Making Use of a Job Analysis Outside of Test Development

This is the third article in a three-part series on job analysis. We have covered the fundamentals of job analysis and we have reviewed a report prepared by IPMA-HR as a means of illustrating the role of a Human Resources Analyst in evaluating the work of test developers and consultants. In particular, it is important to recognize that as an HR professional you may not be personally responsible for creating job analysis procedures, writing tests and conducting validation studies, but it is important to know how they are done so you can play this key role for your agency. Even if you hire a test developer or consultant, you may be asked to assist in the process and understanding how job analyses are done will prove valuable to you in this role as well.

In the first article I stressed that a thorough job analysis is the foundation for most of the technical work performed in Human Resources. As we have already seen, a job analysis is critical for developing content valid selection instruments which should be the heart of your recruiting and selection program. As if that was not sufficient reason for conducting job analyses, the information obtained from doing thorough work in analyzing the jobs in your agency can also support your training program, your classification and compensation program, your performance evaluation program, disciplinary action and remediation and serve as a basis for transportability studies as discussed in the last article.

Conducting a job analysis that meets the requirements of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP 1978) and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures (Principles, 2003) for content validation is a time-consuming and tedious process. Not only does it absorb the analysts’ time, but it typically takes subject matter experts (SME’s) away from their regular duties for extended periods of time. Often, questionnaires designed to collect the necessary data can be provided to SME’s to complete at their convenience, with strict deadlines, but just as often, it is necessary to hold meetings to go over instructions for completing the forms to ensure their accuracy. Once all the data is collected, a great deal of time is spent on a computer calculating the statistics from the information gathered and analyzing the data. This process was even more tedious and time-consuming when I started my career because I did all the analysis by hand using a calculator to compute the statistics. However; computer programs now provide a tremendous assist in the work and the beauty of doing all this work is that once it is completed, analysts can enjoy the fruits of their labor since the foundational work that is the basis for much of the other HR work has already been completed.

The lists of Tasks, Duty Areas and knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics (KSAP’s) provide all the information necessary to write class specifications for every classification for which a job analysis has been done. Since the Tasks and related KSAP’s are behaviorally or operationally defined, it is relatively easy to put them together to write your specifications. In particular, the task statements should be written to include what is done, to whom or what it is done, how it is done (including tools used) and to produce what.

IPMA-HR methodology lends itself to writing class specifications by organizing the tasks into duty areas so that they can form the basis of your description of the work to be performed. The related KSAP’s are available as well and can be listed in rank order based on the ratings they received from the job analysis. Minimum qualifications can also be generated from the KSAP’s since the focus for KSAP’s in the job analysis process is on what is required at time of hire. By looking at what an incumbent is expected to know, be able to do and have skill in at the time of hire allows analysts and SME’s to work together to determine how those KSAP’s can be gained. So from the job analysis, you have Tasks, KSAP’s, Minimum Qualifications and enough information about the work to define it and classify it. In addition, once you have the duties listed, the KSAP’s listed, a definition of the type of work and the minimum qualifications, you are in a position to conduct any compensation studies needed to establish internal and external equity.

Once you have created your class specification and salary you are ready to conduct a recruitment. Again, using the information provided from your original job analysis, you can write your job announcement. The detailed information you have regarding Tasks, and KSAP’s allows you to be as specific and detailed in your job announcement as you want to be regarding the work and the setting in which it is performed. Since you have already developed your content valid selection procedures you can announce the dates and times for administration of those exams along with all the details the applicants need to know about your process to assist in their success.

When you have completed the selection process, the information from the job analysis can be used to create the training you will need to provide to your new employees. Remember, every Task they need to be able to perform and every KSAP they will need to possess to perform those Tasks has already been identified. It is not a particularly difficult process to use this information to identify subject areas for your training program including individual lesson plans that can describe what is to be taught, why and what the trainee is to learn from that lesson.

Task statements from the job analysis list can also be expanded to create Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales (BARS). These scales can be used as a tool for rating classroom and field training as well as the creation of performance rating systems for rating incumbents after they have completed training. It is a relatively simple process to take the tasks in a duty area and break each one down into five to seven levels based on how many levels you want to have in your rating system and then write a behaviorally based description for each level.

For example, you could decide to have five levels and label them: Outstanding, Above Average, Average, Needs Improvement, and Unacceptable. Then you would take each Task and write it to reflect performance at that level. For example, the Outstanding Level for making arrests for police officers could say something like: Makes arrests applying appropriate laws accurately, follows all officer safety rules, performs proper body searches and handcuff techniques, places suspect in car and applies shoulder harness complying with all regulations and procedures. For the other end of the scale, Unacceptable, you could write: Always needs assistance making arrests, demonstrates confusion regarding application of laws, overlooks several officer safety rules and procedures, often misses contraband when conducting searches, misapplies handcuffs and makes them too tight or too loose on most suspects, fails to connect shoulder harness and leaves fellow officers and suspects at risk. Trainee fails to improve in these areas even with repeated opportunities and extensive reminders.

