Monday, 31 August 2020

The four uses of career assessment

Although those of us in career practice should know when assessment is useful, I don't think we often stop to remind ourselves of just when that is. However, Williamson (1939, 1949) provides us with four key uses, which Osborn & Zunker outline as follows (2016):
Diagnostic. Diagnostic tests define something, which can be helpful as it helps the practitioner to better understand the client's world. Providing we use diagnostic tests as a place to start from, to raise awareness, to explore, to brainstorm ideas, and not as a limiter, or a pigeon-hole, diagnostic tests can be very useful.
Predictive. These tests are used to predict performance: either academic, aptitude, or specific achievement levels or tasks. A personal assistant may be asked to complete a TOSA word assessment to ensure that they have the skills required for a particular role, or a pilot candidate may complete reaction tests ("assess the present levels of developed abilities", Osborn & Zunker, 2016, p. 17).
Comparative. This is where the client's results are compared to a norm for a particular group. This might be as simple as examining secondary school grades with the requirements to get into Medical School or into Engineering, or having a group of career students all complete an assessment together, and comparing their individual results with the class as a whole.
Developmental. This is where, according to Osborn and Zunker, "Meaningful assessment during all phases of career development [may involve] the diagnostic, predictive, and comparative use of assessment results" (2016, p. 17). "For the older adult, measured interests and leisure activities, skills needed in part-time or volunteer work, and assessment of established values are relevant developmental uses of assessment results" (Osborn & Zunker 2016, p. 17).
I hope these help to remind us that assessment has its place in career development.


  • Osborn, D. S., & Zunker, V. G. (2016). Using Assessment Results for Career Development (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.
  • Williamson, E. G. (1939). How to counsel students: A manual of techniques for clinical counselors. McGraw-Hill.
  • Williamson, E. G. (1949). Counseling adolescents. McGraw-Hill.

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