In the US, many of us are brought up with starry-eyed ideals when it comes to selecting a career path. From a young age, we’re often told we should ‘do what we love’ or ‘follow our passion.’
But there’s a big problem with that kind of feel-good advice: it doesn’t provide an actionable framework for discovering your passion!
In a perfect world, we’d all start out knowing from Day 1 what we were ‘born to do’ — and work relentlessly toward achieving that dream. But, in reality, many people simply don’t know what they’re passionate about. And that can make choosing the right career path very difficult.
Fortunately, for those who are struggling to find their calling, there are a number of handy career aptitude tests that can provide much-needed clarity on the subject.
So, in this article we’ll be covering:
- What a career aptitude test is
- How a career aptitude test will help you
- The different types of career aptitude tests
- A list of career aptitude tests you can use
- A great way to ‘test the waters' for a particular career path
Let’s dive in!
What Is A Career Aptitude Test?
In a nutshell, a career aptitude test is exactly what the name suggests: a test that assesses which careers you’d be most apt to excel in (and/or enjoy).
Today, career aptitude tests are often conducted online in the form of a detailed questionnaire. The questions will cover a variety of topics and are intended to reveal key traits, values, strengths, and interests that you possess. Your results will then be translated into a list of potential career paths you’d be well-suited for.
How Will A Career Aptitude Test Help You?
As mentioned above, for many, the career advice of simply ‘doing what you love’ is not concrete enough — and, subsequently, leaves people scratching their heads when it comes to deciding which career path to pursue.
To gain real clarity and what to do with your life, you need to first establish a solid awareness of:
- Your values
- Your priorities
- Your interests
- Your strengths
You could opt to figure these things out on your own through thoughtful self-reflection. But, the beauty of a career aptitude test is that it’s designed to assess each of these categories systematically and with research-backed methods — ultimately providing you with a set of clear answers and useful insights.
Finally, in addition to assessing your values, interests, and strengths, the test will then go one step further by outputting a list of suitable careers for you to consider. And, let’s face it, that’s a lot more actionable than, “do what you love and the money will follow!”
Different Types Of Career Aptitude Tests
The realm of career aptitude testing can be divided into several different sub-categories. The 3 most common types of tests include career assessment tests, personality tests, and pre-employment tests — which we’ll explore in detail below.
Career Assessment Tests
Career assessment tests are arguably the most quintessential form of career aptitude testing. The goal of the test is to uncover personal characteristics — such as values, preferences, motivations, and skills — and then explain how these characteristics will influence your potential success/satisfaction in various professional fields.
The popularity of career assessment tests dates back to the 1950s — when career guidance for students started to be emphasized in schools. Since then, career assessments have continued to expand and evolve into the plethora of different options available today.
One of the most popular career assessments is the Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential (MAPP) Test. Launched in 1995 and vetted by independent studies, this test has been used by over 8 million people around the world!
Personality tests, in this context, are similar to career assessments in that they also use a series of questions to reveal the personal characteristics of the user. But, while career assessments are geared specifically toward career guidance, personality tests are more open-ended in their application.
As with career assessment tests, the traits uncovered by a personality test can be used to speculate on one’s aptitude for certain career paths. But there are other reasons one might choose to take a personality test as well.
For example, a personality test can provide insights into your personal life and help you generally understand yourself better. And, for this reason, people often take personality tests purely out of curiosity.
The most famous personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. In addition to the benefits it can have in your personal life, the Myers-Briggs can be used at every stage of your career development — from choosing an undergrad major to switching fields later in your career.
Pre-employment tests are quite a bit different from the two others above, but still fall under the umbrella of career aptitude testing — and are therefore worth mentioning in this section.
The main difference with a pre-employment test is that it’s not used to help guide an individual toward an appropriate career path that suits them. Rather, a pre-employment test is administered by an employer to assess a candidate’s competency for a particular role.
For example, if you’re applying for a software engineering position, the company may require you to complete a test to gauge your programming abilities.
So, while pre-employment tests won’t necessarily help you figure out which direction to steer your professional life, they can be very useful in determining if you have what it takes to succeed in a given role.
List Of Career Aptitude Tests
Now that we’ve covered what career aptitude tests are and how they can be used to help you choose the right career path, let’s review some testing options!
Career Explorer – If you’d like to take a quick, compelling career aptitude test, I highly recommend checking out Career Explorer. They offer one of the most comprehensive tests I’ve come across…and it’s 100% free!
16 Personalities – This free online test is based on the principles of the Myers-Briggs. It will provide you with a detailed analysis of your personality ranging from social behavior to thought processes — and it includes a section for career aptitude.
MAPP – As mentioned above, this classic career assessment has been around since 1995 and has been vetted for accuracy by independent studies.
Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 – This assessment is geared specifically toward capitalizing on your strengths — and I was blown away by the accuracy and thoroughness of my test results! (Free with purchase of StrengthsFinder book.)
Meyers-Briggs – One of the most famous personality tests of all time — usually administered by a licensed counselor, who will then discuss/interpret your results with you. (Cost: around $50)
Testing The Waters With Informational Interviews
So, you’ve just received your career aptitude test results, and apparently, you’d be very well-suited for a career as an architect. Upon seeing this result, your eyes light up and you say to yourself, “that does sound like a great career path for me!” Now what? Should you dive in head-first and begin searching for architecture degree programs? You could — but there’s an intermediary step I’d highly recommend: seeking out informational interviews.
As opposed to a job interview, an informational interview is not held with the intent to land a job. Rather, you’re simply meeting with an experienced individual to learn more about their role and industry.
Returning to the architecture scenario above, requesting informational interviews with successful architects would be a fantastic way to learn more about the profession and help you decide if it would be the right career path for you.
To paint a clearer picture, here are 5 examples of strong questions you might ask during an informational interview:
- Can you describe what your typical workday looks like?
- What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
- What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
- What are the most important skills needed to be successful in your role?
- What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career as a [Job Role]?
Gathering these insights from someone who already works in the field is incredibly valuable for two reasons. Firstly, this type of ‘inside look’ will shed a ton of light on your decision of whether to pursue that role. Secondly, informational interviews are a powerful way to build relationships — and those relationships may wind up being the catalyst that ultimately gets you hired!
For more on informational interviews (including how to land one), be sure to check out The 10 Best Questions To Ask In An Informational Interview.
A Final Word…
Aptitude tests are a very useful resource when trying to determine which career paths to explore. That being said, a test shouldn’t be the sole factor that dictates your selection process. You need to dig deeper and do some soul searching as well — after all, choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you'll make in life.
For more on how to approach your career path selection process, check out my guides on How to Find a Career Path That’s Right For You and What Should I Do With My Life (A Step-By-Step Guide)!