Harmful Career "Assessments"
on the Internet
As you are aware,
there has been a profusion of new career tests, quizzes,
sorters, finders, and profilers on the Internet. In addition,
many companies are selling educational or career guidance
website systems that use such tests. As a professional,
you have probably asked yourself, "Will these measures
help me in my work? Can I recommend them to those with
whom I work? Are they valid measures?" Unfortunately,
the answer in most cases is "No." In fact,
most of these new measures are probably harmful.
An Example: The
O*NET™ Interest Profiler is offered for free on
the Internet by the U.S. Department of Labour. It is designed
to assess Holland's six types. According to its research,
it is a reliable measure. But, unfortunately, it is an
invalid measure of Holland's personality types.
The User's Guide,
for example, reports that there is "gap between
the Realistic and Conventional Interest Areas";
the results from these two scales do not fit the Holland
Model. In addition, their research shows that the Enterprising
and Social scales are flawed. For example, those who
are primarily Enterprising are often classified as some
other personality type – like Investigative or
Artistic. Similarly, a large number of individuals classified
as primarily Social are misclassified as primarily Conventional,
Enterprising, or Investigative. Their research shows
that the computerized version of the Interest Profiler
found on the Internet has similar problems 1, 2,
Effects: How harmful is an invalid
career test? Here are several scenarios that illustrate
their damaging effects:
- Imagine that:
- There are a
number of people you are working
with who like to lead, persuade and sell, what
Holland would call the Enterprising type; and
- You have them
take the Interest
Profiler and their highest score is Artistic – in
effect, telling them that they are not
interested in Enterprising activities but in doing
creative activities like art, drama, or creative writing.
How does this invalid result affect them?
Confusion? Disbelief? How will it affect
your efforts in working with them?
- Similarly, imagine
that you are working with people you know who
love helping people (Social). On the Profiler their highest
score is for the Investigative type, misinforming
them that their primary interest is in solving math and
How will this affect their views of themselves?
Of the counselling process?
Of the value of career assessments?
- Even more important,
imagine the effect of "matching" people with
training programs or majors that do not fit their personality?
For example, suggesting to persons who are primarily
Investigative that they major in Social majors like
counselling rather than majors like chemistry or biology?
Will this discourage further exploration? Encourage entry
into an unsuitable major? Will it cause frustration? Confusion?
Discouragement? Result in poor academic performance? Post-decisional
- What is the
effect of not encouraging students to explore academic
programs in which they are likely to enjoy and succeed?
- What is the
impact of encouraging people to consider careers
that do not fit them? Will it discourage further career
exploration? Encourage them to enter careers in which
they will be dissatisfied and perform poorly?
show the harm that invalid career tests can cause. Of
course, no one should make a career choice based primarily
on the results of a career test. But with career tests
playing such a central role in computerized career guidance
systems and career counselling practice, it is vital that
valid career measures be used.
Career Measures a Serious Problem
Daily, tens of thousands of people use the Internet
for career assistance. Most will take a career assessment,
and they have many to choose from. "Career
test" on the Google search engine results in nearly 22,000 hits.
There are also
numerous Internet-based educational career guidance systems
being sold to schools and other organizations that offer
But are these
web-based career measures valid? Without research, it
is impossible to know. Rarely do they offer a professional
manual that reports the results of such studies. Knowing
that (a) it takes years and substantial funds to develop
a valid career measure, and (b) that most of these measures
have appeared recently -- it is likely that most of them
are invalid and harmful.
Click here to download an article on this issue that appeared in NCDA's Career Developments.
Professional career tests help people,
- Learn more about themselves,
- Identify promising careers,
- Encourage career exploration, and
- Become informed about the occupations in which they
- Counsellors ensure that evaluation and assessment instruments
and procedures are valid, reliable, and appropriate to
both the client and the intended purposes." -- Canadian
Counselling Association Code of Ethics (D6), January,
- Ask for a manual
and study it closely. Does it contain research studies
published in respected professional journals? Does
it meet the standards of validity and reliability expected
in your profession.
- Beware of career
measures that are called something else, like career
quiz, profiler, sorter, or finder. If individuals
are being asked to assess their values, interests, or
personality to match with occupations – it is a
career test, and it should meet professional standards
for its validity and reliability. An example of this
is the U.S.
Office of Science Education's Career Finder.
- Ask yourself, "If
the tool being used is not a career test, why is the
website using it? Is there evidence to show that it
is superior to a good career test?"
- Check carefully any career assessment to which you
link students or parents, via your school website. The
public does not have the benefit of your training, knowledge,
and experience to judge the merits of career assessments.
They depend on your professional judgment.
- Be wary of testimonials and links from the websites
of professional groups. Likewise, be careful when considering
endorsements or certifications from industry associations.
The standards for one prominent group, for example, the
Association of Computer Based Systems for Career Information,
are often vague. The endorsement depends on a loose self-assessment
of compliance by the company or organization. The only
way you will know if a career test is valid is to study
the professional manual.
The use of invalid career tests on the Internet is a serious problem. Raise this issue with the leaders in your profession. Send them the URL for this article.
license the content of the Career Key to educational
companies offering web-based services. We
believe that the points in this article are fair
and objective, but you will want to decide this
- Lewis, P, & Rivkin, D. (1999). O*Net Interest
Profiler. Raleigh, NC: National Centre
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 Centre 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 Centre for O*NET Development.
- U.S. Department
of Labour. (2000). O*Net Interest Profiler,
User's Guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing