How accurate are interest inventories? A quantitative review of career choice hit rates

Alexis Hanna, James Rounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vocational interests have a rich history throughout the last century of psychological research, playing an influential role in fields such as personality, development, education, counseling, and organizational psychology. Yet interest measures are typically developed with the goal of matching people to careers, and there has never been a quantitative review of interests and career choice. The present meta-analysis examines the validity of interest inventories for predicting educational choices and occupational membership. This analysis of predictive hit rates incorporates almost 100 years of research investigating the accuracy of interest inventories. Using a binomial-normal meta-analytic model, the present analysis found that measured interests attain an estimated overall hit rate of 50.8% for predicting career choice. Because of the vast amount of career choice possibilities, this effect size conveys a significant degree of predictive accuracy. We also tested several potential moderators to address historical debates surrounding interest measurement. In particular, accuracy was moderated by year of publication, interest inventory, type of interest inventory scale, type of career choice outcome, and hit rate calculation method. Finally, the present study reintroduces base rates into the evaluation of predictive accuracy. We demonstrate the importance of taking base rates into account by comparing interest category hit rates and employment rates within those categories. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that interest inventories possess considerable validity for predicting career choice, supporting their use in research, education, and work contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-796
Number of pages32
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Career choice
  • Hit rate
  • Interest inventories
  • Meta-analysis
  • Vocational interests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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