Job Analysis: An HR Practitioner’s Guide

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Job Analysis: An HR Practitioner’s Guide

Job analysis provides a way for organizations to fully understand the nature of a job. It helps draft better job descriptions and develop effective training and development programs, leads to a safer work environment and more effective workforce planning, and is pivotal in performance management.

Job analysis touches multiple key HR functions, so you must conduct it effectively to collect accurate and reliable data. We’ll discuss all you need to know about job analysis in this article. Let’s dive in!

What is job analysis?
The purpose of a job analysis
Why is job analysis important?
Job analysis methods
Job analysis process steps
Job analysis examples
Job description vs job analysis

What is job analysis?

A job analysis is a systematic process of identifying and determining the responsibilities, requirements, and nature of a job in detail. It involves breaking the job into smaller units, collecting data on each unit, and then analyzing the data to determine to establish the skills and competencies the role requires.

An important concept of job analysis is that you analyze the job, not the person doing to job. The outcome is a description of the work, not the employees, even though some job analysis techniques collect data from the workers.

A job analysis should focus on the following aspects to bring out all the critical facts and details about a job.

  • Duties and tasks: The type, frequency, and complexity of performing specific duties and tasks.
  • Environment: Work environment, such as temperatures, odors, and hostile people.
  • Tools and equipment: Tools and equipment used to perform the job successfully.
  • Relationships: Relationships with internal and external people.
  • Requirements: Knowledge, skills, and capabilities required to perform the job successfully.

The job analysis process is about breaking down the job into smaller work units, including duties, tasks, activities, and elements (Morgeson, Brannick & Levine, 2020), as in the job analysis example in the table below.

JobA collection of similar positions.‘Receptionist’
PositionA set of duties, tasks, activities, and elements to be performed by a single worker.Melinda, the receptionist who mostly works night-shifts
DutyCollections of tasks directed at general job goals. A typical job has 5 to 12 duties.Hospitality activities for visitors
TasksCollections of activities with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A job has 30 to 100 tasks.Welcoming guests and guiding them to the waiting room
ActivityClusters of elements directed at fulfilling work requirements.Pushing the intercom button to open the door
ElementSmallest identifiable unit of work.Answering the phone

Then, it’s about identifying the building blocks of the job based on these smaller units of work. There are multiple different ways to approach this, which we discuss further below.

A job analysis is conducted by employees themselves, managers, Organizational Development (OD) professionals, or HR professionals for various purposes.

Anyone with some work experience has, at some point, done a job analysis. This could be a manager who decides to combine two vacant roles into one job, a recruiter who tries to create a job description, or an employee who lists their main tasks to create a professional development plan. Although these job analyses will have different levels of detail, the process is similar.

Types of job analysis data

There are three primary types of job analysis data:

  • Work activities: Data on the specific activities that make up a job.
  • Worker attributes:  Data on the qualities that workers need to do the job.
  • Work context: Data on the internal and external environment of the job.
Job Analysis Data

In this article, we will focus mostly on work activities. Work activities form the basis for determining the worker attributes and the organizational culture. We will focus less on the work context, but keep this in mind in your job analysis, especially when this context is subject to change.

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The purpose of a job analysis

Before conducting an analysis for the specific job, you need to specify what you will use the results of the job analysis for. That way, you can choose the most effective job analysis method, which we will talk about in more detail below.

In general, organizations can use the information for the following purposes (Morgeson, Brannick & Levine, 2020):

Job analysis purposeDescription
Job descriptionHR uses the output of the job analysis as input for a job description. A job description is an internal document that specifies the requirements for a new position, including the required skills, role in the team, personality, and capabilities of a suitable candidate.

Creating a job description using data from a job analysis helps you place the right people in the right roles.
Job classificationJob classification is the process of placing one or more jobs into a cluster or family of similar positions. Data from job analysis is critical in job classification because it considers the duties, responsibilities, scope, and complexity of a job. The goal is to set pay rates and use the information in employee selection.
Job evaluationJob evaluation is the process of determining the relative rank of different jobs in an organization. The purpose is to create pay transparency and equity.

