The Wall Street Journal

By JANE HODGES

April 22, 2010 — With the country’s unemployment hovering around 10%, many professionals are on the hunt for the perfect job. But what job? What industry? To the rescue are online career-assessment tests that aim to help workers (and daydreamers) identify suitable jobs and work environments. We took four tests to learn what fields are a good fit for a longtime reporter: the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Kolbe A Index, the Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential (MAPP) test, and a service called Careerkey.

First, we took the Kolbe A Index, a test from Phoenix, Ariz.-based Kolbe Corp. About 50,000 consumers use the assessments online annually, and the company has 5,000 corporate clients, according to CEO David Kolbe. The index identifies people’s natural instincts (or “conative” skills), so they can choose environments and situations where their instinctual style thrives. We paid an extra $14 for a “Career MO+” assessment to get more targeted information on our professional options based on our responses.

The resulting 17-page report showed where we fit on a scale of one to 10 within four “action modes”—fact finder, follow through, quick start, implementor. It revealed that we’re mainly motivated by our fact-finder and quick-start traits, which means we’re able to “specify” and “improvise.” In work situations we need breadth and variety, but also the ability to use detail and research. We snickered at the test’s accurate observation that we avoid mechanical tasks and repairs. We need the challenge of a full plate but must manage time by priority-setting.

The accompanying 12-page Career MO+ materials—full of details on professions where those like us thrive—were helpful, and even explained how we can market our strengths. The analysis of why certain jobs fit our personality helped us see why we like some work (fast-paced, loosely managed, autonomously produced) and not others (too many supervisors/meetings, unclear project mandates, narrow scope).

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator test borrows from Jungian psychology and posits that people’s personalities fit one of 16 types, determined by four polarities, including introversion/extroversion, intuiting/sensing and thinking/feeling. Two people with the same Myers Briggs type can still be quite different, since they may fall in different zones even within the same ends of these four scales.

This was the only assessment test for which we arranged a live consultation. After taking the test online, we waited to hear results during our phone meeting with a counselor trained by Gainesville, Fla.-based Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), a non-profit organization founded in 1975 that trains counselors to administer the Myers Briggs test and other assessment tests. Lisa Orr, director of operations at CAPT, told us that its test is administered about a million times annually, but couldn’t say how many consultations were conducted by CAPT-trained counselors.

During our consultation, which CAPT had to push back a day, we learned some useful tidbits. We straddled the border in some categories—we’re situational extroverts, but sort of introverts by nature, for instance. The chat was helpful because rather than route us toward researching certain jobs or careers, we were able to discuss what sorts of projects within our field did and didn’t suit us and how to think about the changing landscape in our profession. The counselor confirmed that our current strategy—tolerate unsettling changes going on by focusing on a single big project—could work for our personality type and help us to adjust.

The MAPP, administered by the Edina, Minn.-based International Assessment Network, presented questionnaire results in a long narrative, explaining how we interact with nine work-related faculties. The report’s assessments seemed to fit us, such as our motivations (we don’t require recognition, can work in foreground or background), our aptitudes (OK at math; highly verbal), reasoning style (big picture) and so forth. It also offered a list of 20 likely job fits (including our current and former positions), as well as links to a job database where we could sync test results to different jobs and see how well they would suit us based on a variety of criteria. This test seemed to classify us as more of the “loose artist” personality, who doesn’t like deadlines or structure and is highly intuitive, which isn’t how we view ourselves. But other observations, like our current and possible future career choices, were on-target.

We found the results from Careerkey’s survey the most general. Based on our answers, the site assigned numbers to our strength levels across six areas—realistic, social, investigative, enterprising, artistic, and conventional. It then provided links to careers associated with these areas, noting that we’d be happiest in jobs reflective of our high-score categories, which for us were “artistic” and “social.” (Scarily, for us anyway, we ranked low on “investigative” and “realistic.”)

When we looked at job categories within each of these areas, we were presented with a broad array of choices. We felt this site might be best for a younger person feeling their way toward a major or first career, versus a person looking for personality assessments of the MBTI or Kolbe sort.

Juliet Jones, the company’s vice president, says the Careerkey test has been used by about 24 million people since 1997. Ms. Jones notes the test may be most useful to career changers rather than those seeking to get more fulfillment in an existing field.

The takeaway? While we appear to be a good match for our chosen field, the tests offered insights on what types of assignments best fit our skills. And there were no big surprises—none of the test results suggested we pursue a career as a rodeo clown.

COMPANY PRICE CAREER ASSESSMENT FINDINGS COMMENT
Kolbe Corp.www.kolbe.com $63.95 for Kolbe A Index plus Career MO+ assessment Our dominant two traits among four are ‘fact finder’ and ‘quick starter,’ and we have a decided distaste for the mechanical or for modeling outcomes. We do lots of research and then leap. The test results jibed with our sense of self—liking depth, variety and speed and working with ideas; assessment of how we respond to jobs and can market our strengths was worth the cost.
Myers Briggs Type Indicatorwww.capt.org $165 for online assessment, one hour phone appointment and reading materials Some people who take the test wind up on the cusp of two types. For instance, we were borderline extrovert/introvert and borderline perceiving/judging but had clear-cut intuitive and thinking traits. The third-party test administrator pushed back appointment 24 hours. Consultation was useful, and counselor was able to review our near-term work strategy and affirm ways to manage professional uncertainties.
Careerkeywww.careerkey.org $9.95 for online quiz and assessment Our dominant traits among six are social and artistic. We scored lower on realistic, investigative, conventional, enterprising traits—slightly disturbing considering our current career. Test results were very broad. This seems like a nice, low-cost start for younger users, who might be choosing between fields of study or various professions.
Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potentialwww.assessment.com $19.99 for test, list of 20 likely professional fits, narrative about our results List offered predictable job titles related to media, teaching and counseling positions, but the narrative about how we respond and use different faculties at work was helpful—even funny. Service provided option to pull a detailed analysis of how likely we would be to enjoy up to 10 professions of our choice with data on why. More detailed analysis was available for higher prices.