This book has explored career counselling and the use of psychometric tests in career counselling, as well as issues related to career development. In this chapter we discuss the written report. The focus will be on the traditional method of report writing. However, we also explore the post-modern career report.
In this chapter we provide the basic components of a well written report, as well as practical guidelines. The first section places the context of a written report in the career counselling process. This is followed by a discussion on the essential aspects of the report. Lastly, the different components of the report are discussed.
Career assessment and the written report
Clients make an appointment for a career assessment because they require career related information. They generally require guidance with regards to their career paths (Cochran, 1997; Crites, 1981). De Bruin (2005, p. 167) writes that ‘[i]n order to make an accurate diagnosis career counsellors often make use of psychological assessment measures.’
After the psychometric testing is completed, the counsellor or psychologist provides feedback to the client in an individual feedback session. During this session a report is usually provided to the client  . The report is the manner in which we communicate the results to the client. Therefore, the quality of the report reflects your professionalism (Grieve, 2005).
Essentials of a written report
Regardless of which paradigm a report is written in – for example, a narrative report or a traditional report – there are essential elements that must be followed for a report to be professional (Lichtenberger, Mather, Kaufman & Kaufman, 2004). We believe that the most important aspect of a report is the use of proper language. A poorly written report reflects badly on you as a practitioner and the profession of Psychometry as a whole (Lichtenberger et al., 2004). There are numerous books available that discuss the use of language; the reader is encouraged to peruse these books (e.g. Lichtenberger et al., 2004; Ownby, 1997).
All words carry meaning – both a denotative and connotative meaning. The denotative meaning refers to the actual definition of the word, whereas the connotative meaning is the subjective meaning of a word for an individual. This implies that connotative meaning is understood in the reader’s mind from his or her unique context (du Plooy-Cilliers & Olivier, 2000; Khan-Panni, 2001; Ownby, 1997). The counsellor therefore needs to be particular about the wording used in a report. For example, ‘he appears to be neurotic.’ Neurotic can mean different things to different people. It would be preferable to write ‘others may  perceive him as anxious and depressed’ instead. When writing the report keep in mind that there is a difference between spoken language and written language. All too often spoken language – which is grammatically incorrect – ends up in the report (Lichtenberger et al., 2004).
What are the most important aspects of the report? Firstly, ensure that the spelling in the report is correct. It is recommended that you do not only rely on the spelling and grammar application on the word processor. Secondly, the report must be well organised and have a logical flow (Grieve, 2005; Lichtenberger et al., 2004; Ownby, 1997). The client will not be impressed with a poorly written and disorganised report, and as a result will question the content and recommendations in the report (Lichtenberger et al., 2004; Ownby, 1997). Thirdly, reports have a general format which can serve as a guideline when writing a professional report. These guidelines include consistency, justified formatting of text (i.e. formatting the document so that it is not left aligned), not using colour inappropriately, numbering of all pages, and using a line spacing of 1.5 and font Arial or Times New Roman size 12. Only headings and sub-headings should be in bold formatting and not underlined (i.e. bold and underlined; underlining a heading instead of bold formatting is also acceptable). The aforementioned ensures that the report is comprehensible and has a professional appearance.
Many colleagues prefer to state (in a footnote) e.g.: ‘This report is the exclusive property of the client and may not be used for forensic purposes.’ Your comments?
The components of a traditional career assessment report
In this section we provide a basic example of an outline of a career report. Each of the headings in the report is also briefly discussed. The outline of the career report is based on the work of Jooste (2006), Lichtenberger et al. (2004), Ownby (1997) and Grieve (2005), as well as our own professional experiences.
- Identifying information of the client
In this section it is important to include the biographical information of the client. The name of the psychologist/psychometrist who administered the test, and his or her registration category can also be included here (Grieve, 2005; Jooste, 2006).
- Reason for referral
This section indicates why the client has requested an assessment. The reason for referral must be stated explicitly, and indicate the focus and rationale of the assessment. For example, the referral question would be ‘what career should I follow?’ The remainder of the report is always written with the reason for referral in mind (Jooste, 2006; Lichtenberger et al., 2004). The following excerpt is an example of a referral:
Mr and Mrs Mabete approached the Guidance Centre for assistance in future career possibilities for Linda. The assessment subsequently aimed at combining her intellectual ability, personality, and interests in order to recommend future career possibilities.
The counsellor also indicates in this section that the report is private and confidential, and that it is not for forensic purposes (i.e. for psycho-legal cases).
