Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Career assessment blind areas

While in career practice we get clients to undertake a number of career assessments, we sometimes forget to remind ourselves of the limitations of those assessments.

For example, a key limitation in personality testing is that most tests are self-reporting. We may see ourselves clearly - but it is most likely that we do not see 'all' of ourselves. If we consider the JoHari window - now there is an old theory! - we know that there are parts of ourselves that we are blind to (Luft, 1963; Luft & Ingham, 1955).

If we consider Joseph Luft and Harrison Ingham's model (1955), we can see that, of the four windows, only one is evident to ourselves. One area - the 'blind area' is only evident to others. There other two areas - the area we avoid, and the area of completely unknown activity - can be seen by no one. This can become a serious limitation in assessments. 

As we age, we get to know ourselves better. We know what others say about us, so we make the yellow cell larger, making the blind area smaller. We may also, if we are reflective enough, push the avoided area back also. In doing those two things, we manage to reduce the area of unknown activity at the same time. 

In addition, our training may well affect how we see ourselves over time, which will change our self-reported results. While we like to think that our work does not affect our personality, if we considered five different professions - perhaps a police detective, a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, and an career practitioner - we are likely to get five different focuses. They would all be valid, although biased due to the nature of our profession, our training and our experience.  

What might those five professions look for? My biases suggest the following:

  1. Police detective: alert to potential criminal activity. Looking for falsehood. Seeking gaps in stories.
  2. Doctor: seeking symptoms of disease. Assuming the client will not/cannot be honest (alcohol reporting for example: doctors automatically double what they are told). May not seek symptoms of health, though some do
  3. Engineer: seeking evidence of systems problems to take corrective action. Assumes the client knows too little to provide quality information. 
  4. Accountant: evaluating past evidence of financial health. Focusing on historic information. Not necessarily developing future financial health,  though some now do
  5. Career Practitioner: reflecting back to our client what they tell us to check the validity of what the client is seeking. Not telling, but asking. Mirroring client truth to assist clients to make their own decisions.

It is easy to see that assessment self-reporting may be skewed, based on our professional shaping. Accountants may be blind to the future. Engineers and doctors may focus on what is going wrong, not what is going well. Detectives may be blind to truth-telling. Career practitioners may be poor decision-makers. Although I know plenty of people in 3, 4 and 5, it would be good to talk to people who work in professions 1 and 2 to see if my take has much 'professional' accuracy. 




  • Luft, J. (1963). Group processes: An introduction to group dynamics. National Press.
  • Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari Window: A Graphic Model for Interpersonal Relations. Western Training Laboratory in Group Development. University of California at Los Angeles, Extension Office.
  • Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1961). The Johari Window: a graphic model of awareness in interpersonal relations. Human Relations Training News, 5(1), 6-7.

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