companies (employers) are using the assessment(s) for hiring purposes, it is most likely a valid and reliable assessment. That’s because the government has rules and requirements regarding how to use assessments when hiring.

To be credible for hiring purposes (analyzing job fit), an assessment must be reliably valid and predictive without biases. If you are interested in looking beyond the hype, conduct a simple Internet search on the assessment name and company that produces the assessment. See if the assessment is being used in businesses to hire people. If you see business consultants who specialize in helping companies assess applicants referencing the assessment, you can be somewhat more confident the assessment is valid and reliable.

For example, Career Coaching for Students™uses two assessments for the student. One is a DISC behavioral assessment. The other is a Personal Interests, Attitudes and Values tm assessment (similar to Holland Codes and Strong Inventory). The DISC assessment combined with the Personal Interests, Attitudes and Values (PIAV) assessment provide a two dimensional picture of a person’s talents.

The Nielson Group, parent to Success Discoveries LLC, has been helping companies use the DISC and PIAV to accurately evaluate applicant talent-job fit for the past 10+ years. The maker of the assessments is TTI Performance Systems Ltd. (TTI). If you were to search “DISC assessment” you would find enough references to see how the assessment is being used (academics only or within businesses to hire people). But even with that, you’ll also find multiple DISC providers (competitors to TTI) that have their own DISC-based assessment and the quality (validity and reliability) of that assessment will be different – just as there are many assessments based on the Holland Codes.

TTI’s DISC and PIAV assessments are leaders for measuring behavioral style and motivators accurately. What can you do to verify a career assessment?

  • Ask the career guidance counselor if the assessment is used by companies to match people to jobs
  • If your school subscribes to an Internet-based educational or career guidance system, ask the principal or school counselor if the career measure meets professional standards for test validity. Many do not!

Unfortunately, some educators and counselors do not understand the importance of assessment validity and reliability even though their ethical standards require it. Be wary of endorsements by colleges, trade schools or universities or public links from their web pages. These organizations’ primary purpose is for marketing – to show you why you need to attend their program. The general rule is that if it is free it isn’t likely to be useful. Keep in mind that no test can tell you what to do. They can help you:

  • Learn about yourself
  • Identify high potential careers to consider
  • Make more informed decisions

The use of invalid career tests on the Internet is a serious problem. Several articles have recently appeared in publications of the National Career Development Association, American Counseling Association, and the American School Counselors Association.

Measuring the MBTI and Coming Up Short by David J. Pittenger

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI: Some Psychometric Limitations

TTI Performance Systems Validation Study for DISC

TTI Performance Systems Validation Study for PIAV

Lewis, P, & Rivkin, D. (1999). O*Net Interest Profiler. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

Rounds, J., Smith, T., Hubert, L., Lewis, P., & Rivkin, D. (1999). O*Net Interest Profiler: Reliability, validity, and self-scoring. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

Rounds, R., Mazzeo, S. E., Smith, T. J., & Hubert, L. (1999) . O*Net Interest Profiler: Reliability, validity, and comparability. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2000). O*Net Interest Profiler, User’s Guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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