- Background information
In this section, the client’s background information is included. For example, information such as school attendance, scholastic results, personal interests and hobbies, family background, personal description from the client (e.g. personality traits), attitudes toward school and/or work, peer relationships, etc (Lichtenberger et al., 2004). It is important to include only information that is pertinent to the career assessment (Grieve, 2005). The following is an excerpt from the client’s background information:
Linda is currently attending Fictitious High School and is in Grade 11. She mentioned that at school she is actively involved in school activities, and is captain of the school debating and toast-masters team. Linda described herself as social and outgoing, and reported that she participates in entrepreneurial activities at school. According to Linda, she is a compassionate, well-spoken person and also has a good sense of humour. Her academic record indicates that she excels in economics and English. Linda reported that her least favourite subject is history.
- Behavioural observations
During an assessment observations of the client are noted. This includes the process of establishing rapport, attention levels, motivation to complete the assessment, persistence in completing tests (especially during the cognitive assessment), levels of frustration, etc. It is recommended that you use the behavioural observations only to substantiate test results (Lichtenberger et al., 2004). You may also include any factors that have reduced the validity of the test scores, such as a client been sick and unpleasant testing environments (such as extreme heat or cold), lack of sleep, amount of environmental noise, etc (Jooste, 2006). The following excerpt is an example of the aforementioned behavioural observations.
Linda presented as a vivacious adolescent who responded to the assessor with respect and friendliness. She easily established rapport with the assessor and was conversational throughout the assessment. She also maintained attention and focused on each task presented to her. Consequently, Linda completed the assessment process thoroughly and timeously.
- Tests administered
In this section the full name of each test that has been applied, and its abbreviation is provided (Jooste, 2006; Ownby, 1997). This information is important as it provides the readers with the test battery that was utilised during the assessment (Lichtenberger et al., 2004). An example of a test battery is provided in the table below  :
- Cognitive assessment:
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Third Edition (WAIS-III)
- Personality assessment:
The Meyers Briggs-type Indicator (MBTI)
- Interest assessment:
The Meyers Interest Questionnaire (MB 10)
Self-Directed Search Questionnaire (SDS)
- Values assessment:
Values Scale (VS)
The results from each test are presented separately. An explanation of what the test entails is also included. Discuss the test results in the order of which the tests were presented in the tests administered section, and under a heading for each test. Each of the test results are discussed, however the raw scores that the client obtained are not divulged due to ethical considerations (Grieve, 2005). The raw scores that are not included also consist of IQ scores. These scores are usually indicated by above-average, average or below-average (this may differ depending on the instrument used.). A useful format for presenting the results is 1) cognitive tests, 2) personality tests and 3) interests and values (see also Jooste, 2006). The following excerpt presents the results obtained on the WAIS-III and the Meyers Interest Questionnaire.
- Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Third Edition (WAIS-III)
The WAIS-III is an instrument utilised in the assessment of an individual’s overall intellectual functioning and cognitive abilities. The test is equipped to provide insight into an individual’s possible cognitive strengths or weaknesses. The WAIS-III employs three intelligence scales namely the Verbal Intelligence Scale; the Performance (Non-Verbal) Intelligence Scale; and the Full-Scale Intelligence.
- Verbal scale:
- Non-verbal scale
- Full scale:
The Meyers Interest Questionnaire (MB 10)
The Meyers Interest Questionnaire (MB 10) measures an individual’s most prominent interest dimensions. Interest can be defined as the tendency to favour certain types of activities in a constant manner. Furthermore, it is believed to play a large role in one’s decision making process and should be taken into account, since it contributes to the well-being of the individual. The MB 10 is thus used to guide individuals in their subject and career choices. Linda obtained significantly higher scores on four of the ten interest fields – business; working with people as individuals; working with people in groups; and artistic. She obtained a significantly low score in working with plants and working with animals.
In the summary the results of the intake interview, collateral information, the tests results and the behavioural observations are integrated to form a meaningful whole. The information must be integrated in a logical manner and is a summary of the entire process. For example:
Linda’s scores according to the WAIS-III imply that her overall cognitive capacity Full-Scale Intelligence, reside within the average range. Furthermore, both her ability to learn from the environment (Verbal Scale Intelligence), as well as her innate abilities (Non-verbal Intelligence) resides within the average range. This correlates with her academic record. Linda can be described as an extroverted individual who appears to be orientated toward environments which allow her to express her business interest in a creative and artistic manner. The results indicate that others may perceive Linda as empathic, sensible and outgoing. The portrayal of her personality profile is further extended by her interest scores, which implied that she has a strong orientation towards work of an artistic, business, and social nature. These particular interests were evident across multiple measures. Linda’s values appear to be centred on her ability to interact with others and to achieve her full potential.
