Choosing a Career Based on Personal Interests: Strong Interest Inventory Tests

Everyone wants to find a meaningful career that they enjoy. At the same time, deciding what career is the right fit can be overwhelming, regardless of whether one is testing the waters just after graduation or considering a career change later in life. Endless options, high stakes, and a veritable ocean of information can make even the most dedicated job seeker feel tempted to settle for the status quo. On the other hand, research shows that people who pursue careers in which they are interested tend to be more fulfilled and more successful.

Luckily, the best place for job seekers to start is with themselves. This is where personal inventories and career assessments come in. These resources are like a guide—a compass to help navigate a job search, including targeting fields or even specific careers that may leverage the job seeker’s strengths, personality, and disposition.

The Strong Interest Inventory®, along with its suite of associated tests, serves as both a career assessment and a personal inventory. It is widely used and well-established, and over the last few decades, it has helped thousands of job seekers find careers based on their personal interests. Let’s take a closer look at this resource, why it works, and how it can help you achieve your goals.

Why take a personality inventory at all?

Personality inventories or personality tests can help people achieve their goals, no matter what they are. In fact, personality inventories are used for everything from making educated career decisions to developing strong professional and interpersonal relationships to improving one’s leadership and communication skills, and even choosing a great college or university. They work by providing valuable insights into how and why individuals function the way that they do, as well as helping them identify the next steps necessary for them to achieve their goals. In conjunction with an interest inventory, a personality inventory can be a powerful tool to take the next step along one’s career path.

What is the Strong Interest Inventory®?

The Strong Interest Inventory® (SII) is a survey-style career coaching assessment and personal inventory that has been refined over several decades to help job seekers find fulfilling careers. It works by helping job seekers understand how their professional and personal preferences map onto the features of different careers. There are three steps to this process.

First, the job seeker will have to take the Strong Interest Inventory® Test. This test does not have correct or incorrect answers, and its purpose is not to measure competence or expertise. Instead, the Strong Interest Inventory® Test is a comprehensive set of questions designed specifically to help job seekers identify and rank their interests, preferences, and strengths. For example, would you prefer to work outdoors or in an office environment? Would you rather solve a math problem or create a work of art? Do you enjoy having a daily routine, or is having a flexible schedule more appealing? The Strong Interest Inventory® Test sheds light on these and other preferences that job seekers may not be consciously aware of, but which nonetheless can significantly affect their achievement and job satisfaction. For those who may be considering a career change, this assessment can also identify what characteristics of the current job are unfulfilling as well as what alternatives might be preferable in a new position.

The second step is analysis. The detailed inventory cross-references job seekers’ responses with a database that contains responses from professionals who are already working in those careers. For example, the analysis checks to see how similar an individual’s survey responses are to those of engineers, teachers, and other professionals. The more similar the responses, the more appropriate those careers might be for the job seeker. This is also why it is important to answer the Strong Interest Inventory® Test questions as accurately as possible: the analysis that the SII produces is only as accurate as the question responses.

The third and final step is recommendations. The inventory recommends that the job seeker consider specific careers that have been pursued by people whose survey responses are similar to their own. Job seekers can use these recommendations to focus their attention on jobs and careers that are most likely to fit their needs, strengths, and preferences.

Start What is the Strong Interest Inventory® based on?

The SII is based on two interrelated frameworks, both of which have their roots in vocational psychology. The first framework, called the Basic Interest Scales (BIS), focuses on the job seeker and measures how interested that person is in a number of different areas, such as academic subjects, leisure activities, hobbies, and professional roles and responsibilities. The second framework, called the General Occupational Themes (GOT), sorts careers into six distinct categories depending on their characteristics, including the nature of the work environment, daily responsibilities and tasks, types of expertise and experience needed, and so on.

The SII analysis works by connecting these two frameworks. It evaluates job seekers’ interests and assigns them BIS scores based on those interests. Then, it guides them towards GOT categories that contain professionals who share similar BIS scores. For example, if a job seeker prefers building things, working outside, and being physically active (BIS), the SII will likely recommend that she pursue careers in the Realistic category (GOT). On the other hand, if a job seeker prefers teaching or counseling others and helping them achieve their goals (BIS), the SII may instead recommend that he consider Social careers (GOT). In most cases, the SII will suggest those job seekers consider more than one career category, depending on their responses to the Strong Interest Inventory® Test.

How is the Strong Interest Inventory® different from other Career Assessments?

The Strong Interest Inventory, like most Career Assessments, is a data-driven tool that is meant to analyze one’s personal preferences and professional goals, and then apply that analysis to guide job seekers towards careers that they will find fulfilling. Career Assessments can use many different techniques, from interviews to free-response questions to rating scales, and may also give recommendations in a variety of ways, from a single best-fit career to a small number of specific options to categories that share certain characteristics. The specific benefits of the SII include:

  • Comprehensive Insights: The SII offers a deep analysis that includes one’s perceptions regarding different vocational fields, leisure activities, and specific professions. It also includes personality styles, such as preferences for collaborative or individual work, leadership and decision-making tendencies, and more.
  • Double Duty: Unlike some other career assessments, which may focus primarily on vocational preferences, the SII’s broad range means it can serve double duty: it is both a personality inventory and a career assessment.
  • Valuable Flexibility: The SII goes beyond a single “best-fit” career recommendation. By guiding job seekers to career categories, it narrows their job-search while also providing flexibility, agency, and choice.
  • Constant Updates: The Strong Interest Inventory® is updated on an ongoing basis, so it can continue to match individuals with cutting-edge careers, such as data scientist or natural language expert, which did not even exist when the SII was first developed.

What is the takeaway?

The Strong Interest Inventory® Tests can help you choose a career based on your personal interests, values, strengths, and preferences. They are designed to delve deeply into job seekers’ inner selves and then apply those insights specifically to the job search. This process is just as important as businesses taking an “inventory” of the items they have in stock—you have to know what you have and identify what you need before resources can be allocated effectively and efficiently.

While it may seem like just another thing to check off, the results speak for themselves. Research has shown that job seekers who understand themselves and how their interests influence their professional development tend to be happier and more successful.

What should I do after I get my results?

Once the analysis is complete and recommendations are available, take a breath and consider your options. It may help to do more research or shadow professionals who are already working in the areas that the Strong Interest Inventory® highlighted for you. Attending networking events or speaking with a career coach or counselor may also be beneficial. With the Strong Interest Inventory as your map and compass, you can feel confident in exploring different options and charting the next step of your vocational journey.

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