The rank of a job depends on the responsibility and duties assigned. For example, senior positions have higher performance and capability requirements. The job analysis helps understand these job characteristics.
Job designJob design is the process of creating a job that adds value to the company and is motivating to the employee. One of the characteristics of a motivating job includes skill variety, i.e., the degree to which a job requires a broad array of skills. Job analysis helps you determine the skill variety of a job.
Personnel requirementsHR can use the job analysis outcome to set the minimum qualifications or requirements of roles in the organization. This is also helpful in recruitment.
Performance appraisalThe job analysis provides input for the performance appraisal of the individual performing the job. To evaluate an employee’s performance, you need to understand the role requirements first. Job analysis can determine these details.
Worker trainingJob analysis forms the basis of the training needs analysis. Once you identify the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics, you can quickly identify training needs or skill gaps and train your employees.
Worker mobilityPeople and jobs should fit together. Job analysis is useful in identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required for a role, which you can then match with an internal or external hire.
EfficiencyYou can use job analysis to improve efficiency at work by analyzing activities and optimizing how people in the role perform them.
Health & safetyJob analysis can identify hazardous behaviors and working conditions that increase the chance of accidents and injury, leading to a safer working environment.
Workforce planningJob analysis helps plan for the workforce of the future. It helps identify knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics with future work demands. This enables the creation of a strategic workforce plan for a role or department.
Legal requirementsFederal and national law can apply to working conditions, health, hiring, training, pay, promotion, and firing employees. Job analysis can be a tool to ensure all activities in a role comply with the regulations.

Why is job analysis important?

Job analysis helps organizations improve employee engagement, efficiency, and productivity, enabling them to achieve operational and strategic objectives. Organizations can use the information from the job analysis to:

  • Create detailed and accurate job postings that attract the skills and competencies you need.
  • Improve decision-making when recruiting and hiring new employees by easily tracking candidates with the required qualities and qualifications for the job.
  • Develop effective employee development plans by identifying the skills the employees lack to perform a job successfully.
  • Plan and conduct more effective performance reviews based on a good understanding of the duties and nature of the job. It will improve employee performance and engagement.
  • Determine the content of a job and its value to the company to offer fair compensation packages.
  • Assess risks associated with a job and implement safety measures to avoid safety violations.
Eric Mochnacz quote on Job Analysis
Red Clover HR

Jodi Brandstetter, CEO & Lead Facilitator of By Design Brainery, an online learning platform for HR and Talent professionals, shares a practical example of using job analysis in recruitment.

“We used job analysis to build pre-employment assessments. The job analysis gave us the ability to ensure the assessment would measure relevant characteristics based on the job. A pre-employment assessment cannot predict success without a job analysis,” Brandstetter explains. “By completing a job analysis with our pre-employment assessment vendor, we were able to build an assessment that would help predict success in the job.”

A business psychologist Ben Schwencke from an online assessment company Test Partnership used job analysis to help a large multinational engineering firm improve their recruitment process.

“I conducted a job-analysis for the firm’s a graduate scheme. I focused on the cognitive and behavioural requirements of the role, with the aim of improving the screening process. In doing so, I identified the specific aptitudes and personality traits which underpin both performance and role-fit, allowing those to be measured directly using psychometric assessments,” says Schwencke.

“Consequently, the organization was able to halve the number of applicants invited to the final assessment centre, as the earlier stages of the recruitment process had identified twice as many high potential candidates.”

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Job Analysis: The What and Why
Job analysis serves as a base for the job description and job specification. HR can use the obtained information in their activities like recruitment, learning & development, and performance management.

Job analysis methods

How you conduct your job analysis will depend on the purpose and goal you want to achieve, on your organization, and the job.

The Critical Incident Technique, Task Inventory, and Functional Job Analysis are the three most common job analysis methods. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Critical Incident Technique (CIT)

The critical incident technique relies on observed critical incidents. Critical incidents are behaviors that represent either outstanding or unacceptable performance. A typical critical incident report has the following elements:

  1. A description of the context and circumstances leading up to the incident.
  2. The behaviors of the employee(s) during the incident.
  3. The consequences of the behaviors and their broader impact.

The critical incident technique is most effective for health and safety incidents (e.g., whenever an accident, injury, or death occurs), performance appraisals, and worker training. In the last two cases, the critical incident lists examples of exemplary and unacceptable behavior, which can be used to provide feedback to an employee or as the basis for training what employees should and shouldn’t do.

Task inventory (TI)

The task inventory, or task analysis, is an inventory of all the tasks that a job consists of. These tasks are often grouped under their duties. Earlier, we mentioned that a job has between five to twelve duties and up to 100 tasks. You indicate each task’s frequency, importance, and associated difficulty when creating a task inventory.

Tasks Frequency Importance Difficulty
Answering the intercom when the doorbell rings 300/day Medium Low
Welcoming guests and guiding them to the waiting room 120/day Medium Low
Providing guests with a drink 80/day Low Low
Answering questions from visitors 30/day High Medium
Managing expectations about waiting times 30/day Medium High
Receiving and handling complaints 6/day High Very high

The table above shows an example of one of the duties of the receptionist at a doctor’s office. Other duties may include managing appointments, administration, and answering basic medical questions.

