Neither a degree in human resources nor one in industrial-organizational psychology is required to understand what a “job analysis” is or how one is created.
Known more popularly as a “job description,” a job analysis is essentially a breakdown of the important characteristics of a particular job role. These are the standard displays seen in job postings on websites like Indeed and Monster.
While these job analyses might seem extremely simple and straightforward, a lot of time, effort, and insight go into crafting the ideal description of a job position. After all, if the job analysis doesn’t accurately describe the position or is lacking in information, the job listing might not attract the right applicants for the job.
Worse still, poorly constructed job analyses might turn potential applicants off altogether.
In that case, businesses and organizations might have a difficult time filling open positions with qualified candidates.
So, how are job analyses generated?
With a solid understanding of the job tasks, a good grasp of the required qualifications, and an ability to clearly state those tasks and qualifications in an organized fashion, nearly anyone can create an accurate job analysis.
Properly created, a job analysis will easily communicate all necessary information via four distinct sections (and a few subsections, too). Those standardized sections are as follows.
1. Job Title
The job title section is about as straightforward as it gets. This is where the official name of the job position is declared. For example, a job title might be “Human Resources Manager” or “Organizational Psychologist.” The job title should be placed at the very beginning of the job analysis to communicate precisely which position is being advertised.
While the job title may indeed be the most simplistic of the four components to complete, the analysis creator must be sure to be correct here, especially when the position is closely related to a number of others.
For example, there is a big difference between an “Organizational Psychology Intern” and an “Organizational Psychologist.” Typically, interns are still in school and do not have any certifications or licensing credentials that an organizational psychologist would have. By clearly stating in the job analysis that a position is for an internship placement, and not a full-time position, there is no doubt what kind of job a company is trying to fill.
The “Summary” section of the analysis (which is sometimes called the “Job Purpose”) is important in that it offers a brief, high-level synopsis of how an applicant would function in the position.
This short section of a job analysis might include information relating to the role of the position, the level of the position, and the range of responsibilities associated with the position.
When creating a summary, it’s important to maintain focus on a single, primary question – what is the point of this job? Using that as a guide, a succinct summary (which can be anywhere from one to four sentences in length) can be drafted.
Here’s an example:
“Exciting, future-focused company seeks a talented organizational psychologist to join our expanding team of professionals. We’re dedicated to helping others realize their potential, and want you to help us achieve that goal for our employees, management, and other stakeholders. This position entails developing strategies for recruiting and retaining employees, developing training materials for new hires, and working as a liaison between management and employees. This position is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.”
In the example above, we get a very broad view of the job. Upon reading it, applicants know a variety of things about the position:
- It’s with a growing company
- The goal is to help people realize their potential
- Job duties include recruitment, training, and liaising
- The job is located in Salt Lake City
This section doesn’t have to be overly detailed because the next sections of the job analysis provide much more detailed information about this position. So, think of the summary section as the cliffs notes version of the larger job analysis.
3. Job Duties
The job duties section is the meat and potatoes of the job analysis. It’s where you need to go into great detail about the typical duties and expectations of the specific position. There are several subsections that are needed to generate a complete job duties section.
The responsibilities subsection describes the specific duties one can expect with this position. Think of it as a list of all the common tasks one can expect to spend most of their time working on in a particular job.
When drafting up the responsibilities for a job description, it’s important to be specific, but not so specific that the responsibilities section is unnecessarily long. You don’t have to enumerate every single task that an employee might have to do over the course of their career. Instead, hit the highlights and give potential job candidates a clear picture of what the job commonly entails.
To help guide the development of the responsibilities subsection, consider addressing these issues in the write-up:
- Explain job duties and the expected outcome of each duty. Ensure the descriptions of the duties are brief, yet specific enough to communicate the purpose of the job.
- Identify each job duty in order of its importance (or the amount of time that will be devoted to it).
- When discussing the time required for each task, explain how often the tasks will be performed.
- Explain why job tasks are important. Give applicants a better understanding of their potential impact on the business or organization by completing the duties associated with the position.
- Discuss where the job duties can or should be performed. Is the position remote or are employees required to report to a specific location for work?
- Discuss any related responsibilities, such as budgeting, overseeing other employees, or to whom an employee must report.
You might also include a comparison with similar, more widely-known job roles if the position might not be familiar to some applicants. Doing so can help you paint a picture of the job duties that helps applicants get a better understanding of the requirements of the position.
It is within this job duties subsection that the creator communicates a complete rendition of the equipment that is related to the fulfillment of the position.
