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Hiring: Does a Job Analysis Really Matter?

March 4, 2014

A job analysis, or more broadly “work analysis,” is a foundational project for which to design recruitment and selection systems, training or development programs, and other key organizational initiatives. It often involves conversations with subject matter experts, survey data collection, observations of specific positions and general work environment, reviews of existing training documents, org charts, and the like. Although work analysis tasks may not be the most riveting, they are a prudent step toward being fair, consistent, and comprehensive — which goes a long way in satisfying regulatory bodies, your current employees, and ultimately your peace of mind.

In the coming series, we’ll focus on job analysis projects for recruitment and selection purposes (though you could apply these principles elsewhere, too).  To kick off the series we’ll discuss the value of job analysis through a trio of idioms — like these well-seasoned phrases, job analysis has staying power, too.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

job analysis 2One of the quintessential outcomes of a job analysis project is the ability to confidently say that your recruitment and selection strategies are fair. Fairness in the recruitment and selection process means basing hiring decisions solely on job related criteria, and not being influenced by a candidate’s status in a protected class. Job analysis helps you capture job-relevant responsibilities and critical competencies for success, so you can determine appropriate selection tools and develop sound rationale for your recruitment and selection process — a process which includes everything from the job descriptions you post to the application and interview questions you develop.

Job analysis observations and conversations guide you to consider the outcome of a job responsibility, rather than the way it is completed. To use a simplified example, if a critical job duty is answering the phone, then it doesn’t matter how the person picks up the phone, it simply matters if they will pick up the phone. In this case the “Job Duties” section of a position description may include “Answer phone and direct calls as needed.” Since the position listing is one of the first messages a candidate receives, a fair and realistic description provides an initial glance of the fit between their qualifications/interests and what the position offers.

An accurate and complete understanding of the position is also important from an HR perspective, as knowing the essential job functions informs application and interview guide development. For example, it may be necessary to lift up to 50 pounds of equipment to be successful on the job. Whether this is asked via the online application or verbally during an interview, you need not probe how a person will do this, only if they can do it. “Are you able to lift up to 50 pounds with or without reasonable accommodation?” is an appropriate and fair question, while “How could you lift up to 50 pounds with your disability?” is not. As the title of this section reminds us, there are often many methods one can use to achieve a desired result. Through job analysis you can understand the essence of a position, which paves the way to an accurate job posting, appropriate selection tools, and ultimately a fair recruitment and selection process.

You can’t compare apples to oranges.

The second valuable result of a job analysis project is consistency. In the recruitment and selection realm, this means vetting all individuals who apply for the same position through the same process. The information gained from a job analysis regarding critical competencies is a foundational step toward mapping this process into a hiring flow. For each position or job family, this may mean determining the major steps in the application process, developing interview guides with appropriate competencies, deciding on test cut scores or recommendation profiles, and more. These decisions in your hiring flow are supported by information gathered during a job analysis. Without the job analytic data, you open the door for inconsistency.

Inconsistency in your selection process can surface across steps of the hiring flow or within a certain step of the process. For example, if you progress certain candidates who passed the pre-screen to an in-depth interview, while having others take an assessment instead, inconsistency exists across the selection process. On the other hand, when candidates for one position are assessed on different competencies in an interview (which occurs often in unstructured interviews), inconsistency exists within a hiring step. If you’re not consistent, either across steps or within steps, how can you be confident in the candidates at the end of the hiring funnel? Importantly, inconsistency makes for a nearly impossible hiring decision; when you’re not assessing individuals according to the same criteria, then what you’re left with is comparing apples to oranges.

Have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, job analysis is a step toward being comprehensive in your approach to recruitment and selection. As you prepare and collect data from multiple sources, you gain insight into organizational culture and discover (or confirm) details about the positions themselves. Sometimes the more we do our jobs the more we forget the uniqueness of our position — everything seems to blend together. Other times, we may be so wrapped up in the intricacies of our work that we don’t recognize the commonalities we share with other positions. The beauty of job analysis is the ability to reconcile both sides — recognizing the distinctions of a position, but also the shared competencies among positions. Job analysis provides the framework for developing a complete picture of the target positions, and allows you to gain buy-in from current employees participating in the project. In that sense, a comprehensive job analysis benefits not only your recruitment and selection strategies, but also rallies the troops behind your vision.

So…does job analysis really matter?

I hope after reading this your answer was a solid, “yes.” Job analyses may not look the same for every organization or every position; you have to work with the information and resources available to you. However, using job analysis to mold your recruitment and selection system will put you on the path toward a fair, consistent and comprehensive approach. 

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Bekah Regan Bekah Regan is a Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She provides client support across many different industries including retail, manufacturing, technology and healthcare. Her areas of expertise include developing selection tools and interview guides, providing training and support for PSI’s applicant tracking system, as well as assisting clients with requests and questions regarding tools and processes.