The task inventory is often created based on input from expert panels, the people working in the job themselves, and their managers. The task inventory is most effective for creating job descriptions, job classifications, worker training, and checking compliance with legal requirements.

Functional job analysis (FJA)

Functional job analysis is a method of job analysis developed by the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The functional job analysis provides specific information about what work needs to be performed and the worker qualifications required to successfully do the work.

The FJA focuses on tasks, not on what gets done. This is because people are more likely to agree about the activity involved. An airline lounge receptionist may be required to ‘make guests feel welcome’, but there are many ways to achieve this objective. The table below describes an airline lounge receptionist according to the DOL’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

Receptionist, Airline Lounge
Admits members and guests to airline lounge, serves beverages and snacks, and provides other personal services as requested: Opens door to lounge in response to sound of buzzer, verifies membership cards, and admits and seats members and guests. Serves refreshments such as cocktails, coffee and snacks. Answers questions regarding scheduled flights and terminal facilities. Verifies passengers’ reservations. Directs or accompanies passengers to departure gates, rest rooms and other terminal facilities. Relays requests for paging service, using telephone. Opens cans, bottles, and packages; brews coffee; and arranges pastry, nuts, and appetizers on serving trays. Removes used ash trays, glasses, and dishes from tables and picks up trash.

Next to Critical Incident Technique, Task Inventory and Functional Job Analysis, there are multiple other job analysis techniques. These include:

  • Threshold Traits Analysis
  • Ability Requirements Scales
  • Position Analysis Questionnaire
  • Job Elements Method

Job analysis process steps

The job analysis process varies with organization, position, and objective.

For example, if you conduct a simple and quick job analysis by speaking to one or two people on the job, the process will be much more expedited, which might be at the cost of reliability. However, this may already provide sufficient information to draft, for example, a job description.

Below, we’ll outline five job analysis steps that every effective analysis involves in one form or the other. You can use these steps as your job analysis template.

1. The job analysis purpose

The starting point of any job analysis is its purpose. Why do we want to do an analysis? The purpose of the analysis influences most of the job analysis design choices, including its budget, project lead, and stakeholders.

The purposes of a job analysis discussed in detail above can include the creation of a robust job description, a needs analysis for employee training, or workforce planning.

According to Matt Erhard, Managing Partner of the recruiting firm Summit Search Group, one of the top purposes of job analysis is to prepare your organizations for significant growth or expansion.

“This usually means a similar expansion of your staff, and conducting a job analysis can make sure you’re hiring in the right areas and creating a logical team structure for the new size of your organization. You can then revisit this post-growth and adjust as needed. However, it’s better to do this before you start so you have time to think strategically and plan, not frantically fill gaps,” Erhard explains.

For example, a job analysis conducted for such growth purposes will involve more senior stakeholders, more budget, and take more time compared to a job analysis for creating a simple job description.

In the former case, the sponsor is most likely a Senior Vice-President or another senior-level executive who wants to assess what roles and skills the organization will need to grow. In the latter case, the sponsor is more likely a hiring manager who, after having a bad hire, really wants to pinpoint the profile of the person they are hiring for.

The purpose will thus influence the further scope, budget, and also the team, team leader, and the degree to which external parties, like consultancies, are involved.

2. The job analysis method

The most appropriate method for your job analysis depends on the purpose you determined in step one.

Depending on the method, the data collection will differ.

The table below can help you determine the most effective job analysis technique and use that to influence future actions.

Job Analysis Methods Effectiveness Table
Effectiveness ratings per job analysis method on a 5-point scale (source)

3. Gathering data

Data gathering and analysis are the two most time-consuming steps in the job analysis process. The job analysis method chosen determines the data-gathering methods used. Common methods of collecting data include observing, interviewing, questionnaires, and work logs.

The Critical Incident Technique focuses on structurally collected incident data through interviews and observational data from the people involved in the incident. The Task Inventory focuses on listing the different duties and tasks performed in the job, which can be done either through observational data, interviews, or structured questionnaires. The focus here is the creation of a list of tasks, time spent on these tasks, and the importance or difficulty of the task.