Then you could assign points to each level, typically 1-5, and get total performance ratings. Continued participation in training classes and field training can be based on overall ratings. Improvement programs can be centered around focusing on teaching the KSAP’s associated with the Tasks that the incumbent is having difficulty performing. In addition, training problems that appear to be common in field training may be used to help identify weaknesses in classroom training.

Regular performance evaluations can be constructed for all classifications for which you have completed a job analyses. All it involves is following the same process described above. First, group related Tasks into Duty Areas, if you haven’t already, then label the Duty Areas and retain all the related Tasks grouped within each Duty Area. In the next step you would group all the KSAP’s necessary to perform all the Tasks within a Duty Area in a box that corresponds to the box created for the Duty Area. Then, to establish performance levels, you choose your rating scale and assign points to each level in your rating scale. Generally rating scales should have three, five or seven levels. Three tends to be over simplistic with something like: Below Standard, Standard and Above Standard being used. Seven levels tend to be a bit cumbersome although studies show that humans can distinguish seven levels of performance. Be that as it may, I have found five levels to work very well for the agencies that I have worked with to create performance evaluation systems.

Finally, the key to making this type of rating system work is writing good behavioral anchors for each level. If each level of performance for a particular Task or Duty area is clearly spelled out, it is easier for supervisors to make their ratings and ratings across supervisors become more consistent. Remember from our test development literature that consistency relates to reliability and reliability is a prerequisite for validity. So, bringing this full circle, we can see how the job analysis work we did can pay off in helping us develop valid and reliable performance evaluation systems as well as valid and reliable selection procedures.

As mentioned previously, the information obtained in a job analysis can be utilized in disciplinary matters. Similar to a training situation where performance levels can be used to determine success or failure of training along with areas needing improvement, BARS can be used to document deficiencies in an incumbent’s job performance and support appropriate disciplinary action. It is always difficult to take disciplinary action on an employee; however, the BARS system can make what is expected in terms of performance quite clear for both supervisors and the subordinates. Since, performance levels are clearly spelled out; it is not difficult for those involved to recognize performance that is substandard. It is also relatively easy to identify KSAP’s to be targeted in improvement programs. Then if those plans don’t work it is a relatively simple step to move to taking further disciplinary action.

HR Specialists involved in labor relations always stress the importance of written documentation in the disciplinary process and fortunately, a well designed BARS has documentation built into the process. Behavior is the focus in evaluating performance and when Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales are developed appropriately and maintained regularly, they can serve as the foundation and the support for any necessary disciplinary action. So the whole area of discipline is another area that can be supported by the job analysis process.

Finally, as we have discussed the role of analysts often being one of a consultant for the department in which employed, a necessary ability is to recognize the quality of work performed by consultants and test writers. Therefore, the ability to review and evaluate proposals is often more important than the ability to create selection instruments. In that regard, it is important for HR Specialists to determine whether or not a test written for another jurisdiction(s) is suitable for their jurisdiction. This is essentially the basis of a Transportability Study. Good test writers and consultants will conduct their own studies, however; even before leasing a test or hiring a consultant to design one, analysts should be able to conduct a transportability study of sorts on their own. This process involves looking at the materials provided from the work done by a consultant or test publisher and comparing the Tasks and KSAP’s identified where the test instrument has been used with those for the classification under study in their jurisdiction. In this situation, the analyst is tasked with determining if there is significant overlap with the Tasks and KSAP’s for the targeted job within the analyst’s jurisdiction. The more that the Tasks and KSAP’s for both jurisdictions align with each other the more appropriate it is to use the test in both places. Or in other words, the test can be transported from one jurisdiction to another because it is essentially testing the same KSAP’s for the same job.

I hope through this series, you have gained some insight into the value of job analyses and have gained some understanding of how to perform your role as an HR Specialist even better.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the

Department of Labor and the Department of Justice. (1978). Uniform guidelines on employee selection procedures. Federal Register, Volume 43, Number 166, 38290-38315.  Uniform Guidelines .pdf

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. (2003, 4rd ed.). Principles for the validation and use of personnel selection procedures. College Park, MD. Telephone Number: (708)640-0068

This entry was posted in Job Analysis by Robert Burd. Bookmark the permalink.

About Robert Burd

Robert is an HR professional with over thirty years of experience in public sector human resources specializing in selection including: test development and validation, designing and conducting oral boards, assessment centers and physical fitness testing.

Leave a Reply