Any pertinent physical devices or tools used by those in the position should be clearly stated here. More commonplace items and tools of relation to the job may not necessarily need to be listed conclusively, however.
An example of this might be a job description for a heavy machinery operator position for a construction company. For this example analysis, the “Equipment” section will certainly need to list the forms of heavy machinery used, but it does not need to mention, in entirety, a list of hand tools or writing tools used in the contest of completing day-to-day duties of the job.
The “Environment” subsection of the analysis is similar in its breadth to the “Equipment” section.
Here, the creator of the analysis must present a brief, yet detailed summary of the environments those in the described position will work. When applicable (and space permitting), some analysis creators also go on to give an approximation of the ratios of time one can expect in the different areas of a multiple-environment role.
The qualifications section outlines what the applicant should have in terms of education and experience that’s pertinent to the job.
Likewise, this section should also indicate the hard and soft skills as well as the abilities that will help an applicant fulfill the duties of the job to the best of their abilities.
The list of qualifications is not a wish list, nor is it a collection of ideal traits that a candidate should have. Instead, this is a list of the minimum required qualifications for a worker to be successful in a specific role.
Like the Job Duties section, the Qualifications section includes a number of subsections that provide greater detail. They are as follows: education, experience, and abilities. Let’s explore each one in greater detail.
It is in this section that the job analysis should identify the exact educational requirements for the position. These types of requirements are usually worded in a way that outlines the desired degree for the job.
For example, a job analysis for a human resources director position might include an education section that states:
“The applicant must have a master’s degree in business, psychology, or a related field from an accredited institution.”
But not all jobs require a master’s degree – or any degree, for that matter. So, if the job opening is for an entry-level position as a sales representative, the education section might read:
“Applicants for this position should have at least four college-level courses in business or marketing.”
The purpose of explaining the educational requirements is to ensure that applicants have the basic knowledge that’s needed to satisfactorily complete the duties and responsibilities associated with the job. Again, the qualifications listed in this section should not be what would be expected of the perfect job candidate. Instead, establish what the minimum educational qualifications are and enumerate them in the job analysis.
In the experience subsection, you’ll need to outline the level of job experience applicants need to have for the position. If a job requires no prior experience, say so in this section. If a job requires three years of relevant experience, this is the section to explain that.
In addition to identifying the minimum number of months or years that applicants need to have of relevant experience, this section should also provide applicants insights into the types of experiences that can count as job-related experience.
For example, will you accept internship or practicum experiences as examples of job-related experience? If an applicant has more educational experience than is required, will you accept that in lieu of some on-the-job experience?
Whatever you decide, the minimum qualifications in terms of experience need to be specifically stated in this section.
A third subsection that should be nested under the Qualifications section is an overview of the necessary abilities to fulfill the position. This section summarizes the relevant knowledge and skills that are desired.
While the specific abilities, knowledge, and skills that should be listed here will vary from one job to the next, there are some general guidelines for how to disseminate those requirements to job applicants.
First, you need to decide what depth of knowledge is needed for the job. For example, does an applicant need simple working knowledge (e.g., basic terminology or procedures) to successfully fulfill their duties? Or do they need thorough and detailed knowledge that only comes with years of on-the-job experience?
Second, discuss the hard and soft skills that the candidate should possess. Hard skills are those that are specifically related to the job – a thorough understanding of Microsoft Excel, for example. Soft skills are general skills that are needed in everyday work – effective written communication skills, the ability to work as a member of a team, and problem-solving skills are a few examples.
Third, while the outline of abilities should be comprehensive, avoid making it too long. Focus on the most important abilities that the candidate needs. Doing so helps them understand what the job entails while also avoiding discouraging people from applying. If the list of qualifications is too long, some applicants might give up on applying before they even start.
If you like, you can give applicants a little more direction with a section that lists the preferred qualifications for the position.
This is the section where you can list your dream candidate’s qualifications – a higher level of educational attainment, more on-the-job experience, and a longer list of abilities. This is your wish-list that could help you find the perfect candidate for the job.
Crafting the Ideal Job Analysis
A proper job analysis assures a much more relevant response to a company’s job listing as well as a clear understanding between the employee and their employer as to their specific job duties.
But to achieve those ends, the job analysis should include each section and subsection outlined above. It should also be written in a direct style, be detailed (yet concise), and focus on the essential activities related to the job. Don’t worry about discussing trivial aspects of the job!
For even more information on the analysis process, the Society for Human Resource Management has some very helpful and free material on the subject. Consult it and other resources to create the ideal job analysis that will help you find the best candidates.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated September 2021