The final section of the report consists of a plan of action and the recommendations. As this section is the most important to the client, the recommendations must be clear, easy to follow and provide relevant information (Jooste, 2006; Lichtenberger et al., 2004). The recommendations must be based on the information from the test results. In this section we provide the client with the answer to the referral question. For example, ‘we recommend that you follow a career in marketing.’ The following section is an example of Linda’s career recommendations.
- Course: Marketing communication
Requirements: APS of 26 (with mathematics literacy)
Compulsory Subjects: Language of teaching (5); other language (4); mathematical literacy (4); life orientation (4); subject 1(4); subject 2(4), and subject 3(3)
Career: Account manager, strategic manager, media planner, brand manager, marketing communication practitioner and communication consultant.
University: Fictitious University
- Course: Marketing management
Requirements: APS of 20 (with Mathematics)
Compulsory Subjects: Language of teaching (3); other language (3); mathematical literacy (2); life orientation (4); subject 1(3); subject 2(3), and subject 3(2)
Career: Marketers determine the needs of consumers and satisfy consumer requirements.
University: Fictitious College
The postmodern career report
In this section we discuss a written report in the context of narrative career counselling. The trait-and-factor approach (discussed in the previous section) and narrative approach to career counselling are based on different epistemological frameworks (Lamprecht, 2002; Maree, 2007). Therefore, a narrative report will differ from a traditional report. Narrative career counselling is embedded in the post-modern paradigm (Eloff, 2002). A postmodern career assessment can consist of either a purely qualitative approach – in which continuous assessment without psychometric tests occur – or a mixed qualitative quantitative approach, combining elements of both paradigms (Lamprecht, 2002).
Narrative career counselling is based on the premise that the client is the expert of his or her life (Eloff, 2002; Maree, 2007). Accordingly, the role of the counsellor is to co-construct the client’s story with the client (Cochran, 2007; Maree, 2007; Sharf, 2006; Watson & Kuit, 2007). The counsellor is a facilitator and therefore assists the client to narrate his of her career story, providing the client with the necessary skills to tell his or her story (Cochran, 1997; Lamprecht, 2002; Maree, 2007; Sharf, 2006).
The role of a narrative career report is to open comment and discussion from the client. He or she is encouraged to question, revise and expand on the report. The report therefore develops into the client’s story (Cochran, 1997; Sharf, 2006). In this process information regarding the client is also obtained from teachers, family members, friends and parents. As the report is the client’s unique and evolving story (Cochran, 1997), and more informal in nature, it is not possible to provide any particular framework for the report.
However it is still important to ensure that the report is well written by following the language rules that we presented in the previous section. In order to provide guidelines on a narrative career report, we include the narrative report technique of Cochran (1997). It is important from the outset to mention that Cochran (1997) uses this report in the context of portraying a future narrative to the client in counselling practice. This is similar to the more traditional approach to career counselling which ‘presents a portrait of the client and relates that portrait to options, sketching probable outcome scenarios’ for the client (Cochran, 1997, p. 91). Although there are other approaches that can be used (see Cochran, p. 91-92), we have found Cochran’s approach to be useful when providing a client with a written report.
Cochran (1997) indicates five sections in a narrative report. These five sections are the mission statement, strengths, work needs, vulnerabilities, and possibilities:
- Mission statement
The mission statement – described as the most challenging aspect of the report – is a statement made about the client’s drama of life. When writing this statement, the client’s own words should be used. The purpose of this statement is to capture the client’s story in an unambiguous manner and to facilitate subsequent counselling. The remainder of the report is written in the context of the mission statement (Cochran, 1997). The following excerpt demonstrates an introduction of a report  :
Hi there! My name is Lyle and I want to invite you on my life journey and see what the future holds for me. But let me first give you some background on who I am. I am Lyle Maritza and I am currently in Grade 12. I approached the psychologist for an assessment because I am concerned about what my future has in store for me. More specifically, I need guidance as to which career I can consider pursuing after matric.
In this section the client’s strengths in his or her words are written down. The strengths can be used to match the client to the world of work, and also indicate a character (the client) that is able to enact the drama described in the mission statement (Cochran, 1997). This is indicated in the following:
My journey began with an intake interview – with my entire family – where I had to provide information on my past. The psychologist informed us that this will ensure a more accurate picture of me. In the interview I explained that English and Afrikaans are my favourite subjects, and that I achieve excellent grades in these subjects. These subjects are similar to my hobbies, especially writing poetry and reading classical works. I excel at working independently and finding unique solutions to problems.
