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  This job analysis article defines what job analysis is, explains the importance of job analysis in Human Resource Management, analyzes different methods of job analysis, details how to perform job analysis, and explains how to write job descriptions.



A study of a specific job, or of all jobs, in an enterprise with respect to operations involved, working conditions, and qualifications required, etc.

 Organizations exist to accomplish some goal or objective. They are collectivities rather than individuals because achieving the goals requires the efforts (work) of a number of people (workers). The point at which the work and the worker come together is called a job — it is the role played by the worker. We need to know a lot of information about these roles/jobs, including:

  • What does or should the person do?
  • What knowledge, skill, and abilities does it take to perform this job?
  • What is the result of the person performing the job?
  • How does this job fit in with other jobs in the organization?
  • What is the job's contribution toward the organization's goals?

Information about jobs is obtained through a process called job analysis.

The goal of this process is to secure all necessary job data. Job evaluation represents the major use of job analysis. It is also our focus in this article. Because the job information needed for various uses may differ, some organizations make a specialized study for each specific use. .


Job analysis as a management technique was developed around 1900. It became one of the tools by which managers understood and directed organizations. Frederick W. Taylor, through his interest in improving the efficiency of work, made studying the job one of his principles of scientific management. From his ideas emerged time and motion study of jobs. Early organization theorists were interested in how jobs fit into organizations; they focused on the purpose of the job. But this early interest in job analysis disappeared as the human relations movement focused on other issues. It was not until the 1960s that psychologists and other behavioral scientists rediscovered jobs as a focus of study in organizations.

 The organization with the greatest long-term interest in job analysis has been the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The United States Employment Service (USES) of the DOL's Training and Employment Administration has developed job analysis procedures and instruments over many years. These procedures probably represent the strongest single influence on job analysis practice in the United States. The DOL's Guide for Analyzing Jobs and Handbook for Analyzing Jobs show the development of job analysis procedures over almost 50 years. They developed and published The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) , and they have a policy of helping private employers install job analysis programs. The DOL has led in the development of what is often called the conventional approach to job analysis.

The U.S. Department of Labor last fully updated its Dictionary of Occupational Titles in 1977, with 12,741 positions described (a minor update was released in 1991). No further government releases are planned as O*NET and its SOC codes have replaced the "DOT" in its entirety. ERI has updated the abandoned U.S. DOT. New job descriptions have evolved from ERI's analysis of thousands of salary surveys. Job analysis work fields, skills, MSPMS, and worker-specific occupational characteristics, including new stress measures, are added, updated, and/or enhanced for 14,000 position descriptions and 95,000 occupation titles.

Up to this point, job analysis had focused on the work being done. This changed in the 1970s as psychologists became interested in job analysis. Their contribution was in three areas. The first was in quantifying job analysis. They began to develop questionnaires to collect data on jobs. Second, they contributed to the trend toward a worker orientation to job analysis. Third, they focused in some cases on units smaller than the job, the task, or elements within jobs.


There is no one way to study jobs. Many models of job analysis now exist, each focusing on some particular use for job analysis. The process may seek to obtain information about the:

  • work
  • worker
  • context within which the job exists

Further, the approach may be either inductive or deductive. In an inductive approach, information about a job is collected first and then organized into a framework to create a description of a job. In a deductive approach, a model of the information is developed and the collection of data focuses upon this model.

The job analysis formula first outlined by the DOL in 1946 is a simplified but complete model of obtaining information on work activities. The formula consists of (1) what the worker does, (2) how he or she does it, (3) why he or she does it, and (4) the skill involved in doing it. In fact, providing the what, how, and why of each task and the total job should constitute a functional description of work activities for compensation purposes.

