How to conduct a job analysis

Written by Kate Van Bremen, Ph.D., Consultant
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

The purpose of a job analysis is to learn what’s important for success in a specific job – what kind of knowledge, skills, abilities, traits, behaviors, etc. (also known as KSAOs) are important for success in the role. Once we’ve identified the competencies, or the tasks important to successfully perform the job, we can determine how best to measure those.

The data from a job analysis can help inform a myriad of things important in the employee life cycle: Job descriptions, selection criteria, interview guides, performance evaluation criteria, etc. Conducting a rigorous job analysis helps to bolster the legal defensibility of the selection process that’s created by demonstrating the job-relatedness of the KSAs measured. The steps involved in understanding how to conduct a job analysis can vary and be accomplished in different ways, but, below are pieces that may comprise a solid job analysis.

Note that as you’re collecting this data at each step, it’s important to keep in mind the sample that you capture – whether through observations, meetings, surveys, etc. – is a representative sample of the population. For example, you don’t want to only look at those on first shift, if the requirements of those on second shift are different, you’d want to be sure to include them in the analyses. If there are multiple departments that fall under the job title you’re analyzing, be sure to include the various departments, to the extent it’s possible. It’s also ideal to have the demographics of the sample you analyze be relatively proportionate to the distribution of those demographics in the current employee population.

1) Gathering archival data

An important first step is to collect any existing information where we can learn about what KSAs are important for success in the role. This could include job descriptions where the job requirements are listed (e.g., “high attention to detail”). It may include reviewing any current competency modeling that outlines the competencies important for success within the organization and this position. It could also include performance evaluation forms and criteria. This tells us the benchmark an employee’s performance is being measured against (e.g., “Follows safety procedures”).

2) Facility tour/job observation

This allows job analysts to observe what’s happening on the job – the tasks being performed as part of the job (e.g., counting product to pack in boxes), the environment (e.g., hot, dusty), the extent to which they interact with others, etc. Of course, you need to use good judgment for this step. It makes sense to include this in the job analysis when the job is more entry level. In more professional level positions, it may not be as valuable to watch employees respond to emails or write reports.

3) Focus groups with Job Content Experts (JCEs)

In this step of the process an analyst would meet with those who know the job and the responsibilities of the position very well. This could include current, high performing employees and those who supervise the position. Generally, one or two analysts might meet with a group of 5 – 8 JCEs, but the groups could also be much smaller or even be one-on-one interviews. During these meetings, as with the other steps in the process, the goal is to learn what it takes to be successful in the role. What tasks are being performed? What KSA’s are required? What kind of traits or skills do successful employees demonstrate?

4) Surveys

It’s not always practical or advisable to interview every incumbent in the role. In order to get the input of the broader population of employees in the position, though, it’s good to have additional incumbents complete a survey where they provide ratings of the importance of the competencies identified as important for success in the previous parts of the job analysis. This is an important step, as the focus groups give the analyst valuable qualitative data, the surveys provide more quantitative information that can be analyzed more objectively.

5) Meetings with stakeholders/visionaries

Discussion with key stakeholders is an important part of the job analysis. During these meetings, analysts gain insight into these valuable members’ perspectives with respect to the target position and organization in general. Analysts solicit background information including the impetus for the current project. They also determine if there are concerns regarding legal defensibility, or if there are any specific KSAs or other behaviors that may be deficient or missing. These meetings also provide a forum to discuss any larger organizational goals or initiatives which may influence the competencies or level of competencies needed for success in the target position.


Remember, a job analysis is an integral part of an accurate employee assessment. Each step – gathering archival data, job observation, focus groups, surveys, and stakeholder meetings – is just as important as every other step. Be sure to include each step when conducting a job analysis, or if you’re working with an I/O Psychologist, be sure that they’re doing every step to ensure the accuracy of your assessment.

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