To pick the best person for the job, you need to understand the job. One way to do this is through job analysis: looking at the duties the position requires and then identifying the skills needed to accomplish them. Your IT security head and your sales chief, for example, need very different levels of computer know-how.

Why Analyze Jobs?

Conducting a job analysis is more than an exercise in bureaucracy. It forces you to really study the job and measure exactly what skills, physical abilities and personality traits it takes to do the work.. You can use this to determine job requirements, training needs and performance appraisals.

Job analysis is also a legal defense. After you complete all the steps for conducting a job analysis, you can use them to justify your decisions when evaluating and selecting job candidates. The ADA disability law, for example, requires that you accommodate disabled job applicants if they can perform the essential functions of the position. Job analysis lets you identify those functions.

Steps in the Process of Job Analysis

There are several steps for conducting a job analysis:

  • Collect information about the job. Performance studies, occupational standards and expert input can all help.

  • Draw up an initial list of tasks that the employee has to perform and the competencies required to complete them. Competencies include skills, abilities, behaviors and other characteristics necessary for the job.

  • Identify which tasks are critical.

  • Identify which competencies are essential to carrying out the tasks.

  • Review your list of competencies and tasks and eliminate irrelevant competencies. If "communicates well in writing" isn't actually necessary to carry out any critical tasks, you can drop it as a job requirement.

  • Decide which competencies you'll use as selective factors.

Methods of Analysis

There are several standard methods in the job analysis field that you can use in your study:

  • Interview employees about what they do and the competencies they need.

  • Have employees fill out a questionnaire.

  • Observe the employees at work.

  • A functional job analysis is a U.S. government technique that quantifies how a position deals with things such as information, people, language and numbers.

  • The critical incident technique identifies the key differences between satisfactory and unsatisfactory workers in the same job.

  • Job element analysis looks at good workers and identifies the elements of their work that make them better than their co-workers.

The Job Description

Once you've completed the process involved in conducting a job analysis, you can write the job description. Based on your knowledge of the key tasks and the related competencies, you can describe the essential job duties and responsibilities, the minimum qualifications and any physical requirements. On top of that, you can add the salary range and any general information about the company.

When Do You Analyze?

Don't think you have to start an immediate analysis for every position at your company. You only need to take the steps for conducting a job analysis when it becomes necessary.

  • Job analysis isn't a performance appraisal. It isn't meant to tell you whether your current employees are good at their job. If, say, your sales force is fully staffed, and nobody is quitting, it's not as urgent as an opening you have to fill.

  • If your company has already conducted a job analysis, and the nature of the job hasn't changed, then you don't need one.

  • If there's no analysis, but you can compare the position to a job that has been analyzed, you may not need a fresh analysis.

If the open position doesn't have an analysis and isn't like any other job at your company, an analysis is probably a good idea. It's also advisable if the competencies and knowledge are in flux. For instance, the competencies for IT positions change as much as the technology does.