 Five Types of Job Descriptors

  1. Worker Functions. The relationship of the worker to data, people, and things.
  2. Work Fields. The techniques used to complete the tasks of the job. Over 100 such fields have been identified. This descriptor also includes the machines, tools, equipment, and work aids that are used in the job.
  3. Materials, Products, Subject Matter, and/or Services. The outcomes of the job or the purpose of performing the job.
  4. Worker Traits. The aptitudes, educational and vocational training, and personal traits required of the worker.
  5. Physical Demands. Job requirements such as strength, observation, and talking. This descriptor also includes the physical environment of the work.


Dimensions of job analysis

There are a multitude of job analysis methods. These methods differ on a number of dimensions. We will examine:

  • The level of analysis
  • The information to be collected
  • Methods of collecting information
  • Sources of information


Level of Analysis

By calling the concept we're discussing job analysis, we imply that the unit of analysis is the job. Actually, the level or unit of analysis represents a decision that is worthy of discussion.

The lowest level is employee attributes — the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by the job. Some of the models discussed in the previous section suggested this level of descriptor.

One level up is the element. An element is often considered the smallest division of work activity apart from separate motions, although it may be used to describe singular motions. As such, it is the unit of analysis for time and motion study, and is used primarily by industrial engineers.

The next level is the task, a discrete unit of work performed by an individual. A task is a more independent unit of analysis. It consists of a sequence of activities that completes a work assignment.

When sufficient tasks accumulate to justify the employment of a worker, a position exists. There are as many positions as employees in an organization.

A job is a group of positions that are identical in their major or significant tasks. The positions are sufficiently alike, in other words, to justify being covered by a single analysis and description. One or many persons may be employed on the same job.

Jobs found in more than one organization are termed occupations.

Finally, occupations grouped by function are usually referred to as job families.

Obviously, the level or unit of analysis chosen may influence the decision of whether the work is similar or dissimilar. By law (the Equal Pay Act of 1963) if jobs are similar, both sexes must be paid equally; if jobs are different, pay differences may exist.

As suggested in the previous section, the unit of analysis used differs among organizations. Although the procedure is called job analysis, organizations using it may collect data at several levels of analysis. Research has shown that jobs can be similar or dissimilar at different levels of analysis. The more detailed the analysis, the more likely that differences will be found.


Information to Be Collected

Since the job is the connection between the organization and the employee, it may be useful to develop a model based on this common connection. We can say that both the organization and the employee contribute to the job and expect to receive something from it. In order for these results to come about, something has to happen inside the job. This dual systems-exchange model is illustrated in the system exchange model of job analysis.

The vertical dimension of the model is the person-job relationship. The person brings his or her knowledge, skills, abilities, and effort to the job (cell 1). These are used in activities, which are divided into physical, mental, and interactional types (cell 3). For the person, the results are the rewards and satisfaction received from working on the job (cell 5). These rewards can be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are the basic subject of this book.

The horizontal dimension of the model is the organization-job relationship. The organization brings to the job resources needed to perform the job and ways to do the job that coordinate with organizational needs; the latter are perceived as constraints (cell 2). These resources and constraints determine the way the job activities (cell 3) are carried out. The organizational results are some product created or service performed by the employee; these outcomes are in the form of a change in data, people, and/or objects (cell 4). These results can be defined in terms of quantity, quality, and time.

Responsibilities and duties. We should not leave this section without a word about two commonly used terms: responsibilities and duties. While job descriptions are often organized around these concepts, we feel that they are not useful terms in identifying job content. Both terms move the analyst away from thinking about what is done and how. When done well, descriptions of duties and responsibilities describe why work is done adequately (cell 4). But few of these descriptions do this well. This leaves the job incumbent with some vague statement about why he or she is doing something, but little knowledge of what it is or how to do it (cell 3). This makes it difficult to determine performance levels. And the job evaluator has a collection of words that provides little help in determining the relative worth of jobs in the organization. Adjectives then become the main determinant of job level. It is this kind of job description that has lead many personnel directors to decry the futility of job analysis and job descriptions.


