5 Chapter 5: Applying the Strong Interest Inventory to Your Career Exploration

Chapter 5: Applying the Strong Interest Inventory to Your Career Exploration

Dr. Michael Duggan

“Facts are meaningless, Lisa!  You can use facts to prove anything that is remotely true!”

– Homer Simpson

Lets Talk and Take Some Interest Tests….

In the next two chapters we will be looking at couple of interest tests.  What are interest tests?  Interest tests are ones that measure your differing levels of personal interest and satisfaction from a variety of tasks–both internally and externally–to look at others who share those similar degrees of interest and satisfaction as yourself.  Once we are able uniquely define different groups, we can then start to see what commonalities for each group are when it comes to any specific subject or idea.  For the purposes of this class, we are looking at career satisfaction.  For this class, we’ve chosen two different types of Interest tests:  the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs type indicator.  Let me explain why these are the two we are using

For the Strong Interest Inventory, or SII for short, the SII looks at your external interests in the world.  You will find yourself answering a variety of questions on things like the subjects you enjoyed in school, the hobbies you like to engage in on your free time, the majors in the past you may have considered, and your thoughts on a variety of different occupations.  I like to think of this as an externally based interest test because it is asking many questions about your interest in things external to you in the outside world.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator however, or MBTI for short, focuses more on your internal personality.  All the questions you will answer there will be focused on how you like to structure your time, how you like to problem solve situations, and how you perceive the world around you.  It will ultimately categorize your personality not based on your external interactions with the world, but rather your internal beliefs on how you see the world.

Each test on its own will give you a little information, but is really only meant to be one piece of the puzzle.  When I say “puzzle”, I’m referring to the concept of a puzzle representing that ultimate career choice that we all idealize about finding.  If we look at themes between the two tests, PLUS what you’re learning throughout this course and reading in this textbook, we start to see some themes and overlap of ideas.  These themes are what we are looking for—universal consistent details that make you uniquely you.

So let’s look for in-depth at the first test, the Strong Interest Inventory.

John Holland

John L Holland was a professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University from 1969 to 1980.  He wanted to better understand people’s attitudes towards the work they did and their degree of satisfaction with it.  He interviewed a variety of people from all different types of occupations and made an effort to develop some organization to it all.  His now famous article, “A Theory of Vocational Choice”, published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology (1959) found that most every career had one of six different dominant emphases in their work:  Realistic (Doers), Investigative (Thinkers), Artistic (Creators), Social (Helpers), Enterprising (Persuaders), and Conventional (Organizers) [1].  Let’s look at little more at each category.

Realistic (Doers):

Realistic careers are ones that involve working with ones hands and often outdoors.  They include professions working with tools, machines, manuals, and technical skills.  Some examples of realistic careers would include auto mechanic, firefighter, electrician, and airline pilot.

Investigative (Thinkers):

Investigative careers are ones that involve workers who have a strong, scientific orientation.  They are interested in research and gathering information to answer questions.  Some examples of investigative careers would include chemist, criminal justice investigator, botanist, and economist.

Artistic (Creators):

Artistic careers are ones that focus on creativity and the arts.  People in this field tend to prefer free, ambiguous unsystematic activities that entail manipulation of physical, verbal, or human materials.  Some examples of artistic careers would include artist, musician, interior decorator, or editor.

Social (Helpers):

Social careers mainly focus on working with other people.  They do this through helping, informing, training, listening, or discussing with others on a variety of topics.  Careers in this area would include social worker, secondary teacher, librarian, or athletic trainer.

Enterprising (Persuaders):

Careers in the enterprising domain have to do with positions of leadership, power, and status.  They work with people to achieve organization goals or economic success.  Careers in this area would include business manager, lawyer, real estate agent, or salesperson.

Conventional (Organizers):

Conventional careers are ones that involve high levels or organization and working with data.  They follow established rules that often involve following specific procedures to carry things out.  Some examples of conventional careers would include accountant, legal secretary, administrative assistant, and financial analyst.

Thanks to Holland’s work, we now have a way to start to organize different career categories.

The following video that summarizes all of these different categories, and provides us a way to start to thinking which of these categories we might identify most with can be found below, featuring Michelle Cho, co-founder of Gladeo, a career exploration organization and non-for-profit service.


The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) is an instrument that is frequently used today to help people find career direction.   It has been used by over 22 million people worldwide and translated into 25 different languages.  The results have been supported by over 500 research studies as well. [2].  Patterned after career theorist John Holland’s occupational codes discussed above, it looks to categorize an individual’s interests into six specific “clusters”, and then determines a primary, secondary, and tertiary category type.  You will take this exam in class.  However, you’re anxious to get started with this, or your class will not be offering the Strong Interest Inventory, a more informal and free version of the test can be found online at [3] https://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip

After You Get Your Results

Now that you know what your dominant Strong Categories are (or at least have a good sense of them), there’s lots of great online resources to help you take these results deeper.  In a future Chapter, we will be looking at resources at the COD Library and how you can apply your results to gathering occupational information.  In the meantime through, some videos you may find helpful are provided by the University of California who created a series called:   “A Personal Story of the Strong Interest Inventory”.  Some of those videos can be found here:

So now that you have identified some of your personal themes using the Holland occupational codes, we are now ready to move unto the next assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in the next Chapter.

  1. Holland, J. L. (1959). A Theory of Vocational Choice. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 6, 35-45
  2. "Self Directed Search", SIGMA Assessment Services, accessed January 31, 2020.  https://www.sigmaassessmentsystems.com/assessments/self-directed-search/
  3. "My Next Move", O*Net Interest Profiler, accessed January 31, 2020, https://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip


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Blueprint for Success in College: Career Decision Making by Dr. Michael W. Duggan, LCPC, CRC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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