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Job Analysis and Job Descriptions

19 January, 2016 - 15:28

The job analysis is a formal system developed to determine what tasks people actually perform in their jobs. The purpose of a job analysis is to ensure creation of the right fit between the job and the employee and to determine how employee performance will be assessed. A major part of the job analysis includes research, which may mean reviewing job responsibilities of current employees, researching job descriptions for similar jobs with competitors, and analyzing any new responsibilities that need to be accomplished by the person with the position. According to research by Hackman and Oldham, 1 a job diagnostic survey should be used to diagnose job characteristics prior to any redesign of a job. This is discussed in "Retention and Motivation".

To start writing a job analysis, data need to be gathered and analyzed, keeping in mind Hackman and Oldham’s model. Figure 4.1 "Process for Writing the Job Analysis"shows the process of writing a job analysis. Please note, though, that a job analysis is different from a job design. Job design refers to how a job can be modified or changed to be more effective—for example, changing tasks as new technology becomes available. We discuss job design in "Retention and Motivation" and  "Employee Assessment".

Figure 4.1 Process for Writing the Job Analysis 

The information gathered from the job analysis is used to develop both the job description and the job specifications. A job description is a list of tasks, duties, and responsibilities of a job. Job specifications, on the other hand, discuss the skills and abilities the person must have to perform the job. The two are tied together, as job descriptions are usually written to include job specifications. A job analysis must be performed first, and then based on that data, we can successfully write the job description and job specifications. Think of the analysis as “everything an employee is required and expected to do.”

Figure 4.2 Sample Job Analysis Questionnaire This questionnaire shows how an HR professional might gather data for a job analysis. Questionnaires can be completed on paper or online. 


Two types of job analyses can be performed: a task-based analysis and a competency- or skills-based analysis. A task-based analysis focuses on the duties of the job, as opposed to a competency-based analysis, which focuses on the specific knowledge and abilities an employee must have to perform the job. An example of a task-based analysis might include information on the following:

  1. Write performance evaluations for employees.
  2. Prepare reports.
  3. Answer incoming phone calls.
  4. Assist customers with product questions.
  5. Cold-call three customers a day.

With task job analysis, the specific tasks are listed and it is clear. With competency based, it is less clear and more objective. However, competency-based analysis might be more appropriate for specific, high-level positions. For example, a competency-based analysis might include the following:

  1. Able to utilize data analysis tools
  2. Able to work within teams
  3. Adaptable
  4. Innovative

You can clearly see the difference between the two. The focus of task-based analyses is the job duties required, while the focus of competency-based analyses is on how a person can apply their skills to perform the job. One is not better than the other but is simply used for different purposes and different types of jobs. For example, a task-based analysis might be used for a receptionist, while a competency-based analysis might be used for a vice president of sales position. Consider the legal implications, however, of which job analysis is used. Because a competency-based job analysis is more subjective, it might be more difficult to tell whether someone has met the criteria.

Once you have decided if a competency-based or task-based analysis is more appropriate for the job, you can prepare to write the job analysis. Of course, this isn’t something that should be done alone. Feedback from managers should be taken into consideration to make this task useful in all levels of the organization. Organization is a key component to preparing for your job analysis. For example, will you perform an analysis on all jobs in the organization or just focus on one department? Once you have determined how you will conduct the analysis, a tool to conduct the analysis should be chosen. Most organizations use questionnaires (online or hard copy) to determine the duties of each job title. Some organizations will use face-to-face interviews to perform this task, depending on time constraints and the size of the organization. A job analysis questionnaire usually includes the following types of questions, obviously depending on the type of industry:

  1. Employee information such as job title, how long in position, education level, how many years of experience in the industry
  2. Key tasks and responsibilities
  3. Decision making and problem solving: this section asks employees to list situations in which problems needed to be solved and the types of decisions made or solutions provided.
  4. Level of contact with colleagues, managers, outside vendors, and customers
  5. Physical demands of the job, such as the amount of heavy lifting or ability to see, hear, or walk
  6. Personal abilities required to do the job—that is, personal characteristics needed to perform well in this position
  7. Specific skills required to do the job—for example, the ability to run a particular computer program
  8. Certifications to perform the job

Once all employees (or the ones you have identified) have completed the questionnaire, you can organize the data, which is helpful in creating job descriptions. If there is more than one person completing a questionnaire for one job title, the data should be combined to create one job analysis for one job title. There are a number of software packages available to help human resources perform this task, such as AutoGOJA.

Once the job analysis has been completed, it is time to write the job description and specifications, using the data you collected. Job descriptions should always include the following components:

  1. Job functions (the tasks the employee performs)
  2. Knowledge, skills, and abilities (what an employee is expected to know and be able to do, as well as personal attributes)
  3. Education and experience required
  4. Physical requirements of the job (ability to lift, see, or hear, for example)
Figure 4.3 Sample Job Description Notice how the job description includes the job function; knowledge, skills, and abilities required to do the job; education and experience required; and the physical requirements of the job.

Once the job description has been written, obtaining approval from the hiring manager is the next step. Then the HR professional can begin to recruit for the position. Before we discuss specific recruitment strategies, we should address the law and how it relates to hiring. This is the topic of "The Law and Recruitment".

Tips to Writing a Good Job Description

  • Be sure to include the pertinent information:
    • Title
    • Department
    • Reports to
    • Duties and responsibilities
    • terms of employment
    • qualifications needed
  • Think of the job description as a snapshot of the job.
  • Communicate clearly and concisely.
  • Make sure the job description is interesting to the right candidate applying for the job.
  • Avoid acronyms.
  • Don’t try to fit all job aspects into the job description.
  • Proofread the job description.

Human Resource Call

Does your current job or past job have a job description? Did it closely match the tasks you actually performed?

Key Takeaways

  • The recruitment process provides the organization with a pool of qualified applicants.
  • Some companies choose to hire internal candidates—that is, candidates who are already working for the organization. However, diversity is a consideration here as well.
  • A job analysis is a systematic approach to determine what a person actually does in his or her job. This process might involve a questionnaire to all employees. Based on this analysis, an accurate job description and job specifications can be written. A job description lists the components of the job, while job specifications list the requirements to perform the job.


  1. Do an Internet search for “job description.” Review three different job descriptions and then answer the following questions for each of the jobs:
  • What are the job specifications?
  • Are the physical demands mentioned?
  • Is the job description task based or competency based?
  • How might you change this job description to obtain more qualified candidates?

Why do the five steps of the recruitment process require input from other parts of the organization? How might you handle a situation in which the employees or management are reluctant to complete a job analysis?