3 Reasons You Should Take A Career Aptitude Test

At some point in your academic or even professional career, you will likely come across the dreaded career aptitude test. The test, similar to ones you may have taken online to assess your personality type, is designed to determine the best career path for you based on your skills and interests. They can be as simple as this one developed by The Princeton Review, which briefly assesses your professional interests and work style, or incredibly in-depth. So, the pressure is definitely on. Honestly, who knew something so fleeting could mean so much?

It’s not uncommon to take this test in your junior or senior year of high school, as part of a career-advising plan at college or even during the interview process for a new job. Like personality tests, career aptitude tests are often right about a lot of things, but you shouldn’t freak out if your results are completely off-base. Here are three reasons you might consider taking a career aptitude test and two reasons to be wary of them.

Go for it!

1. You have no idea what you want to do with your life

Career aptitude tests can be excellent idea generators for students and young professionals who aren’t exactly sure what they should pursue. Danielle Radin, author of “Become A Networking Ninja: How To Network Out-of-the-Box and Into Employment,” says, “Many times, students don't know what field of work they will like, especially if they majored in a more general topic like English, communication or even biology. Taking an aptitude test can help you determine what your best skills are. You can then match that up with your passions and hobbies to find the perfect career.” Radin adds that many women in her professional network found their dream careers after career aptitude tests helped them learn more about themselves.

Whether you’re open to exploring new possibilities or you’re feeling unmotivated professionally, your test results could reveal a field of work you find thrilling but just haven’t considered before.

2. You want a better idea of your strengths and weaknesses

A common misconception about career aptitude tests is that you must know everything about yourself going into the test and that the testing algorithm will simply manipulate the data. The truth is that the test is designed to help you get a better understanding of yourself. It asks a series of questions that are meant to reveal more about your personality as you go along. This includes your strengths and weaknesses, both professionally and socially.

Dr. Olatokunbo Famakinwa, a board-certified internal medicine physician, says that career aptitude tests can be useful even if you already know what you want to do professionally. “As a physician, I have had to take several of these and similar tests, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test and, most recently, a medical specialty aptitude test. While the tests were not completely accurate, these assessments were helpful in allowing me to look at medical specialties that I had not considered previously and learn more about my work style,” she says. She explains that, often, these tests will reveal what’s most important to you in a career and in which environments you’re likely to thrive. For example, a career aptitude test can determine whether you value independence in your workday or you prefer working as a part of a team. This information is crucial to your professional development.

3. You have doubts about your abilities and/or interests

Career aptitude tests, if designed effectively, will often reaffirm things you already know or suspect about yourself. If you are on the fence about taking your career in a different direction, a career aptitude test can relieve some of that hesitation by confirming that your new venture is actually perfect for you.

Dr. Jude Miller Burke, workplace psychologist, executive coach and author of “The Millionaire Mystique: How Working Women Become Wealthy and How You Can Too,” recommends using these tests in conjunction with in-person sessions led by a certified clinician. “Often, the test can confirm what has been said verbally and the interpretation of the results can be enjoyable for the client.” She explains that the printed reports generated by such tests are visually appealing and easy to read, giving a career coaching session more breadth and interest. You can actually learn a lot more than you set out to.

But be careful...

Although taking a career aptitude test can help you in the long run, it’s important to realize that not all of these tests or experiences are created equally. Tim Bennet, co-host of workplace podcast The Focus Group, says wisely, "one measurement does not a successful career make."

The truth is that career aptitude tests can create a lot of the same problems as standardized tests like the SATs do. For example, Dr. Burke explains that those who are very emotional or distressed might react poorly to graphs and scales. Instead, she notes, “They would benefit more from an open dialogue since the emotionality of it all might keep them from absorbing the results.” Here are two things to consider before taking a career aptitude test.

Know what your test focuses on and how it formulates its results

Career aptitude tests can be wrong, but there’s an explanation: they don’t all assess the same variables. Dr. Burke explains that there are career aptitude tests that evaluate personality traits, leadership sills, work-group strengths, professional interests, intelligence and psychopathology. It is important to know which test is right for you and how to interpret your results.

Pauline Delaney, a career coach at Resumegenius.com, says that some tests show disconnect between personality traits and interests. “Just because you may have a personality that is considered suitable for a certain profession doesn’t necessarily mean it aligns with your interests,” she explains. According to Delaney, personality-based tests are often more useful in giving someone a general idea of which professional direction they might turn to.

But, she adds, “It’s up to you to look at the specific job descriptions in that field and ask yourself if it sounds like something you would enjoy.” Her preference is interest-based testing like the O*Net’s Interest Profiler, which creates an interest profile for you based on your interest in actual job descriptions.

Different tests are appropriate for different people and different situations. If possible, talk to a career coach before deciding on which test is right for you.

Don’t take them too seriously

Although useful to an extent, career aptitude tests should be considered more of an auxiliary tool rather than a rigid prescription for the course of your professional life. Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo and former HR manager, warns that no test is perfectly designed to consider all the variables that determine someone’s ability to do any one job. Instead, what they ultimately provide is a simplistic overview of someone’s character and a preliminary range of careers they should consider. Yang, like many other professionals, does not recommend you take these tests too seriously.

Related: The Perfect On-Campus Job for Your Personality

If you’re looking for some magical insight into your professional future, a career aptitude test probably won’t help. But, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about yourself, it’s worth exploring. Lauren McAdams, a career advisor at ResumeCompanion.com, sums it up perfectly: “The best career assessments often tell you what you already want to do and the best way to find out what you want to do is to observe what you love doing. You don’t need a career assessment to tell you what your passion is.” You can do this!