If your company keeps hiring people who aren’t a good fit for the job, the way you’re describing the open roles in your recruiting materials might be part of the problem.
The good news? Conducting more effective job analyses—or starting to formally conduct job analyses—either internally or with the help of an I-O consultant can help ensure that your candidates know what they’re getting into and arrive feeling prepared, engaged, and set up for success.
In this post, we’ll explain what a job analysis is, why carving out the time to formally conduct one is a worthwhile investment, plus we’ll share some strategies on how to do it in a way that leads to clearer job descriptions and better hires.
Let’s dig in.
So...What Is a Job Analysis?
Put simply, a job analysis is the process of defining the requirements and duties of a job; as an HR pro, you've likely done this many times, whether you call the process “doing a job analysis” or not.
The information gathered in a job analysis is often referred to as the job’s KSAs (I.e required knowledge, skills and abilities). This information can also be thought of as falling into three categories:
This covers job activities and duties, what tools are used to perform the job, any tasks the job involves, expectations, and training requirements.
This covers the job’s basic eligibility requirements, including the knowledge, skills, educational qualifications, and ideal personal characteristics being sought after.
This covers the job's working conditions, potential risks, who the employee reports to and who reports to the employee, hazards, and demands (both mental and physical).
Why Is Doing a Job Analysis Worth the Time and Effort?
Put simply, what may seem evident to you and other internal hiring team members when it comes to the requirements of a role won’t be evident to job applicants, unless you describe it clearly and accurately.
Even more problematic is the unfortunate fact that what counts as “common knowledge” about a role, even among people who work with people in that role often, often doesn’t turn out to be true.
Carving out the time to do a careful job analysis will minimize the chances that you bring in applicants who aren’t good fits or that you miss out on someone who is perfect for the position but was scared off by an erroneous job description.
What’s the Best Process for Conducting a Job Analysis?
The job analysis process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on your approach. Here’s a suggested cadence that may include a few steps you haven’t considered before.
Step 1: Find out (or remind yourself) why there’s an opening in the first place
Getting as much clarity as possible about why this position is either opening up for the first time or being refilled is critical to determining the role’s optimal characteristics. Ask the appropriate people the following questions:
- Was the previous employee a bad fit? If so, find out why that person wasn’t right for the role and consider how that will impact your new search. What can you put in the job description so this doesn’t happen again?
- Was the situation the real problem? Perhaps the person who left was a strong performer but wasn’t getting the support necessary to excel in the role. Between that employee’s exit interview and subsequent talks with their manager and co-workers, you should have a better understanding of where things went awry.
- Are you hiring due to organizational growth? If your company is expanding, that’s exciting. It means there’s a story about why you’re growing, and a great opportunity to communicate that to a prospective hire. How will you weave that story into the job description?
Step 2: Consult the higher-ups
Supervisors are obviously a great source of details on job requirements, goals, objectives, and the employee’s position within the team. They’ve seen firsthand what it takes to succeed in the position and know which employees are living up to their expectations.
Interviewing managers also provides insight on how the position contributes to the goals and success of the company as a whole, and how this position interacts with positions in other departments.
Step 3: Talk to current job holders
That said, don’t just talk to the managers who will be in the interview room during the job search; also talk to some employees who have the same or similar roles to the one that’s open (if such roles exist). Their feedback will give you a sharper sense of the position’s day-to-day expectations, responsibilities, and eligibility requirements.
One way to collect this data is to conduct structured interviews that question employees about their day-to-day operations and what knowledge and skills they believe are necessary for success on the job.
Step 4: Dig for more internal and external information
Talking to existing employees is obviously the most direct way to get insights into the role as it exists currently at your company. But it can be useful to gather other information that can help you refine what the role could or should be.
Consider checking former internal job descriptions, ads, training materials, performance plans, and any other related human resources documentation you have available. Sometimes these sources can provide you with context or background that’s gotten murky or been forgotten over the years.
Also consult outside resources to see how certain roles are defined on a national scale. O*NET (The Occupational Information Network), developed under sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor, is a great resource for finding out what they call “the anatomy of an occupation.”
If you’re creating and advertising a position that's new to your company, referring to O*NET is a smart way to start compiling a list of the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities other employers have found necessary for success in that position—or a very similar position.
(Wonderlic uses O*NET data as well as 80+ years of proprietary jobs data to create our hiring assessments.)
Step 5: Finalize the KSAs and rank the list
Now that you’ve thoroughly gathered information, it’s time to convert your findings into a succinct list of measurable job competencies and skills in some sort of priority order.
Ranking the job competencies and skills from most important to least important will help you sift through candidates, identifying those who best fit the position’s criteria.
The Business Benefits of Doing a Job Analysis
The benefits of job analysis don’t stop at better recruiting; here are a few others:
Helps manage performance efficiency
Job analysis provides a clear description of a job’s responsibilities. Beyond attracting qualified applicants, it helps employees understand exactly what’s expected of them once they start working. When employees are in positions they align with, they tend to be more efficient. And when they have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, they also have an easier time getting their jobs done.
Improves development and training
Once you’ve defined a position's KSAs, you can optimize your training process so that it hones the skills necessary for success on the job. Hiring employees who already have these KSAs makes the training process faster, easier, and more effective. They already have the KSAs—you just have to train them on how to apply their existing skills to this position.
Makes it easier to find new internal placements for employees
If an employee is struggling, even with training, they could be in the wrong position. Comparing that employee’s KSAs with those required for other positions could reveal a better fit within the company. With this approach, you can boost company productivity while saving valuable hiring resources that would’ve been wasted on an employee termination.
Helps you figure out compensation
Clearly defining a job’s responsibilities and performance objectives during the job analysis process makes it easier for you to evaluate employee performance, especially in conversations about salary.
Supports risk management efforts
Reviewing job analyses can justify employment decisions and help employers avoid lawsuits, as long as the decision was made based on the job analysis and KSAs.
For more ideas on ways you can attract, assess, and hire the best candidates for every job, check out our guide, Resumes, Referrals and Interviews Aren’t Enough: Why This Is the Year to Embrace Pre-Employment Testing.