The importance of a job analysis for hiring

Written by Bekah Regan, former Senior Consultant

A job analysis serves as a foundation to design selection systems, training, development programs, career pathing, and other key organizational initiatives. It often involves conversations with subject matter experts, survey data collection, observations of specific positions and work environment, reviews of existing training documents, org charts, and the like. Although job analysis tasks may not be the most riveting, they are a prudent step toward designing selection systems that are fair, consistent, and comprehensive — ultimately ensuring that organizations make the most effective hiring decisions possible.

Promoting fairness in hiring

Fairness in the selection process means basing hiring decisions solely on job-related criteria, and not being influenced by a candidate’s status in a protected class. A job analysis helps you capture job-relevant responsibilities and critical competencies for success so you can determine appropriate selection tools and develop sound rationale for your selection process — everything from the job descriptions you post to the application, assessments, and interview questions you develop.

An accurate and complete understanding of the position may inform application and interview guide development. For example, it may be necessary to lift up to 50 pounds of equipment to be successful on the job. Whether this is asked via the online application or verbally during an interview, you need not probe how a person will do this, only if they can do it. “Are you able to lift up to 50 pounds with or without reasonable accommodation?” is an appropriate and fair question, while “How could you lift up to 50 pounds with your disability?” is not.

Beyond essential job functions and tasks, a thorough job analysis will also provide insight on personality and behavior-based competencies that contribute to success in-role. Developing this type of success profile helps you align selection tools (assessments, interview guides) with clearly defined job-related competencies. Emphasizing personality and behavior-based competencies over historical education and experience requirements will oftentimes lead you to consider a more diverse pool of candidates, and can favorably impact selection ratios across subgroups.

Adding consistency to selection

Job analysis also supports consistency in the hiring process, whereby all individuals applying to the same position go through the same process and are measured against the same criteria and standards. Decisions made around the hiring process and criteria are supported by information gathered during a job analysis, whether it’s leveraging essential job tasks to design a work sample/job simulation or identifying interview questions and rating scales based on core personality and behavior-based competencies.

Once clearly defined criteria are established (based on job analysis findings), the next step is to apply those standards consistently across candidates. Inconsistency in your selection process can surface across steps of the hiring flow or within a certain step. For example, allowing some individuals to bypass or skip steps in the process, which tends to happen with referrals. Or, allowing too much flexibility in an interview, whereby interviewers can pick and choose what to ask and/or there is no standard benchmark to evaluate candidate responses. This inconsistency makes for a less confident hiring decision; when you’re not assessing individuals according to the same criteria, then you can’t be sure who is the best fit for the role.

Enhancing company culture

A job analysis provides the framework for developing a complete picture of the target position, so you can make sure the hiring process evaluates all important aspects of what it takes to be successful. Without a full understanding of the job, you may be missing a key criterion for success.

Additionally, as you prepare and collect data from multiple sources, you gain insight into organizational culture, team strengths/gaps, the work environment, etc. This rich information helps recruiters to be more effective in two ways: first, they are better able to identify candidates who will complement the team, and second, they can provide realistic depictions of the job (the positives and the challenges). This will allow candidates to make an informed decision as well. No surprises!

So…does conducting a job analysis really matter?

I hope after reading this your answer was a solid, ‘yes.’ Job analyses may not look the same for every organization or every position – you have to work with the information and resources available to you. However, using a job analysis to mold your recruitment and selection system will put you on the path toward a fair, consistent, and comprehensive approach.

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