Methods and Sources of Job Information

Probably the most common picture that comes to mind when one thinks about collecting job information is that of an analyst interviewing a job incumbent. This is indeed a common way in which job information is collected, but it is far from the only way. The best interviews are those for which the analyst has prepared by examining organization data, as well as any past descriptions of the job. A related technique would be to observe the job incumbent performing the job. This technique is most successful for jobs that are physical in nature. The interview or observation may be totally inductive, one in which the analyst has no preconceived idea about the job, to a very structured situation in which the analyst has a clear pro-forma as to the information sought.

While these one-on-one techniques may be the most common, it is not the only way for an analyst to obtain information directly from others. Of increasing popularity are group-based techniques. Such groups may consist of any of the following:

  • Knowledgeable incumbents
  • Supervisors
  • Technical experts such as industrial engineers or organization analysts
  • Others that deal with the incumbents of the job

Any combination of these groups may be used, for instance, in a manner similar to a 360-degree performance appraisal.

The advantage of using groups is to collect a large amount of information rapidly, as well as to provide help in integrating the information. However, using groups can be costly, and getting the group together may be difficult.

A more typically structured technique is that of a questionnaire. This may be used by the job analyst in an interview, but it is more typically completed by the incumbent without such aid. Preparation of a questionnaire takes both time and skill of individuals knowledgeable of both the jobs and questionnaire preparation. Questionnaires may be of a paper and pencil variety, but recently are more likely to be a computer-based program. Computer-based questionnaires may be either designed specifically for the organization, or a more general one used to collect information from a large number of people working in many different organizations.

Lastly, the organization has a variety of information that is useful for gathering information about specific jobs, particularly the job context. These may be:

  • Policies and procedures manuals
  • Other records such as performance appraisals, old job descriptions, correspondence regarding the job, and information about work output
  • Literature regarding the job, both from within the organization and outside the organization
  • Where equipment plays a large part of the job, the design specifications





There is a plethora of job analysis methods, and it would be fruitless to try and discuss all of them. In this section we will review some of the more popular approaches to job analysis, as well as those that represent a particular approach.

It will be seen that these job analysis methods differ in descriptors, levels of analysis, and methods of collecting, analyzing, and presenting data. We will evaluate these approaches in terms of purpose, descriptor applicability, cost, reliability, and validity.

 Conventional Procedures

Conventional job analysis programs typically involve collecting job information by observing and/or interviewing job incumbents. Job descriptions are then prepared in essay form. Much of the conventional approach comes from the long experience of the United States Employment Service in analyzing jobs. As mentioned previously, the original job analysis formula of the DOL provided for obtaining work activities. The DOL's 1972 revision of this schedule requires the job title, job summary, and description of tasks (these were referred to as work performed in the 1946 formula), as well as other data.

Conventional job analysis treats work activities as the primary job descriptor. As a consequence, the use of the conventional approach by private organizations focuses largely on work activities rather than on the five types of descriptors used in the DOL job analysis schedule.

Because job evaluation purports to distinguish jobs on the importance of work activities to the employing organization, this descriptor seems primary. In fact, using the DOL's original job analysis formula (what the worker does, how the worker does it, and why the worker does it) may provide reasonable assurance that all the work activities are covered. One of the functions of this model is to require the analyst to seek out the purpose of the work.

In some private use of the conventional approach, worker attributes required by the job are also sought. Ratings of education, training, and experience required may be obtained, as well as information on contacts required, report writing, decisions, and supervision. In part, these categories represent worker attributes, and in part they represent a search for specific work activities.

Some conventional job analysis programs ask job incumbents to complete a preliminary questionnaire describing their jobs. The purpose is to provide the analyst with a first draft of the necessary job information. It is also meant to be a first step in obtaining incumbent and supervisor approval of the final job description. Of course, not all employees enjoy filling out questionnaires. Also, employees vary in verbal skills and may overstate or understate their work activities. Usually, the job analyst follows the questionnaire by interviewing the employee and observing his or her job.


