Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Career Tests Work


Career Personality Test
You may not have considered a career as an architect or structural engineer, but a career test might reveal a latent talent for that type of job.
You may not have considered a career as an architect or structural engineer, but a career test might reveal a latent talent for that type of job.
©iStockphoto.com/kryczka

You can encounter career personality tests as separate entities or as parts of a larger aptitude test. These tests are less about specific knowledge areas and more about certain personal tendencies of yours as they relate to various jobs. They can seem vague at first, and often ask the same questions repeatedly in different ways (i.e., "Do you prefer to work on your own?" and "Given the choice, would you rather work with a large group setting or in your own private office?"). Sometimes the questions might not seem career-related at all, simply asking you about how you respond to certain situations.

These questions attempt to give employers an overview of your temperament and personality. Certain personality traits can make a person more or less likely to succeed at a particular job. For example, office workers typically have a very structured day, with scheduled meetings, deadlines, managers walking by to oversee their work and so on. An electrician, on the other hand, has a more freeform day, driving from job to job without direct supervision over the exact methods used on each task. A personality test might show that a person desires structure and lacks the discipline to excel without it -- thus, one could infer that he or she would be a better office worker than electrician.

Perhaps the most famous personality test which is often used or adapted for career tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It has been refined and altered since its development during World War II, but the basics remain the same: A series of questions leads to the test taker being placed along four axes. They are extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, feeling/thinking and judgment/perception. The result is a four-letter code based on the end of each axis that suits the test taker's personality best.

In the next section, we'll assess the accuracy of career tests.