Friday, 8 April 2011

Newsletter Issue 199, April 2011

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 199, April 2011

Hi guys,

Computer testing is all the vogue, but does it really benefit career clients? Check out Computer Testing Limitations in Career Practice below.

Further ruminations on what we consume and how we consume it in Water For Life

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Computer Testing Limitations in Career Practice

Assessments, instruments, surveys, questionnaires; call them what you will, are all tests that help clients understand their personal attributes (ie, interests, values, preferences, motivations, aptitudes and skills) and how those attributes will aid them in their work.

Computer assessment is where instruments are administered and scored electronically, providing both the counsellor and the client with results and analysis. If a test battery has been constructed well by a career professional, the results will provide well-tailored training and work options for the client.

With computer instruments, a lot of complex client data can be cross-checked and verified very quickly, ability data can be accessed from other sites (such as the NZ government’s list of Standard Occupations), online tests can be completed in a time and place of the client's choosing, instruments are seen as being neutral and non-judgemental, and employers can use exactly the same test over a number of applicants as a standard selection tool. The client also usually has something to take away with them, often in soft-copy.

As a result, computer assessment is a standard tool for career practice – and sometimes considered superior to previously-standard tools including personal interviews, card sorts, paper-based questionnaires, diagrams, pictures or mind-maps. It is my view that computer assessment has a place in the practitioner’s toolbox, but that should not be a preferential place.

Not preferential because I feel there are some limitations to computer testing, as follows:

  • Client skills: clients must be computer literate and have reading level of – usually – year 8 or higher
  • Which test? It can be difficult to determine which test will suit the client and provide useful information.
  • Inappropriate test selection: career guidance will match the test to the client’s desired outcome. A client may be wanting to test their mathematical aptitude, but select an interest inventory test, believing all career tests will lead to the same end.
  • Interpretation: most assessments need the expertise of a career counsellor or authorised consultant to interpret what results for the client. This usually adds to the cost of the test.
  • Client interpretation errors: there is a danger in clients obtaining assessment results immediately, without a counsellor, and misinterpreting their own results.
  • Client test errors: clients trying to provide the 'right' answer may skew the results (though most tests cross-check to minimise this).
  • Test anxiety: Some clients suffer from test anxiety which is exacerbated by the formality and structure of a computer assessment. This may affect a client so badly as to make the test results invalid. Confusing results: A person with broad interests may find their honestly-completed instrument results are confusing or lack relevance.
  • Boredom: some clients may feel that they have given the practitioner much of the test data already, so become bored with the process.
  • Client physical limitations: visually impaired clients may require a reader-writer or conversion software for them to be able to take computer assessments.
  • Tiring: long tests can be very tiring to take, and clients with short attention spans may provide less relevant data as the test goes on.
  • Evaluating the ‘whole’ person: many assessments generally assess a single dimension – not accounting for client values, spirituality, family, community, belief or ethnic context.
  • Selection: an employer appointing staff based on assessment results only, without considering the person’s fit with organisational culture, does themselves and the appointee a disservice. Holland codes define organisations as well as people, and to be happy, we need to fit where we work.
  • Computer trust: we tend to assume it has more veracity than something manually completed, and question the results less. Type 1 and 2 errors can occur and be identified by a counsellor, but a layperson is far less likely to identify errors.
  • Exclusive reliance on one test: clients may not be able to afford more than one test, so may expect the one selected to provide all the answers, instead of using a range of tools.
  • Client data safety: the practitioner administering the test needs good IT procedures and the online site needs to be an ‘https’ site – with a statement that data will never be used for other purposes.
  • Cost: for many clients, the cost of any test may be prohibitive.

So to me, the first and most important ‘alternative’ to computer testing is the career practitioner.

This person is the key to informing the client about their choices, setting the scene, interpreting the results for the client and assisting the client to find a clear path, filtering extraneous information. High quality rapport is gained through effective interview time between the client and the counsellor. This is key to good counselling relationships.

Cost is often a factor with young clients or those who are unhappy in their work. It may be that a client simply cannot afford to pay for a test battery – or sometimes, for even one test. Again, good, structured interviewing will establish a plan at the outset for the direction, duration and estimates (time and cost) for the path the client wants to take.

Paper-based questionnaires are still a viable and – often – cheaper alternative. However, many clients now prefer to have their results in electronic format, and also expect their results to be analysed straight away; both limitations with paper-based assessments.

