The Complete Guide to Career Testing

Learn everything you need to know about career tests, including their benefits, types of testing and how to utilise your results with our comprehensive guide.

Illustration of a woman sitting in front of a desktop computer

Whether you’re a school leaver, a recent college graduate or an experienced professional considering a career change, a career test could help you find the right path to follow. 

However, with such a wide array of tests available, knowing which one to take can be tricky.  

In this guide, we outline the purpose and benefits of career testing and the types of tests available so that you can make an informed decision and get the best results from career testing.

The purpose of career tests

Career tests are designed to provide you, or an employer who is considering hiring you, with comprehensive insights into your personality, interests, values, skills and aptitudes. 

For school leavers and career changers, they are a self-discovery tool that can help them find a career that aligns with their values, skills, personality and interests. If you are working with a career counsellor, they may suggest a career test as a supplementary tool to aid the discussion about your career direction and goals.

From an employer’s perspective, they help recruiters and managers decide if a candidate is suitable for the job by assessing their skills, aptitudes and fitness to the company culture. They are rarely used in isolation, but results will be considered in conjunction with other information such as an interview, your resume and your job application.

The benefits of career tests

There are many benefits to taking a career test. The main ones being:

1. They increase self-awareness

Taking a career test can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. This is important for your work as you can then playing to your strengths to advance your career. 

Once you have identified your key skills, you will be able to take on projects where your talents can shine through and utilise your skills to improve your performance at work. 

On the other side of the spectrum, once you know your weaknesses, you can devise a career plan and find ways to address them. For example, if your career test results indicate that delegation is a weakness of yours, and you aim for a management position, you may need a plan to address this through training.

2. They provide clarity and focus

For school leavers, graduates and professionals who are uncertain of their career path, career tests give you an indication of the types of roles and working environments you are best suited for. 

This kind of insights can be eye-opening and help you discover career paths you hadn’t considered before or confirm that you are on the right track. This information will help you develop a solid career plan and keep you motivated.

 

3. They can result in new job opportunities 

In some cases, you may need to take a career test as part of the recruitment process. Traditionally, career testing, also known as psychometric testing, was reserved for big companies hiring graduates. Today, career testing is becoming more common among smaller businesses that test employees at all levels. 

Depending on your results, career testing helps employers confirm that you are a good fit for the role and their company.

4. They are fun 

Finally, career tests can be fun! They may prompt ‘Aha!’ moments about why you do what you do and help you understand yourself and others better. Self-awareness is important not only for our careers but also for our relationships and well-being outside of work.

The types of career tests

It’s worth knowing the different types of career tests available as well as how they work. Career tests will generally assess your interests, your personality and your aptitude. Meanwhile, some provide insights based on more than one assessment area.

1. Interests-based tests

Career interest tests help you identify suitable careers based on your interests and hobbies. They align with the idea that if your career is centred around your interests, you are more likely to find job satisfaction. 

Most career interest tests are straightforward and quick to complete. You will usually be given a set of statements to choose from and prioritise according to your own interest and enjoyment. Interest tests can often be taken as standalone tests or combined with other aspects of career assessment like personality or skills to give you a fuller picture of inclinations. 

If you want to pursue a career based on your passions, taking an interest test is an excellent starting point. 

If you’re curious about taking a career interests test, you should try the one on our very own career testing platform, CareerHunter. This free test will ask you to rank a series of statements in order of importance. The results are then analysed to determine your compatibility with 27 job areas such as engineering, healthcare and entertainment.

Not only will you be given a list of suitable careers, but you will have access to salary information, job prospects, qualification requirements, as well as job listings in your area. And if you want to earn more, you can sign up to get full access to CareerHunter’s entire testing platform to discover your personality traits, motivations and aptitude through a series of tests and receive a personalised and comprehensive career assessment.

2. Personality tests

Personality tests go a step further than interest tests by considering your values, character and personal preferences. They usually include interest-based questions and provide you with a comprehensive overview of your personality and compatible ways of working. For example, if you prefer working in teams or alone, indoors or outdoors, with information or objects.

Most of us think we know ourselves well, but we all have our blind spots, and personality tests may reveal aspects of ourselves that are hidden or under-utilised. They are also widely used by employers as part of their recruitment process to test for cultural and team fit.