Reliability and validity. Conventional job analysis is subjective. It depends on the objectivity and analytical ability of the analyst, as well as the information provided by job incumbents and other informants. Measuring reliability (consistency) and validity is difficult because the data is non-quantitative. Having two or more individuals analyze the job independently would provide some measure of reliability, but would also add to the cost. Perhaps the strongest contributor to both reliability and validity is the common practice of securing acceptance from both job incumbents and supervisors before job descriptions are considered final. These procedures develop a content validity for job descriptions.


Costs. Conventional job analysis takes the time of the analyst, job incumbents, and those assigned to ensure consistent analysis and form. In the author's experience, people with moderate analytical skills can be taught to analyze jobs on the basis of the job analysis formula (what, how, why) in a few hours.

An early survey found some dissatisfaction with conventional job analysis, especially with its costs and the difficulty of keeping the information current. McCormick's review of job analysis, while concluding that the continued use of conventional methods testifies that they serve some purposes well, suggests more attention to a comprehensive model and more quantification.

As suggested earlier in the article, work activities represent the primary descriptor in job analysis for job evaluation purposes. However, these data take considerable effort to obtain and are of questionable reliability. It would be desirable to develop a standardized quantitative approach that retains the advantages of conventional job analysis, while permitting a less costly and time-consuming approach.


  Position Analysis Questionnaire

The best-known quantitative approach to job analysis is probably the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ), developed by McCormick and associates at Purdue University. The PAQ is a structured job analysis questionnaire containing 194 items called job elements. These elements are worker-oriented. Using the terminology of the DOL's 1972 job analysis formula, they would be classified as worker behaviors. The items are organized into six divisions:

(1)   information input

(2) mental processes

(3) work output (physical activities and tools)

(4) relationships with others

(5) job context (the physical and social environment)

(6) other job characteristics (such as pace and structure)


Each job element is rated on six scales: extent of use, importance, time, possibility of occurrence, applicability, and a special code for certain jobs.

Job analysts or supervisors usually complete the PAQ. In some instances managerial, professional, or other white-collar job incumbents fill out the instrument. The reason for such limitations is that the reading requirements of the method are at least at the college-graduate level. Training in the use of the PAQ is available Data from the PAQ can be analyzed in several ways. For a specific job, individual ratings can be averaged to yield the relative importance of and emphasis on various job elements, and the results can be summarized as a job description. The elements can also be clustered into a profile rating on a large number of job dimensions to permit comparison of this job with others. Estimates of employee aptitude requirements can be made. Job evaluation points can be estimated from the items related to pay. Finally, an occupational prestige score can be computed. Analysts can enter collected data online in PAQ'sEnter-act system, or (for a fee) they can send it to PAQ Services, Inc., for entry.

Reliability and Validity. The PAQ has been shown to have a respectable level of reliability. An analysis of 92 jobs by two independent groups yielded a reliability coefficient of 0.79.

 Functional Job Analysis

Functional Job Analysis (FJA) is usually thought of in terms of the familiar "data, people, things" hierarchies used in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Developed by Sidney A. Fine Associates, this comprehensive approach has five components:

(1)   identification of purposes, goals, and objectives

(2) identification and description of tasks

(3) analysis of tasks on seven scales, including three worker-function scales (one each for data, people, and things)

(4) development of performance standards

(5) development of training content


Trained job analysts develop FJA data from background materials, interviews with workers and supervisors, and observation. The method provides data for job design, selection, training, and evaluation, and could be used at least partially for most other personnel applications. It has been applied to jobs at every level.

The major descriptor in FJA is work activity. Fine and his colleagues have developed a number of task banks as a means of standardizing information on this descriptor. FJA is rigorous, but it does require a heavy investment of time and effort.


Regardless of who collects job information and how they do it, the end product of job analysis is a standardized job description. A job description describes the job as it is being performed. In a sense, a job description is a snapshot of the job as of the time it was analyzed. Ideally they are written so that any reader, whether familiar with the job or not, can "see" what the worker does, how, and why. What the worker does describes the physical, mental, and interactional activities of the job. How deals with the methods, procedures, tools, and information sources used to carry out the tasks. Why refers to the objective of the work activities; this should be included in the job summary and in each task description.

