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The Job Analysis Process

Although researchers define the term ‘job analysis’ slightly differently, the definition provided by Brannick, Cadle and Levine (2012) captures common usage of the term: ‘job analysis refers to a broad array of activities designed to discover and document the essential nature of work’ (2012, p. 119). In other words, a job analysis is a process for understanding a job (though some authors, such as Morgeson & Dierdorff, 2011, use the term

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

‘work analysis’ to reflect the fact that jobs today are often less rigidly defined than in the past). The two major outcomes of a job analysis are a job description and a list of job specifications. A job description is a statement of the tasks, duties and responsibilities that a position entails. It also may provide information about the work environment (e.g., an unheated warehouse). Unlike a job description, which focuses on work activities, job specifications involve worker attributes. Job specifications describe the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) that an employee should possess to successfully perform a job.

Space limitations here do not allow for in-depth coverage of the topic of job analysis and readers interested in greater detail are referred to Brannick, Levine and Morgeson (2007) and Wilson, Bennett, Gibson and Alliger (2012). However, a cursory review of four key topics - uses of job analysis data, methods of data collection, sources of information and information accuracy - is necessary in order to understand how a certain type of job analysis can generate data that contribute to an effective employee recruitment process.

Employers conduct a job analysis for a variety of reasons. Three of the most common ones involve the human resource functions of employee selection, training and compensation. With regard to selecting employees, having information concerning the KSAOs that a recruit should possess is essential (Pearlman & Sanchez, 2010). In terms of training, information concerning tasks a job involves that an individual is not expected to have mastered prior to hiring is needed to develop a training programme to facilitate mastery of these tasks (Aguinas & Kraiger, 2009). Finally, information about KSAOs and working conditions derived from a job analysis can be useful for making compensation decisions, such as determining a starting salary (Gerhart & Rynes, 2003).

In terms of collecting job analysis information, Voskuijl (2005) discussed several methods. Among these are observation, an interview and a job analysis questionnaire. These methods can involve data gathering from various sources. In particular, job incumbents, their supervisors and professional job analysts, such as a personnel from a consulting firm, have been relied on to provide information (Pearlman & Sanchez, 2010). As examples ofjob analysis practice: 1) job incumbents may be interviewed about the tasks they are expected to do and how frequently they do them; 2) supervisors may complete a questionnaire rating the importance of job duties; and 3) job analysts may observe employees as they work in order to assess the worker attributes required to do a job and the working conditions involved. An employer also may find useful information about a job (e.g., a generic job description) is available from an organization such as the Society for Human Resource Management or O*NET Online (Morgeson & Dierdorff, 2011). To develop a thorough understanding of a job, Voskuijl (2005) advocated the use of multiple job analysis methods, with data gathered from numerous sources.

The final issue that merits attention is the accuracy of the information gathered. Regardless of how it is to be used, accurate information about the tasks required, the necessary KSAOs and working conditions is imperative. Yet it is difficult to evaluate the accuracy of job analysis data because there is no ‘true score’ to use as a quality standard (Voskuijl, 2005). In place of a direct assessment of information accuracy, some researchers (e.g., Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003) have used a high level of rater reliability (e.g., are the ratings of the importance of job tasks given by supervisors quite similar?) as a proxy. Other researchers (e.g., Morgeson, Delanie-Klinger, Mayfield, Ferrara & Campion, 2004) focus on biases (e.g., self-presentation, conformity) that may contaminate job analysis data and how to reduce them. Given the complexity of the topic, it must suffice to state that steps should be taken to ensure the quality of the information gathered. These steps could include:

  • 1) conducting individual (rather than group) interviews to reduce conformity pressure;
  • 2) observing employees doing the job over a period of time to increase the likelihood of capturing that job in full; 3) the use of several job experts to complete a job analysis questionnaire to control for idiosyncratic views of a job; and 4) having supervisors or other job experts edit job incumbent data in order to reduce the risk of exaggeration.

The use ofjob analysis information for recruitment purposes has received scant attention. For example, in Yu and Cable’s The Oxford Handbook of Recruitment (2013), none of the 28 chapters focuses on job analysis. In Brannick and colleagues’ (2007) book on job analysis, less than one page addresses the topic in the context of recruitment. This lack of attention is surprising given that the way a job analysis is conducted should be closely tied to how the information will be used (Sackett, Walmsley & Laczo, 2013).

As previously noted, the emphasis in most job analyses is on describing work activities (tasks) and worker attributes (skills). Information concerning both these variables is important for recruitment purposes. For example, presenting information during the recruitment process concerning work activities helps a potential applicant evaluate an advertised position (e.g., is it too physically demanding?). Providing information concerning KSAOs needed (e.g., fluency in speaking a foreign language) allows individuals to judge whether they are likely to receive a job offer.

