The Holland Codes or RIASEC: Career Options That Match Your Personality

by Marquis Matson

RIASEC Personality Types

Searching for a job can be like a time consuming job in itself. Whether you are just beginning your career or you are making a shift in the path you are already on, it is helpful to have a clear idea of exactly where to focus your search. Even more helpful in this endeavor is to know how your own personality traits and lifestyle preferences can help guide your search. The Holland Codes or the Holland Occupational Themes (RIASEC), a set of career clusters organized by personality traits, can be a helpful tool in focusing your search.

The Theory Behind the Holland Codes

John Holland was an American Psychologist that dedicated his professional life to studying personality and the workplace. As a result he created what are now known as the Holland Codes, a set of six major personality types that can indicate a person’s general interests, work habits and lifestyle choices. Once the codes were published in 1958 they became a popular tool in career counseling and guidance, and are still used nowadays.

Holland argued that personality traits are incredibly important when selecting a job because they will help determine whether or not you thrive in a position. A job is essentially, according to him, an extension of your personality. Though he argues that your personality traits are important in finding a good career fit, your personality cannot be summed up by one trait. Instead, he recommended that we use this assessment tool in order to identify tendencies and clusters to help guide our search.

As an assessment tool we can highlight our natural tendencies and use this information to guide our career paths. Its original conception was in order to help guide this drive in young adults but has since been made even more useful for individuals no matter the point of their job search. This is so because of the Career Cluster Map, which offers a list of countless jobs that fit with almost any combination of personality traits identified.

Finding a Reputable RIASEC Assessment Tool

With a quick Internet search you will likely find a long list of websites that offer an assessment tool under the guise of the Holland Codes.  The most reputable—and free—Holland Code assessment can be found online at The Occupational Information Network (O*Net). The U.S. Department of Labor adopted Holland’s theory and then created their Interest Profiler, an assessment made compatible with the Holland Codes. The U.S. Department of Labor made it available to the general public since the late 90s as a way to help its citizens focus their job search while seeking employment.

The assessment itself can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your own pace. The questions are not meant to be considered logistically, as in the time commitment and salaries associated with your potential career, but instead are meant to be considered simply based on how much fun you might have in each position described. By being honest about yourself and which activities interest you the assessment is able to make more appropriate lifestyle matches. This is truly where the assessment carries its most value: it is able to highlight potential career matches without the added weight of salary and expectations. In this way you are exposed to many more possibilities for your job search. 

You may also find similar assessments available on university websites, which can also be regarded as trustworthy tools. These, however, are created with the undergraduate in mind and so may use language that is more supportive of choosing a major more so than choosing a job. While these particular assessments can be helpful they may not be the best option for you if you are not currently a university student. Even so, regardless of where you stand in your search this assessment can still work for you. 

The RIASEC Personality Types

Once you have completed the assessment you will be able to see your scores in each personality trait. In general the top three scores are used in order to guide your search. Just like you wouldn’t say that your personality could be summed up in one trait, your single highest score cannot guide your job search. Each trait offers different qualities and skills that can be used in your professional life and so are matched accordingly.

After you have completed the assessment you will come to a screen like the one below. The O*Net Interest Profiler does a fantastic job matching the traits to potential jobs but it doesn’t give much detail on what each personality trait entails. Below is a brief description of each trait to help give you a better idea of what your scores can tell you about yourself.

Realistic (Doers) – People that are identified as “realistic” are generally more independent and stable than their peers. They tend to prefer working with things rather than people and value the outdoors and nature in their work.

Investigative (Thinkers) – Investigative thinkers are curious individuals that prefer concepts to people as well as experiments, investigation and methodology in their work.

Artistic (Creators) – Artistic people are naturally creative, sensitive and innovative.  These people tend to work well in the field of arts but also thrive in other areas that lend to abstract thinking and concepts.

Social (Helpers) – The helpers of the world are indeed kind and generous but also tend to use these traits in order to help benefit others. We can see these social helpers in the roles of teachers, counselors and in non-profit capacities.

Enterprising (Persuaders) – The enterprising individuals of the world thrive in leadership positions because they tend to be outgoing, ambitious and charismatic. These traits combined with their innate internal motivation makes for powerful leaders.

Conventional (Organizers) – Conventional thinkers are logical and efficient workers that prefer practicality to creativity in any task. Order and structure are hallmark traits for this group, which makes them excellent in math-related work alongside clerical work.

The Holland Career Cluster Map

The main attraction to this assessment tool might be the Career Cluster Map. After viewing your results from the assessment you still may not have an idea of how to use the information to search for a job. The map, however, can help give you very specific career matches with which your personality traits will work well. Even more helpful is that the traits are organized in clusters so that you aren’t limited to a job search that only satisfies one trait. Instead, you can search for jobs that will utilize all of your greatest skills according to your top three traits as scored in the assessment.

The map, in the shape of a wheel, is populated with different clusters that correspond with the Holland Codes. Each code, or personality type, has distinct characteristics that vary from each of the other codes or types. The wheel, as pictured above, uses these codes in order to organize careers and fields of interest in a way that matches identified personality traits.

On the outer rim of the wheel, where it is blue in the picture above, are the general career clusters, such as “health science” or “education” for example. You might notice that these broad clusters are naturally grouped into different fields of work such as sciences, arts, technology and so on. The green ring identifies these fields of interest while also matching them up with the six Holland Codes, RIASEC, in order to help guide you to your general cluster. Based on your scores you can generally see which cluster would be the best fit for you, professionally.

As you move closer to the center of the wheel, however, the career details become more specific. Depending on your scores with the assessment you may notice that you have more than one highest score. If this is the case, then notice how the wheel is arranged so that there is possible overlap, meaning that there are some jobs that are a good match for multiple traits.

Most job hunts begin with a very broad search in a particular field, making it a needle-in-the-haystack sort of endeavor. With this assessment tool and the corresponding wheel, however, you can begin to learn about very specific and possibly very new opportunities for you as you begin your job search.

How to Use the Holland Codes for Your Job Search

As a job seeker it can oftentimes be overwhelming when searching for a job in a broad field that you are qualified for. Psychology, for example, is a popular field that many people may be qualified for. This field, however, is so much more expansive than the highly educated psychologists that many of us immediately think of. In fact, the field of psychology can include counseling roles as well as roles in business management, such as human resources. These opportunities may be otherwise dismissed without a tool, such as the Holland Codes assessment, to highlight their relevance.

Using the Holland Codes and assessment can help you not only pay better attention to your personality traits and corresponding work environments but it can also list a set of jobs that perhaps you had not previously considered. Furthermore, this assessment can also help you identify some quality traits that you possess that may have otherwise been overlooked. In terms of searching for a job, this is invaluable information that can help you build your cover letter, as well. Use this assessment tool to strengthen your job search and render more meaningful matches.


The Holland Codes / RIASEC Series

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