Friday, 4 September 2020

Steps for a card sort

A card sort is a non-threatening, tactile way to encourage some participants to interact with a practitioner, to encourage them to sort their "thoughts about interests, skills, values, occupations, or other issues" (Osborn & Zunker, 2016, p. 163), or to take a broader perspective in considering their career development.

Osborn and Zunker (2016, p. 164) advise some "basic instructions for an occupational card sort", but the principles they outline could equally be used for a values sort, an interest sort or a skills sort. What Osborn and Zunker suggest is as follows (2016, p. 164):
  1. "Clients are first instructed to sort the cards into three piles under the headings 'Would Not Choose', 'Would Choose', and 'No Opinion'. Other headers might range from ''Not like me at all' to 'Exactly like me', or from 'Extremely Important to me' to ''Not at all important'." Alternatively, we could get clients to create piles at their own discretion, then, during the debrief, question them on why each pile was in a certain place.
  2. If there are any cards left over, they "are instructed to sort the remaining cards under each of the categories.
  3. "Clients might be asked to go back through the three main piles to form subgroups within those piles, based on the client's reasoning. For example, clients would take the occupations in the 'Would Not Choose' category and identify why they rejected each occupation that was placed in that category. During the process, common themes for rejecting may begin to emerge.
  4. "Together with the counselor, the client discusses the subgroups and looks for other themes, such as education, Holland type, prestige, gender typing, and so forth.
  5. "Next steps are determined, which might include additional self-assessment or researching occupations".
This is quite a useful, generic process that we can consider with any card sort.


  • Reference: Osborn, D. S., & Zunker, V. G. (2016). Using Assessment Results for Career Development (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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