Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What interest inventories (or assessments) are

A spider plot of an RIS score
Working as a career practitioner is a "process of understanding and helping people cope with problems", a "process [which] includes defining the problem, gathering information about the person and the environment, understanding and interpreting the information, and problem coping" Any assessment we use is part of the information gathering process, which "attempts to link person, environment, and behavior in an information-based framework to help people understand and cope with problems. Tests are frequently used as part of this process to collect meaningful information about people and the psychological instrument is part of their context" (Walsh & Betz, 2000, p. 19). There are many things we can test: cognition, "personality, interest, and value factors [, which] are essential determinants of behavior" (Walsh & Betz, 2000, p. 13).

Interest inventories have been around since the Strong Vocational Interest test from 1927 (Walsh & Betz, 2000), later popularised by Holland in the 19560s and 70s (Osborn & Zunker, 2016). Interest inventories are instruments which focus solely on interests - not aptitude, achievement, values or personality. If we know how someone is likely to behave and which environment they are likely to be comfortable in, then we can match their interests to a field of work.

Holland probably has the most "well known theory for examining interests [...] RIASEC" in the US (Osborn & Zunker, 2016, p. 54), but this theory is less well-known here in New Zealand. Further, in New Zealand we have our own interest inventory developed by CNZ, called Career Quest (here).

Many US tests are unavailable in New Zealand, and very, very few tests - if any - have been normalised for the New Zealand population, or for our local minority groups. As we have no comparative data, all test results must be taken as 'general' rather than specific. 

Additionally, as practitioners working with 'minority' groups who may not "trust the use of tests, [perhaps] feeling that tests have been used to establish power and maintain discriminatory practices", we "may choose to use nonstandardized instruments instead of standardized tests [... to minimise] the influence of culture on [ourselves], [our] clients, and the counseling process" (Fouad, 1993, p. 6).

NB: it may be possible that norm testing has been done on Career Quest and/or Smithells, but if so, I am not aware of it. Please advise if you know!


  • Fouad, N. A. (1993). Cross‐cultural vocational assessment. The Career Development Quarterly, 42(1), 4-13.
  • Osborn, D. S., & Zunker, V. G. (2016). Using Assessment Results for Career Development (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.
  • Walsh, W. B., & Betz, N. E. (2000). Tests and Assessment (4th ed.). Prentice Hall.

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