Manual card sorts are very, quick, easy and non-threatening to use. Young clients like working with them – probably because it is like play, impermanent, and self-directed.

Using diagrams, pictures or mind-maps to determine direction are all valid tools to use either on their own or to support interview discovery and other assessment results.

Worktrials, career field days and expert interviews are interactive ways for clients to uncover role-affinity, and can be used as a post- or pre-assessment filtering tool.

All the tools above assist me to better meet my client’s’ needs, but only in combination with structured interviewing and good planning.



NMIT (2007). Diploma in Career Guidance: Course 8: Personality Assessment and Computer Based Career-Assessment Systems. NZ: NMIT.

Salisbury University (n.d.). What do you want to be when you grow up? Retrieved 18 January 2011 from

Wikipedia (n.d.). Career assessments. Retrieved 19 January 2010 from 

Water for Life

In the last issue, I mentioned a BBC page about sustainability, at

The piece finishes off with a caution about water use. We don't tend to think of the fact that growing food consumes rather a lot of water. The BBC states that "knocking back a pint of beer and a burger on bread with cheese and egg is responsible for using up enough water to fill a fish pond (about 2800 litres)."

They also quote a Waterwise report (Hidden Waters, 2007) which estimates that every second, the human race uses over 200 million litres of water in food production. On average, to generate one kilo of beef, 15,000 litres of water is slurped up.

While water consumption generally is not an issue in New Zealand, the arid area dairy conversions are raising questions of sustainability, as are the 'barn' area conversions proposed in the McKenzie basin (read American "CAFOs").

Just as we need to think hard about whether we really want hydroponic vegetables that are all look and no taste, we need to think about whether we really want to produce meat that is beef in name only; no taste, no colour, no smell and no quality of life for the animals being raised. Or chicken. Or salmon.

Secondly, do we want to continue this drift into the intensive farming models used in Europe and America, where stock has no quality of life, and no quality of production? I know that I don't. Personally, I would like to see New Zealand stay with a high quality farming model which is sustainable over time, with high quality end result. I would rather buy less, at a higher price and higher value.

Vote with your wallet.

Word Hotkey List

If you like using keyboard shortcuts you can generate a list of Word's assigned hotkeys really easily.

In Word 2003/7:

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Go to Tools | Macro, and select 'Macros'. (In Word 2007, go to the View ribbon)
  3. In the Macros dialogue box, click the 'Macros In' drop down list, and select Word Commands.
  4. Now you will see all the macro commands in the 'Macro Name' field. Scroll down and select ListCommands.
  5. Click the 'Run' button (top right).
  6. A 'List Commands' dialogue box will open. Ensure 'Current Menu And Keyboard Settings' is selected. Click OK.

You now have a list for whatever use you would like to put it to. Easy, eh.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • CAFO, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Feed lots where cattle are housed in concrete yards for their entire lives and fed corn.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

In this newsletter, we are going to look at all you can do with the escape key (Esc):

  • Access, Excel, FrontPage, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Windows, Word "Cancel action, entry, command or operation, close dialogue box or menu" Esc
  • Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Windows, Word "Display Windows Start menu" Ctrl & Esc
  • IE "Stop downloading a page " Esc
  • Outlook "Move to the next open window" Alt & Shift & Esc
  • PowerPoint "To select an object, Esc if embedded within text, TAB key to cycle forward (or SHIFT+TAB to cycle backward) through the objects until sizing handles appear." Esc & Tab
  • Publisher "Switch to the window of another open program" Alt & Esc
  • Windows "Display Run dialog box after displaying Start menu" Ctrl & Esc And Then R
  • Windows "Switch view from current application window to next open application window, including minimized windows on the taskbar in the reverse direction; press ESC more than once to switch through successive windows" Alt & Shift & Esc
  • Windows "Switch view from current application window to next open application window, including minimized windows on the taskbar; press ESC more than once to switch through successive windows" Alt & Esc
  • Windows Media Player "Hide the menu" Esc

Hot Linx

The number of women in management has risen in the past two years according to a Grant Thornton study published in NZI Management magazine at

Stooples is the office supply 'catalogue' that has everything from a coal-burning computer for $1,899 to the $9.99 Shnoz, a reading light that fits into one nostril. Yes, it is supposed to be funny. Check out the review at

If you like preserving, then this US site might provide you some interesting insights as to exactly what can and can't be bottled (or 'canned' in American parlance), at

Check out the projected largest cities in the world through McKinsey's global model. Click and drag on the globe to view different continents and cites at 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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