Here’s an overview of the job analysis data collection techniques:

Data gathering methodDescription
ObservationObservational data is considered the most neutral form of data collection as it (supposedly) does not interrupt normal performance. The job analyst observes the person doing the job in real life or on video. Observational data can describe activities based on the chosen unit of analysis (see the Table above). Mere observation can already influence the way individuals conduct the job, a well-known example being the Hawthorne effect.
InterviewInterviews are a key way to gather data, which can be used in combination with observational and questionnaire data. Based on the data, the job analyst asks specific questions. Interviews should be well-prepared and carefully conducted. Here again, the interviewer can focus on the different units of analysis to identify duties, tasks, activities, and work elements.
QuestionnaireThe job analyst can administer a questionnaire with questions about job duties, responsibilities, equipment, work relationships, and work environment. The job analysis questionnaire can be self-designed or off-the-shelf, with the best-known example being the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ)
Work logThe employee records their daily activities, the time spent on each, and the urgency of each activity. This log forms the basis for analyzing the job.

4. Analysis

The time spent on analysis depends on the data collected. When you collect large amounts of quantitative data, it is useful to report mean scores, standard deviations, number of participants, and the standard error of the mean (SEM). SEM measures the reliability or precision of the results. For example, a high SEM value for a specific task may require additional research.

In the example below, we can see that there is consensus among participants about the first four tasks but there is a low mean score about expectation management for visitor waiting time. This may indicate that this is not seen as part of the core role. Maybe only more senior professionals do this, or it is not seen as part of the core job (so it may be qualified as extra-role behavior). 

Task for ReceptionistMSDNSEM
1. Answering the intercom4.30.5490.1
2. Welcoming guests and seating them4.00.6480.1
3. Providing refreshments to guests3.71.2200.3
4. Answering questions from visitors3.21.6320.3
5. Managing expectations about visitor waiting time2.52120.6

Morgeson and colleagues list a number of other more analytical techniques to measure validity, such as correlation and regression, factor and cluster analysis, and other multivariate techniques. They also offer several methods to assess reliability, including inter-judge agreement, interjudge reliability, and internal consistency.

5. Impact

An essential last step is the realization of the intended impact of the job analysis. This is referred to as consequential validity. It is the degree to which the job analysis impacts the interventions derived from it.

In other words, does the job analysis lead to a tangible impact on Human Resource Management? This is hard to assess but crucial when it comes to making job analysis process choices for the next time around. 

If a quick interview with two receptionists yields almost the same quality job description as a structured study of all thirty, the former approach is much more cost-efficient. Not only because it saves the job analyst time but also because it saves the receptionists hours and hours which they can spend focusing on their tasks.

With the ongoing digital transformation and evolving talent landscape, it’s also important to realize that job analysis isn’t a one-and-done activity.

“The whole point of conducting a job analysis, besides creating a detailed job description, is to continually streamline and evolve the position with industry changes and organizational growth. Once you have conducted an in-depth evaluation of the job duties and identified skills gaps, remember that your efforts will only stay relevant for a couple of years or so,” says Anjela Mangrum from a manufacturing recruiting agency and executive search firm Mangrum Career Solutions.

“HR professionals should be prepared to repeat the entire process in three years, max.”

Richard Nolan, Chief People Officer at Epos Now, echoes this. “Job descriptions need to stay up-to-date with any changes or advancements related to the job’s tasks and duties, as well as technological advancements relevant to the position. This will ensure that all employees are clear on what rights and responsibilities come along with taking on that particular role within the organization,” Nolan explains.

Job analysis examples

Let’s have a look at two examples of what a completed job analysis could look like in practice.

1. Sales job analysis example

Job titleSales Representative
ClassificationFull-time employee
LocationMill Creek, Washington
Pay gradeLevel I
Job requirements
Summary of positionEnsures current customers have the products and services they need. Identifies and pursues new markets and customer leads and pitches prospective customers. Follows a sales process that involves contacting prospects, following up, presenting products and services, and closing sales. Creates weekly, monthly, and quarterly sales reports and projections. Meets annual sales goals.
Job duties– Generate leads
– Create client lists
– Contact prospects and negotiate with them
– Follow up with prospects and existing customers
– Close sales
– Maintain client records
– Create and present sales reports
Skills– Desktop office programs proficiency
– Proficiency in CRM
– Good customer service and interpersonal skills
– Good communication skills
Reporting structure– Reports directly to the national sales manager
– No one reports to this position
– Must attend yearly sales meeting
Employee requirements
Education– Bachelor’s degree in business, finance, marketing, economics, or a related field
– At least five years of sales experience
Skills– Adapts to changing customer needs and expectations
– Adapts to market changes
– Can confidently make hundreds of cold calls a week
– Able to work comfortably in a fast-paced environment
Environment– High-volume office setting
– Sitting at a desk for most of the day
– Travel to meet clients
Certifications and licenses– Washington state driver’s license
– National Association of Sales Professionals’ Certified Professional Sales Person
– American Association of Inside Sales Professionals’ Certified Inside Sales Professional
Success factors
Increase sales– Grow referral-based sales by 10% per year
– Grow market channel penetration by 12% in the first year
Grow sales department– Train at least one new junior sales associate

