imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: I think a career test might help me figure out my next career step. I’ve seen a bunch available online, but how do I know which test to complete?

A: The term “test” is a bit misleading, since there are no good or bad, right or wrong results.

INstead, let’s think of these as assessments or instruments that will provide you with data for review, to then determine the best way to incorporate it into an action plan.  If you’ve been browsing the Internet using search terms like “career tests” or “career assessments” you’ve probably been bombarded with sites offering the latest and greatest products. Many of them say they are free, low-cost, or provide immediate results. My first bit of advice is to apply a dose of common sense and remember a basic rule for consumers – buyer beware.

Look for high quality assessments offering proven results. You may also see these assessments referred to as “instruments” or “tools.” These terms come from the field of psychometrics. That is the branch of psychology that deals with the collection, measurement and interpretation of data surrounding psychological variables such as aptitude, interests and personality traits. And a great deal of research goes into formal psychometric instruments to test and confirm their validity and reliability.

When deciding on the type of assessment to complete, consider the kind of information you want and how it will be used. Are you looking for feedback on key areas such as your strengths and skills, career values, work style, leadership potential, entrepreneurial characteristics, your current areas of interest, or your personality preference?

If that’s the case, look for assessments offering solid documentation on the type of data that is provided in a feedback report, along with information that addresses the question, “Is this instrument valid and reliable?” Plus, it’s always nice to preview a sample report prior before buying.

There are instruments that provide comprehensive results. But these are often overwhelming, like trying to sip some water from a fire hose. If the assessment offers too much information all at once, there is a risk of making the picture more confusing. I generally recommend that client’s complete separate assessments to gather results on specific topics. When the feedback from separate reports is digested, you can consider combining the results to explore ideas and options.

As a career coach, I am obviously biased on this topic. But I believe that the real value in any assessment is the opportunity to discuss the results with an individual who is qualified to provide a solid interpretation. If you simply complete a quick online test and get a pdf in your inbox, what do you do when you have a question or need clarification?

The assessments that I administer are completed at your convenience online. But I will schedule a meeting to provide a thorough review of the results. This allows us to move well beyond the black and white on the page and infuse objectivity, creativity, intuition and brainstorming into the discussion. That, in turn, will fuel career exploration exercises.

Here are a few career assessments that I recommend:

MBTI Career Report

Newly Revised Strong Interest Inventory

Work Personality Index – Career Transition Report

CareerLeader – for Business Majors

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