Student Reactions and Career Counselor Experiences with the Career Construction Interview

By Mylene Culbreath and Suzanne Voigt


University career centers are designed to help students select a major and navigate the career development process in preparation for work. The Career Construction Interview (CCI) is a five-question narrative-based assessment that helps facilitate the career decision-making process by illuminating people’s values and how they wish to display that value to the world. While previous studies have found that the CCI can help students navigate this process (Barclay & Wolff, 2012; Del Corso & Rehfuss, 2010), the CCI remains an underutilized resource in many career centers. This article reports major findings from two qualitative studies; the first explored student reactions to the CCI and the second explored career counselor experiences facilitating the CCI. Studies were conducted to gain insight into the value and practicality of the CCI.


Study #1: Meaning Undecided Freshmen Students Made from Participating in the CCI

When traditional-aged freshmen college students arrive on their college campuses, many are undecided in their choice of major (Tirpak & Schlosser, 2011; Twenge & Campbell, 2008). While many quantitative career assessments have been incorporated in the career development process, qualitative assessments, like the CCI, are still being assessed as to whether they adequately support college students in their academic and career related decision-making (Maree, 2013).  This qualitative research study focused on the meaning made by seven undecided freshmen students who participated in the CCI process. The following themes emerged:

Relationship between expectation and satisfaction: Being that the CCI did not provide students with a specific list of majors and careers to consider, students were initially disappointed. However, they commented on how the CCI helped them narrow down their options once they established their themes. All seven students said the CCI was a beneficial experience and many suggested that other undecided freshmen students should go through the process as well. To prevent an assumption that a list will be provided post assessment, counselors need to be clear with students that the CCI is about uncovering life themes, which may align with certain majors and career paths.

Personalization: Students discussed that unlike other quantitative assessments, which gave them generalizable results, the CCI provided them with personal and unique results that related specifically to them and their lived experiences.  Many commented that this assessment provided an individualized perspective of their interests and personality traits. They could take this holistic picture of themselves and begin exploring how it related to both majors and career paths. Counselors should discuss the value of the CCI’s ability to personalize students’ results as a selling point of this assessment versus the more generalizable results found in traditional quantitative assessments.

Connection to the past: In reflecting upon CCI questions, many students found it challenging to remember past events of importance and specific individuals who played a significant role early in the respondents’ lives.  Since career planning occurs mostly in the present and future tense, going back to their past caught many students off guard. If this occurs, it may be necessary for the counselor to use probing questions to encourage students to talk more in depth about their past experiences.


Study #2: Reactions of Counselors Facilitating and Utilizing the CCI

The majority of CCI research has been pedagogical in nature, instructing counselors how to facilitate the process (Glavin, 2016; Hughes, Gibbons, & Mynatt, 2013; Rehfuss, 2009; Savickas, 2015). However, little has been published discussing the tool’s value and practicality of use (Rehfuss, Cosio, & Del Corso, 2011). A comparative case study was conducted to explore career counselors’ opinions of and reactions to the CCI in their counseling practice. Three major findings are presented below.


Support Despite Limitations: Overall, participants held favorable reactions to the Career Construction Interview. Counselors believed the CCI offered a level of insight missing from traditional career assessments. Similar to student reactions mentioned in the previous study, counselors in this study believed the CCI provided an intimate narrative clients could use to help facilitate the career decision-making process. However, counselors also acknowledged the limitations of the CCI. Although it provided insight about the individual, it did not provide career information about a particular occupation or field. Counselors believed the tool would not be useful for individuals who might want or need occupational data. Instead, it would be ideal for those clients with adequate occupational information, but seeking guidance regarding which path to pursue.

Consideration of Age on CCI Usefulness: Counselors questioned the extent to which a client’s age and subsequent lived experiences would impact the usefulness of the CCI. It was suggested that individuals with fewer lived experiences would have fewer stories to share, thereby limiting the amount of insight gained during the interview. Additional research is required to determine whether age is a factor in the usefulness of the CCI.