Although information from a job analysis conducted for other purposes is useful for recruitment purposes, it is generally insufficient in terms of its breadth. For example, a typical job description provides little detail if any about the advantages of a particular job with an employer (e.g., whether the employer pays for insurance). Yet presenting information on potential advantages and disadvantages of a particular position helps an individual make an informed decision about whether to apply for a position, whether to maintain interest in it during the selection process and whether to accept a job offer if one is made.

Although space does not permit a detailed discussion of job attributes that tend to be viewed favourably or unfavourably by job applicants (Harold, Uggerslev & Kraichy, 2013 provide a good review of research from the applicant’s perspective), a brief treatment of the issue of job attribute desirability is important to establish a foundation from which to address key recruitment questions, such as what information to convey in a recruitment message. With regard to the potential benefits of working in a specific job for an employer, they can be intrinsic to the job itself (e.g., performing tasks that require a variety of skills) or derived from having the job (e.g., good compensation). Two aspects of a job that applicants commonly view as important (Breaugh, 2014) involve the supervisor an applicant will report to if hired (e.g., how does the supervisor treat employees?) and the co-workers the new hire will work with (e.g., do they work cooperatively?). In addition to focusing on job-related rewards in conducting a recruitment-oriented job analysis, attention should be given to rewards that are linked to working for the employer. For example, researchers (e.g., Highhouse, Thornbury & Little, 2007) have found that an organization’s reputation (e.g., its ethical standards) and culture (e.g., egalitarianism) can influence individuals’ decisions about whether to apply for a job.

A recruitment-oriented job analysis should not only focus on positive outcomes linked to a job. Potential negative outcomes should also be investigated. These can be intrinsic to the job (e.g., dealing with dissatisfied customers), tied to the job (e.g., having to wear formal business attire) or tied to the employer (e.g., the organization’s poor reputation). Although researching negative job-related attributes may seem unwise, with the result that some employers tone down the undesirable features of a job, in so far as the attributes are real, new employees will soon become aware of them. The view taken in this chapter is that it is better for an employer to be aware of the pros and cons of a job so that informed decisions can be made. Ideally, such an awareness may result in undesirable attributes being rectified. When this is not possible, being aware of such information may allow an organization to target individuals for recruitment who will be less adversely affected by these attributes. Alternatively, an employer may decide to be forthcoming concerning these attributes during the recruitment process so that applicants can withdraw (self-select out) from job consideration.

A final factor that should receive attention in conducting a job analysis for recruitment purposes is the community (its political climate, ethnic diversity) in which a person who accepts a job offer will live. Research on recruitment (e.g., Turban, Campion & Eyring, 1995) has shown location can have a major impact on whether a job offer is accepted. A poor fit between important community-related variables (e.g., a suitable religious community) and a new hire could result in voluntary turnover. Providing information on community-related variables during the recruitment process is particularly important if an employer is recruiting individuals unfamiliar with the location in which they will work.

The goal of most job analyses is to gather descriptive information about a job, such as the weight of objects lifted, the type of equipment used. Although descriptive information may be sufficient for some purposes, such as when designing a selection system, descriptive information alone can be limiting in designing a recruitment strategy. For example, consider informing a recruit that a position requires ‘entering data on a computer eight hours a day’ or ‘working rotating shifts’. At a basic level, an applicant may understand the information provided. However, a ‘visceral’ understanding may be absent (Breaugh, 2010). In other words, descriptive information alone does not provide a sense of how one is likely to react to the conditions described (e.g., intensive computer use can result in headaches; working a rotating shift can cause digestive problems). Yet visceral reactions can have important consequences (e.g., ill-health). This being the case, an employer should consider gathering information on such reactions (Sanchez & Levine, 2012), addressed in the context of a job analysis. Two further points should be noted. First, although a job analysis may provide information about how most job incumbents interviewed react to an objective job attribute such as standing all day, this does not mean a given individual will react in the same way. Second, visceral reactions can be positive as well as negative. For example, a hospice nurse I interviewed stressed how she could not have imagined the satisfaction she would experience from her job until she was working.

In terms of methods used to gather recruitment-oriented job analysis information, the same ones discussed for other job analysis purposes should be effective. With regard to sources of recruitment information, job incumbents and supervisors can supply much of the needed information. Particular attention should be given to new employees’ reports (e.g., what was there about the job that surprised them?), especially those who resigned: why did they leave? To supplement information gathered from job incumbents and supervisors, an employer could reach out to individuals it was trying to recruit but who failed to submit a job application (e.g., a person who attended a job fair), who withdrew from the applicant pool after submitting an application or who declined a job offer, in order to understand why. Other potential sources of information include people who worked in the position who have been promoted who could comment on advancement opportunity and career paths - important issues for many recruits. The web may be useful for gathering data on community variables, such as the presence of a particular religious congregation.

In this section, I have provided a general sense of the different content an employer may wish to generate from a recruitment-oriented job analysis. Of necessity, my treatment of several issues has been brief. In the sections that follow, I expand on many of the issues raised.

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