As an HR professional for more than 25 years, I spend a lot of time counseling people on figuring out what to do next in their careers. I like to take a two-pronged approach. Standardized questionnaires usually don’t take into account any extenuating circumstances that could impact the results. Qualitative career assessments, on the other hand, focus more on the client learning about herself, not filling out forms. There’s a place for both types of assessment in a comprehensive career planning program.
When making a complicated career change, it makes sense to take the time to really think through what you want to do. This may involve assessing your interests, exploring career options by reviewing job descriptions, rating your current skills to identify your strengths and creating a plan that specifies your goals, development activities and milestones. Consulting a career counselor can help you make complex decisions. For over 25 years I have often used both qualitative and quantitative career assessment methods depending on the need. I usually recommend that people take online tests firsts, to glean information alone to save or time or money.
Quantitative tests include personality questionnaires, skills assessments and other surveys that require you to answer questions, respond to statements or questions with a rating or perform a task. This type of assessment helps you identify your preferences, interests, skill level, appropriate jobs and performance gaps but doesn’t necessarily reveal the perfect company for you or guarantee you’ll get a desired position or rapid promotions to realize your dreams.
The qualitative career assessment method focuses on conversations and personal reflection.It focuses on interviews. It is not an online test. A career counselor asks her client a series of open-ended questions about her work experiences. Using this information, the career counselor uses her own experience to analyze, guide and make recommendations about projects to work on, jobs to pursue and volunteer work to take on. By examining the career path of admired leaders, a person might be able to duplicate the experience of other successful leaders.
To use a qualitative career assessment strategy, you want to choose a career counselor that has extensive experience and takes care not to misinterpret a client’s perspective. Overstating or underestimating real skills may result in a misleading recommendation. Quantitative tests are easily found online and can be completed in a short amount of time. These tests can provide insight to help you choose a field to study, find a job in or reinvent yourself to apply current skills to new situations. Qualitative counseling helps you refine your options. Neither approach is foolproof. The best way to find the right career path for you is to use elements of both approaches to identify your current strengths, find relevant and meaningful work and compare notes with people your respect.