An excellent set of prescriptions of writing style for job descriptions is offered by the Handbook for Analyzing Jobs.19 These include a terse, direct style; present tense; an active verb beginning each task description and the summary statement; an objective for each task; and no unnecessary or fuzzy words. The handbook also suggests how the basic task statement should be structured: (1) present-tense active verb, (2) immediate object of the verb, and (3) infinitive phrase showing the objective. An example would be: (1) collects, (2) credit information, (3) to determine credit rating.

Unfortunately, many words have more than one meaning. Perhaps the easiest way to promote accurate job-description writing is to select only active verbs that permit the reader to see someone actually doing something.


This article started by stating that job analysis is the first step in most Human Resource activities and, in particular, in wage setting. Despite this, the future of job analysis is in doubt. Many would claim that job analysis is an outdated activity that the times have made obsolete. It is seen as a symbol of the out-of-date bureaucratic organization that is being supplanted with smaller, more nimble forms of organization. The reasons for this concern are many:

  • Jobs are changing in a way that makes them more fluid and flexible. Workers are required to do "what needs to be done," and not "what is in the job description."
  • Job descriptions are becoming more generic, and more like occupational descriptions than job descriptions.
  • Job descriptions are broad so as to accommodate the growth of the individual on the job without requiring a whole series of promotions.
  • Automation impacts job descriptions in that the function of the worker is changing to more mental or non-observational activities.
  • The computer is impacting job analysis by creating new ways to collect data, and allows for a higher level of analysis than in the past.
  • There is a greater concern with the personal aspects of job analysis (such as personality traits required for success or competencies and interpersonal relations ) than the traditional work-related topics.
  • Teams are becoming more important in getting work done. These teams require members to do a range of activities in the team that are broader than that typically contained in a job description.

Interestingly, much of the discussion about the demise of job analysis is really about the demise of the job analyst. The position of job analyst is being incorporated into the role of the people who need to use information about jobs in order to accomplish their work. One sign of this is the use of new terms to cover the task of analyzing jobs, including work analysis, work modeling, and competency modeling.



1 Brannick, M.T. and Levine, E.L., Job Analysis: Methods, Research and Applications for Human Resource Management in the New Millennium, Thousand Oaks, CA., Sage Publishers, 2002.

2. Fine, S.A. and Cronshaw, S.F. Functional Job Analysis: A Foundation for Human Resource Management, Mahwah, N.J. Lawrence Erlbaum, Publishers, 1999.

3. McCormick, E.J., Jeanneret, P.R. and Mecham, R.C. Position Analysis Questionnaire, Bellingham, WA. PAQ Services, 1989.

4. H. Risher, "Job Analysis: A Management Perspective," Employee Relations Law Journal, Spring 1979, pp. 535-51.

5. K. Perlman, "Job Families: A Review and Discussion of Their Implications for Personnel Selection," Psychological Bulletin (1980), 1-28.

6. E. J. Cornelius 111, T. J. Carron, and M. N. Collins, "Job Analysis Models and Job Classification," Personnel Psychology (1979), 693-708.

7. Hartley, D.E., "Job Analysis at the Speed of Reality," Training and Development, September 2004, pp. 20-22.

8. Brannick & Levine, Op Cit.

9.  Peterson, N.G., Jeanneret, P.R., Mumford, M.D. & Borman, W.C. Occupational Information System for the 21st Century, 1999.

10.  Lucia, A.D. & Lepsinger, R. The Art and Science of Competency Models: Pinpointing Success Factors in Organizations, San Francisco, Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer, 1999.

11. "The Future of Salary Administration" Compensation and Benefits Review, July/August, 2001, p.10.

(ArticlesBase ID #999561)

1 comment:

france pope said...

Very nice post, thanks for sharing the information. Keep up the good work.

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