Concern to Remain Current: Participants of this study also acknowledged the evolving nature of the CCI.  Having undergone several revisions to the name and number of questions (Barclay & Wolff, 2012) participants found the modifications to be a strength and limitation of the tool. Some found it a favorable attribute that the tool continues to be modified as the research advances the topic. However, others expressed concern in maintaining a shared level of competence and understanding across the field.

Suggestions for Next Steps & Future Research

Study 1: To Increase Facilitation

  • Additional research on classroom facilitation techniques and practices

  • Longitudinal study on undecided students and life and career planning


Study 2: To Enhance Practice and Competence

  • Additional research on age and CCI usefulness

  • CCI database, possibly page on Vocopher.com, to alert subscribers of new publications, videos or training materials

  • CCI blogs or discussion groups to offer/gain advice from other CCI counselors

  • Establishment of regional training groups


When considering student and counselor reactions to the CCI, we found that this assessment was useful in the career development process, however more research is needed on how to increase facilitation and enhance counseling practice.


Additional Resources

Barclay, S., & Wolff, L. A. (2012). Exploring the career construction interview for vocational personality assessment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 81(3), 370-377. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2012.09.004.

Del Corso, J. J., & Rehfuss, M. C. (2010). The role of narrative in career construction theory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79, 334-339. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2011.04.003.

Glavin, K. (2016). Vocopher resource library. Retrieved from http://www.vocopher.com

Hughes, A. N., Gibbons, M. M., & Mynatt, B. (2013). Using narrative career counseling with the underprepared college student. The Career Development Quarterly, 61(1), 40-49. doi:10.1002/j.2161-0045.2013.00034.

Maree, J. G. (2013). Latest developments in career counseling in South Africa: Towards a positive approach. South African Journal of Psychology, 43(4), 409-421.

Rehfuss, M. C. (2009). Teaching career construction and the career style interview. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 25(1), 58-71.

Rehfuss, M. C., Cosio, S., & Del Corso, J. (2011). Counselors’ perspectives on using the career style interview with clients. The Career Development Quarterly, 59(3), 208-218. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.2011.tb00064

Savickas, M. L. (2015). Life-design counseling manual. Retrieved from http://www.vocopher.com

Soria, K. M., & Stebleton, M. (2013). Major decisions: Motivations for selecting a major, satisfaction, and belonging. NACADA Journal, 33(2), 29-43.

Tirpak, D. M., & Schlosser, L. Z. (2011). Evaluating focus-2’s effectiveness in enhancing first-year students’ social cognitive career development. The Career Development Quarterly, 61, 110-123.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, S. M. (2008). Generational differences in psychological traits and their impact on the workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8), 862-877.



Mylene CulbreathMylene Culbreath, Ph.D. Mylene recently earned her doctorate in Workforce Education from the University of Georgia. She earned her Master’s degree from Old Dominion University in Counselor Education with an emphasis in Mental Health and Student Affairs Counseling. Mylene has a diversified breadth of experience in higher education and instruction, with a particular emphasis on career adaptability and transition. Currently, she works as a consultant for university and community-based organizations delivering seminars addressing identity formation, career adaptability, diversity and inclusion. She can be contacted at mylene.culbreath@gmail.com


Suzanne Voigt, Ph.D. Suzanne serves as the Career Advisor for the College of Arts and Architecture and also leads the marketing initiatives for the UNC Charlotte Career Center. Prior to working at UNCC, Suzanne served as the Career Consultant to Undecided, Fine Arts, Social Sciences and Ecology students at the University of Georgia for three and a half years. Additionally, she was the Career Center liaison to the student athletes at UGA. During her work in career services, Suzanne earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in Counseling and Student Personnel Services from the University of Georgia. Prior to this, she also completed her Masters in School Counseling from Liberty University and her Bachelor of Arts from Queens University of Charlotte. She can be reached at svoigt@uncc.edu



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