Career Assessment Do’s and Don’ts

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by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

Here are the keys to successful career assessment. Follow these simple rules and guidelines and you should achieve success in this career and vocational self-discovery process.

  • Do be aware that assessments are available to help guide you toward the right career for you. A qualified career counselor can administer, score, and interpret these assessments. A number of free career assessments also are available on the Internet, though many experts question their reliability.
  • Do compare online career assessments to see which ones might meet your needs. See our detailed assessment comparison chart.
  • Do keep your expectations in check when you take free online assessments. You may attain some direction and guidance from these tests, but don’t be overly reliant on them for magic answers.
  • Don’t discount the possibility that these free online assessments might suggest to you some career ideas and directions you had never thought of and that are worth further exploration.
  • Do take several different assessments to help you learn more about yourself and to help you determine which tests provide the most reliable results for you.
  • Do print out and retain the results of the assessments you take online. Compare results, and see if you can see patterns — a “career snapshot” — beginning to emerge.
  • Do trust your gut. If a free online assessment tells you something about yourself that doesn’t ring true, disregard that information.
  • Don’t rely on free online assessments alone for self-discovery and career guidance. Meet with a career counselor; college students and alumni usually have free or inexpensive access to counselors. Supplement the results you’ve obtained from free online assessments with other assessments the counselor might administer. Ask the counselor to help you interpret and integrate the results of various assessments.
  • Do use career assessments with a variety of other self-discovery activities, such as examining your strengths and weaknesses and the activities you most enjoy and least enjoy. And Do read our article, Online Career Assessments: Helpful Tools of Self-Discovery.
  • Do have fun taking career assessments. Self-discovery is almost always an enlightening and often entertaining process.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Katharine Hansen, PhD, Creative Director Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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