Personality tests range in cost and complexity, and while some, like Self-Directed Search, will provide you with a list of occupations to explore, others will be less prescriptive. Some of the most popular tests on the market include:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): one of the most well-known personality tests, MBTI identifies people as having one of 16 personality types based around four categories; introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. The insights gained will give you a greater understanding of yourself and will give you a way of explaining your personality to others.
  • Self-Directed Search:  Based on John Holland’s RIASEC theory, Self-Directed Search has been around for a while and is one of the most popular career tests in the market. After answering a series of questions, respondents are classified into three out of six personality types – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional (hence the RIASEC acronym). This can be helpful if you have little idea about your future career direction or knowledge about the current jobs market.
  • Big Five Personality Test: Employers commonly use the Big Five Personality Test to check how a candidate will work within a team. However, it can reveal so much more. Based on five major personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness, it assesses your ability to communicate with others, self-discipline, how you react to stressful situations and your flexibility. Much like MBTI, though, it will give you ideas about environments that suit you, rather than churning out a list of jobs. 

 

3. Aptitude tests

Employers routinely use aptitude tests as part of the recruitment process. Occasionally, they are taken by individuals who want to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses to address them through training or check if they have the aptitude for a particular job or industry.

Unlike personality and interest tests, aptitude tests are objective when evaluating your job skills. They are designed to assess certain abilities, skills or levels of intelligence that are required to work in an industry or profession. 

Aptitude tests usually take place under timed conditions, within an assessment centre or online. If you apply for a position where aptitude testing is likely to be part of the recruitment process, you should prepare yourself by taking some practice aptitude tests. 

The most common types of aptitude tests assess verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and abstract reasoning, but other tests can check your spatial reasoning, mechanical reasoning or error checking, depending on your industry. 

For example, mechanical reasoning tests are frequently administered in the automotive industry. Some tests will also assess your level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Here’s how the most common types of aptitude tests work:

1. Verbal reasoning

In a verbal reasoning test, you will be presented with a passage of text and a series of multiple-choice questions to test your understanding of it. The purpose is to evaluate your understanding of language and ability to think accurately and draw logical conclusions - skills that employers highly value. You may be assessed on your spelling, punctuation and grammar as well.

2. Numerical reasoning

In a numerical reasoning test, you are being assessed on your ability to interpret, analyse and draw conclusions from sets of numerical data. Data will be presented in the form of tables, graphs, diagrams, and other visual representations. The test evaluates your ability to work with numbers quickly and accurately, which can be important in some professions such as accountancy, banking and engineering.

3. Abstract reasoning

Abstract reasoning tests evaluate your ability to quickly identify patterns, analyse data and form connections to solve problems. Routinely used in IQ testing, abstract reasoning tests mostly include diagrammatic information rather than numbers or letters.

Tips for taking career tests

Hopefully, by now, you have a good idea of what you can get from a career test and which type of career test is best suited for you.

To give yourself the best chance for an accurate result, make sure to follow these steps:

1. Prepare in advance

Before starting a test, make sure you read the test instructions carefully, so you are clear on what to do and how much time you will have. If you’ve been invited to take a career test by an employer, make sure to complete a few practice tests beforehand and familiarise yourself with the process. 

2. Minimise distractions

If you decide to take a career test independently from the comfort of your home, ensure that you do so in a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your phone, and have everything you need at hand like a glass of water, a pen and paper.

3. Answer honestly

Make sure to give honest answers and don’t spend too much time dwelling on them. You want the test to be a truthful reflection of you. This is especially important with personality and interest tests. 

If you’re being tested for a job, you may think you need to answer a certain way to impress the employer, but these tests often pick up on inconsistent answers. 

Also, remember that if an employer discounts you based on the results of a personality test, then they probably weren’t right for you in the first place.

4. Don’t worry about the results

Career testing is a great self-awareness tool, but you do not need to live by these results. They are a mere starting point for your career exploration. 

If the jobs suggested to you don’t have any appeal, then don’t worry; no one is forcing you to pursue those roles. 

Instead, come up with actions you can take based on your results. You might decide to take another test or find out some more information about the jobs listed in your results - there may be aspects that do appeal to you.

5. Seek support

Read the results carefully and discuss the findings with a trusted friend or colleague to get their opinion. If there is anything you’re not sure of or you need more support to move forward, then consider seeking the guidance of a careers counsellor who will help you come up with an actionable plan.

Career testing is a helpful way to understand yourself better and make more informed decisions about your career. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the process a little bit better!

Have you taken a career test? What did you think of the experience? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 1 February 2017.