- Work needs
The third section ‘sketches the main qualities of a setting that would allow or encourage the person to enact a certain kind of script’ (Cochran, 1997, p. 93). The client’s needs are written in a cluster of expressions (Cochran, 1997). The needs can also be written in a paragraph format as follows:
I would prefer working in an environment where I am allowed to express my creativity and work at my own pace, and not be part of a team. A flexible and unstructured work day would suit my personality as I do not enjoy routine and structured activities.
This section includes those aspects that may undermine or sidetrack the client in his or her career. The counsellor makes the client aware about these vulnerabilities, and how they could impact on his or her career.
Because I am overly sensitive I would not thrive in an environment where office politics plays an integral role and where my co-workers are competitive. It would also be difficult for me to work in a group as I prefer quiet and calm environments in order to perform optimally. Therefore it would be easier for me to work from home and have my own business.
The client’s career concerns and circumstances upon which further counselling is built are addressed in this section. For example, the client could write down possible career paths that he or she considers following, or write down the characteristics of a particular career. This leads to further counselling (Cochran, 1997). The following demonstrates an example of a client’s possiblites:
I have considered the following careers as they appear interesting to me and meet my needs. My parents arranged for me to job shadow at the local newspaper and I enjoyed the experience.
Editor – writing, independence
Journalist – creative, investigative
Author – writing, creativity, independence, unstructured working context
The following is an example of recommendations that are built on the client’s life story. This also illustrates the differences between the traditional report recommendations and the narrative recommendations.
As I reflect back on the findings from the assessment, and my interests and hobbies, my future career is clearer. The psychologist recommended that I consider studying a humanities degree at university, and can consider subjects such as linguistics, English literature and French. It is clear from the assessment that I should follow a career that will allow me to express my creativity with my love of languages. My future jobs should also not stifle me with routine activities, as I do not enjoy routine work.
My parents were concerned about future career prospects with these subjects, but the psychologist provided us with information on many different fields that require expertise in these subjects. Some of these fields include translator and interpreter, language practitioner, editor and proof reader.
The process of the report
Cochran (1997) suggests that the counsellor and client read the report together, exploring each section and discuss the content. The client is encouraged to comment on the content of each section so that a dialogue between counsellor and client is facilitated. The dialogue allows ‘both participants to search for errors, distortions, or neglects’ (Cochran 1997, p. 95) in the report. Subsequently, the client is provided with an opportunity to peruse the report at home and communicate further comments and revisions to the counsellor. The final report should provide career direction for consideration to the client (Cochran, 1997).
Lamprecht (2002) writes that the qualitative assessment is only completed once the counsellor and client are both satisfied that enough information is been gathered from the assessments. When the counsellor has all the information the client and the counsellor can each write an essay about who the client is. These two essays are then critically discussed and can be integrated into one essay. The essay is subsequently tested by showing the report to other people to read and provide feedback (Lamprecht, 2002).
The advantages and disadvantages of the traditional and narrative report
In practice the process of report writing is not always straightforward, and considerable care should be taken in completing the report. It is therefore important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, as well as the approach with which both you (and the client) will be comfortable. In this section we briefly reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches.
The traditional approach to report writing is a more objective and clinical approach than the narrative report. This makes the report writing process less time consuming. However, in this report structure the psychologist is the expert and the client’s subjective views are not included in the report (cf. Crites, 1981). The narrative report requires more time and client consultation than the traditional report. Often as counsellors we do not have the available time, nor does the client have the available time for several sessions to refine the report.
The actual writing of the report is also prolonged, therefore limiting the amount of reports and consequently the amount of counselling sessions that can be completed. The advantages are that a more personalised report and in-depth exploration of the client’s story is constructed. This is in contrast to the more clinical approach of the traditional report. This in turn may allow the client to feel that he or she is part of the actual process rather than simply providing recommendations based on test results.
The traditional report focuses on pre-determined psychometric tests and an objective formal career report. The counsellor is viewed as the expert, writes the report and provides the client with recommendations. Conversely in the post-modern approach the assessment takes places continuously, the counsellor is a facilitator, the report is co-constructed, focuses on collaborative engagement and provides direction.
Divide the class into two groups. Group one will be the clients, whilst group two will be the counsellors. Each counsellor in group two chooses between the traditional (provide the learners with fictional psychometric results) or post-modern approach, and writes a career report. These reports are then presented to the class. A class discussion should follow and each approach is debated. The class should then consider which approach would be best suited to the context of South Africa.
What purpose does a career counselling report serve?
What are the two approaches to reports discussed in this chapter?
What are the basic elements of a well-written report?
Describe the framework of a traditional report and narrative report?
Critique the two approaches to report writing in the South African context.
Which report would you prefer if you booked a career assessment appointment?
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