2. Entry-level job analysis example

Job titleAssistant Editor
ClassificationFull-time employee
DepartmentBook production
LocationMalibu, California
Pay gradeLevel III
Job requirements
Summary of positionAssists the Editor-in-Chief and publisher in developing and delivering manuscripts. Reviews and proofreads manuscripts. Conceptualizes and pitches stories. Supports the Editor-in-Chief and coordinates with other departments, such as production and sales. Writes press releases and markets new books. Finds new authors. 
Job duties– Perform editorial duties to support the Editor-in-Chief
– Find and contact new authors
– Review and make changes to documents
– Attend signings, readings, and book launches
Skills– Desktop publishing software proficiency
– Good time management
– Ability to multitask
– Good interpersonal skills
– Good communication skills
Reporting structure– Reports to the Editor-in-Chief and publisher
– No one reports to the Assistant Editor
Employee requirements
Education– Bachelor’s degree in English, literature, journalism, or a related field
Skills– Ability to read fast and identify errors and flow
– Strong writing and reading skills
– Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously
– Thriving on deadlines
Environment– Fast-paced office setting
– Sitting at a desk for most of the time
– Travel to book events 50% of the time
Certifications and licenses– California state driver’s license
– A member of the American Copy Editors Society 
Success factors
Improve efficiency– Reduce time to complete projects by 15%
– Identify innovative programs to improve editing
Business development– Find at least ten new good authors every year
– Train interns

Your job analysis output doesn’t have to be exactly as in the sample job analysis above. Tweak it to make it relevant to your organization and position.

Job description vs job analysis

A job analysis is a systematic process of collecting information related to a specific job, while a job description is a document that indicates what a job covers.

In job analysis, the analyst collects information such as the knowledge and skills required to perform a specific job for various purposes, such as strategic workforce planning. The job description includes all the details, such as tasks, duties, responsibilities, powers, authorities, etc. A job description is an outcome of a job analysis.

To sum up

Job analysis is a brilliant and well-tested technique that has a clear place in Human Resource Management. Indeed, a good application of job analysis will impact business outcomes. HR professionals can use this data to make better hiring decisions and ensure higher on-the-job performance through targeted training and effective performance management.

However, to succeed, you must take a structured approach to cover all the critical aspects of the job, as detailed in the process steps discussed.

Job analysis is also a very time-intensive technique. Conducting a detailed job analysis will involve filling in questionnaires or interviewing up to tens of people, making it a very costly endeavor. You should always ask the question of to what extent a full job analysis is worth it. You also need to take into account the rapidly changing nature of work – although this may, at the same time, be a reason to do the job analysis in the first place.


What is job analysis?

Job analysis is a systematic process in which a job is broken into smaller units like tasks and activities which are then analyzed to describe what is done in the job or what capabilities are needed to do the job.

What are the objectives of job analysis?

The objective of a job analysis is to get a deeper understanding of the job and use the information in creating job descriptions, job design, performance appraisals, worker training, workforce planning, or to make the job safer.

When should a job analysis be conducted?

Job analysis is often conducted as the first step in the recruitment process, when restructuring roles and teams, or before strategic workforce planning.

Who should conduct a job analysis?

HR professionals, employees, managers, or a trained job analyst or consultant can conduct a job analysis depending on the purpose and goal of the analysis.

How to conduct a job analysis?

A job analysis is conducted by defining its purpose, selecting the job analysis method, gathering and analyzing data, and implementing the findings to have an impact on your Human Resources Management policies.

Why is job analysis important?

A job analysis enables better human resources decisions. For example, a thorough job analysis will lead to a better job description, which leads to a better hiring decision and higher on-the-job performance as a consequence. It will also lead to a more precise way to give performance management feedback, leading in turn to better performance – and so on.

What are benefits of job analysis?

A job analysis creates a deep understanding of all tasks and activities involved in doing the job. This is helpful for many HR processes, including the creation of a job description, training needs analysis, to make the job safer, or to optimize the time spent on the job. 

What are the disadvantages of job analysis?

The main disadvantage of job analysis is the time involved in doing a thorough analysis. Such an analysis can take hours for both the job analyst and the people in the job. It’s also necessary to be aware of the observer or analyst bias.

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