Top Personality and Career Tests on the Web: You Get What You Pay For

Sunday, February 08, 2009

by Carl Nielson
Any business that fails to take a regular inventory of its assets and deficiencies is doomed to failure. The same can be said for individuals who are committed to using their innate strengths in choosing a career path and improving their lives. Americans are often stuck in the pursuit of “finding themselves”. As a result…

... they’re suffering from a paralysis of analysis. Unfortunately, there are personal assessment tools developed by psychologists offered on the Internet for free that claim to accurately place you in wide categories of human traits, strengths, and weaknesses. the key here is “how wide?”. Is it so wide a category that it is virtually useless information, which means taking the cumbersome, often one hour or longer questionnaires, were hardly worthwhile? The “best” (used loosly) of these cost-free assessments are available online. I’ve summarized below and made some personal opinionated comments about each.


Before taking any of these online assessments, it’s prudent to consider the results you’ll receive as a “possible snapshot” of how you fit pre-established categories. Results are based on your intellectual and emotional reactions to the questions and how honest you are in your responses. Unfortunately too many of them expect you to have an opinion about careers you’ve never observed, researched, considered or know anything about. You’ll profit most by heeding any “free” online assessment results with a grain of salt and using your assessment as broad guidelines in career and skill planning.

Clickable Tests that Measure How You Tick

Online tests fall into several broad categories. There are skills assessments that evaluate your capabilities in the workplace, asking such questions as, “are you a finisher or do you procrastinate?”. Some tests measure your tendencies and preferences, with such questions as, “Would you rather work a drill press or be a financial planner?”. Still other tests measure your personality tics asking things like, “Do slow drivers bother you?”.

Here are the top-ten tests you’ll find online and their features:

  • Big Five Personality Test
  • Career Focus 2000 Interest Inventory
  • OneNet school-to-work transition assessment instruments
  • Career Interest Inventory
  • Keirsey Temperament Sorter
  • Career Zone Assessment Test
  • AdvisorTeam Temperament Sorter
  • Monster.com Assessment
  • Career Link Inventory

Big Five Personality Test

The Big Five Personality Test is based on a 1970 measurement test created by researchers from The National Institutes of Health, the University of Oregon, and the University of Michigan. The test asks you to evaluate your own preferences in categories called Extraversion, Emotional Stability, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience. There is no cost for taking the test. Recent validation is non-existent. The weakness of the Big Five theory is that there is some debate among researchers as to what makes up the core of each of the five elements. For career matching, the Big Five Personality Test remains a personality test only, it has not been adopted and integrated into data around job requirements and career choices.

Career Focus 2000 Interest Inventory

In this cost-free test you’ll take stock of your interests in 18 career fields by responding to 180 questions. This is a measurement of interest, rather than aptitude. Would you like to test blood in a laboratory or create a musical score for an orchestra? The test is dangerous for high school and college students as they most likely have no idea what might be involved in actually doing the different “tasks” other than making a choice based on “is it detail-oriented” or “is it people-oriented”. 

OneNet school-to-work

Easily the most comprehensive assessment tool online, OneNet is free to the user. A bank of tests will measure your skill sets, occupational likes and dislikes, and potential career fields that suit your type. The site is sponsored by The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA). You can link to this from the Career Coaching for Students™ Resources pages. Only criticism is that it is multiple assessments that take a good bit of time to complete. You still have to make sense of the results (tie all pieces together) at the end.

Career Interest Inventory

This free online inventory reveals to the user the career fields that best match their personal interests. The 45 questions ask, “Would you rather be an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency or a plastic surgeon?” Or, “Would you rather be an eye doctor, a poet, or a firefighter?” The test is dangerous for high school and college students as they most likely have no idea what might be involved in actually doing the different “tasks” other than making a choice based on “is it detail-oriented” or “is it people-oriented”. 

Keirsey Temperament Sorter

This free, online assessment tool is popular among counseling professionals, Fortune 500 companies used to use this until if was found to be potentially discriminatory against people with disabilities. Major universities use it today for measuring career and personality development. The test follows the standardized 16 Myers-Briggs personality assessment categories (very questionable validation, and suggested to not be suitable for career evaluation purposes) in accordance with psychological types first described by C. G. Jung. A more-detailed assessment is available for a fee.

Career Zone Assessment Test

This free, online measurement tool evaluates your career by work environments and personal preferences. It uses a model based on life themes in six categories based on Holland’s work: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. By combining your positive choices, the test delivers a range of professions. The Holland types have not to my knowledge been adopted by companies to match applicants to jobs. My personal opinion suggests there must be a reason why. My professional opinon questions the model’s validity and reliability.

AdvisorTeam Temperament Sorter

AdvisorTeam’s free test also uses the Keirsey model, helping you to understand your “strengths, motivations, and temperaments.” You’ll answer questions about your behavior, attitudes, and preferences. Do you chat with strangers while waiting in line at the supermarket or do you pace anxiously? What’s more important, your thoughts or your feelings? Again, companies are not using this instrument to match people to jobs. So can it be that helpful in matching “my talents” to career choices.

Monster.com Assessments

One of the Web’s largest job sites offers a free career test based on your personality type. Four questions detail two sets of personality characteristics. You’re asked to honestly describe which set best fits you. You decide if you’re an extrovert or introvert; a thinker or a feeler; judger or perceiver. Questions: Where is your energy naturally directed? What kind of information do you naturally notice and remember? How do you decide or come to conclusions? What kind of environment makes you the most comfortable? Too much of this relies on Myers-Briggs. We’ve already addressed this above.

Career Link Inventory

This free, online assessment tool helps you take your own inventory in aptitudes, interests, temperaments, physical capacities, working conditions, and career preparation. Do you prefer to work inside or outdoors? Are you stronger in spatial or verbal skills? Would you rather have on-the-job prestige or prefer producing a visible, tangible product? Too much reliance on subjective opinions that are constructed in a laborious approach.

If Free isn’t good, What is?

It’s possible to fall into a pit of extreme emotional reactions or set your goals in stone as a result of poorly validated, unreliable assessment results. But more likely, you won’t respond at all. So many have reported to me the results of these free assessments gave them nothing more than a feeling of “that was a waste”. Does that sound like you? Remember most assessment results are just guidelines to give you an additional glimpse of yourself. Personality tests can be useful if, based on your findings, you establish some career options and objectives with flexibility.

When evaluating career, you need to consider conducting additional research into what it will take to get into fields that excite you. You could make a list of pros and cons for the jobs you’re considering. If you’re motivated, develop an action plan and timetable for reaching your goals. Career Coaching for Students™ and Career Coaching for Adults™ both use validated and highly reliable assessments used by companies to match people to jobs. And both programs go much further with research and evaluation of career choices, strategic networking and goal setting and action planning. Both include an activity called “create a personal mission statement” using a simple online tool and your assessment results to get started. For more information go to the Success Discoveries website.