The Value of Assessments in Career Planning

For many organizations at this time of the year, employee career development planning is in full swing. Leaders wonder, “how can I ensure the process is objective and meaningful for my employees rather than subjective pencil whipping?” And employees are asking themselves, “how can I find fulfillment, enjoyment, and success from my career?” The answer? Include valid, reliable, research-based assessments to support career planning and development conversations.

4 Types of Assessments

There are four types of assessments that can play a powerful role in career planning: personality, interests, skills, and values-based assessments. I’m not here to sell you on any one tool, but simply share some examples and their benefits.

Personality Assessments

We are all uniquely wired. Personality assessments help us make sense of our wiring and natural tendencies and make informed career choices that will shine a light on our strengths. If your current job is a grind and you don’t have the luxury of moving to a new role anytime soon, personality assessments can help you understand where you may need to make behavioral shifts to be more successful. A couple of examples include:

Hogan Potential Indicator (HPI)

The HPI measures the “bright side” of personality – behaviors that are evident to others when you’re in your zone and not stressed to the max. It’s based on over 20 years of research conducted with working adults and leaders. Results are interpreted (by a Hogan certified professional) within the context of your current job and/or the role you aspire to have. For example, do you have to frequently collaborate with a wide variety of people during your workday? Does your role require a lot of flexibility and big picture thinking on your part? The HPI can reveal whether those job requirements are leveraging your strengths or creating undue stress.


Formerly known as StrengthsFinder, the CliftonStrengths assessment was developed based on over 50 years of research by Don Clifton, the “Father of Strengths-Based Psychology”. The assessment identifies a person’s top five out of 34 themes related to their natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Strengths are born when our interests (things we like to do) intersect with our skills (things we’re good at). When that happens, you guessed it, we tend to be more engaged in our work, more productive in our personal and professional roles, and generally more fulfilled. Who doesn’t want that?

Interests Assessments

Interest-based assessments are not just for the school-aged. If you’ve been out of the classroom for quite a while, you can still benefit from taking an interest inventory, especially if you’re considering a career move into a different functional area or industry. These assessments measure your interest in various activities (work and play) and then suggest careers that match those interests.

A word of caution: Do not view your results in the most literal sense. Case in point: 18 years ago, I took an interest inventory. One of the top careers recommended in my results was ‘Lawyer’. I have never, ever in my life wanted to be a lawyer. I could have walked away from that experience thinking, “what a waste of time!” Instead, I started to dig beneath the surface of that job title…what were some aspects of a lawyer’s job that fit my interests? Persuading, influencing, and public speaking were spot on. Researching and long hours…not so much. Having a conversation about your results and allowing enough reflection time to uncover themes across the suggested job titles is essential to get the most benefit. Here is a classic example of an interest-based assessment:

Strong Interest Inventory (SII)

The SII measures your interest in a wide range of jobs, work tasks, leisure activities, and school subjects. It compares how similar your interests are to the interests of people successfully employed in those jobs. It’s based on more than 80 years of research and psychologist John Holland’s theory of six occupational themes:

  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Enterprising and
  • Conventional

It measures preference for 30 professional fields of work and spits out a David Letterman-like Top 10 list of jobs that best match your interests. You may have some good laughs reading your top 10 careers, but like I said earlier, dig under the surface of the job title, don’t simply take it at face value.

Skills Assessments

These assessments can be a valuable way to determine if you have what it takes to succeed in a particular job or functional area. A high level of interest and motivation to do a particular job isn’t necessarily enough to be successful. I might think being a CFO would be the ultimate job, but do I have the numerical reasoning skills to be successful as a CFO? That’s a hard “no”.

Skills assessments can help determine the degree to which you are able to solve problems or make good decisions, especially in situations where you may have limited information. Verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning can be measured (depending on the tool), along with overall critical thinking skills. Skills-based assessments are usually timed, making them SO incredibly fun! If you’re up for the challenge, here are a couple that measure cognitive skills:

Watson-Glaser III (W-G III)

The Watson-Glaser measures your ability in three areas:

  • recognizing assumptions
  • evaluating arguments
  • and drawing logical conclusions

Basically, to what degree are you able to (under time pressure…that’s the fun part) examine a situation and clearly understand it from multiple viewpoints, while separating facts from opinions and assumptions.

Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM)

The Raven’s measures your high-level observation skills, your ability to think clearly, and to make sense of complex situations. During the assessment, you must identify the missing component in a series of figures and patterns. The level of difficulty increases as you go along, kind of like a video game, requiring greater skill in encoding and analyzing information.

Side Note: Make sure you’re well rested and in a quiet location where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. You can thank me later for that tip!

Values-Based Assessments

Last but most definitely not least are values-based assessments. They can help you answer two important questions:

  • What motivates you?
  • What is most important to you?

A values-based assessment can help you objectively differentiate a “don’t need to have” from a “must have” to make informed career choices and truly be fulfilled in your personal and professional life. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. There are many values assessments out there – from informal, free quizzes, to more robust options that require a certified coach to debrief your results. Here is one of my favorites that I use with my clients (shhhh, I’m not selling here):

Hogan Motives, Values, Preferences Indicator (MVPI)

The MVPI as the name indicates, uncovers what motivates you, what you value, and the work environments/cultures you are most likely to thrive in…versus just survive or tolerate. An added bonus of the MVPI if you’re a leader or your goal is to be one someday, is it can provide insight into your leadership style and the team culture you tend to create for your group of direct reports. Being crystal clear on your motivators, values, and preferred environments can be an incredibly powerful tool in your short- and long-term career planning.

Well, there you have it – 4 types of assessments you can incorporate into your career planning process and career discussions. It will make for a more objective, rich, and meaningful experience for all involved.

What’s Next…?

Not sure where to start? Talk to your internal Human Resources or Organizational Development team about your options. Using valid, reliable assessments and working with a certified assessment partner (internal or external) are key to a fruitful experience.

Interested in learning more? Keystone Partners’ team of expert career consultants have been helping our clients with all aspects of talent management and career planning for the last 40 years. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help ensure your employees are engaged in their work and generally fulfilled in their roles.

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