The purpose, or end-product, of a job analysis is to produce the job description. A job description is then driven by the data culled from the job analysis; a rather labor-intensive effort that is both expensive and time consuming (Prien, Goodstein, Goodstein & Gamble, 2009). While Aamodt (2016) argues that a thorough job analysis is the foundation for most activities involving human resources, the author actually only provides a rather generic example of what he claims will suffice for most work applications. There are actually numerous methods of collecting data for the job analysis, and while some may be conducted simultaneously, they each serve a distinctive purpose.
Self-reporting is perhaps the simplest type of job analysis. As the term implies, information gather through self-reports is collected from employees currently holding a specific position, hence are reliant upon subjective, or anecdotal, information that can be captured empirically, “All too often…incumbent reports are the only source used to analyze a job, because this approach is subject to attempts to inflate the importance of one’s job and a variety of other contaminating influences” (Prien, et al., 2009, p. 28). Self-reports tend to be used for jobs requiring very little training or specific skill sets, for example in fast food or retail work, and are viewed as the least useful of job analysis methods.

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The second type job analysis is direct observation, a relatively intrusive method of analysis that can be used in tandem with self-reporting. There are two ways in which direct observation may take place: by either being physically present when observing a worker, or through the use of a video camera. In many instances, the presence of an observer creates what is referred as the “audience effect,” meaning the process of analyzing a job actually does become highly intrusive. Observation is most useful where a high degree of physical labor is required to perform a job, hence it is often used in factory settings or in other work requiring physical dexterity (Prien, et al., 2009). However, observation is not useful in work situations reliant upon cognitive abilities, for example with jobs requiring a great degree of analysis or research found in science or technology.

Interviewing workers, supervisors, or subject-matter experts is the third method. Individual interviews tend to be unstructured and use open-ended questions so that the interviewer can gain cursory information about a specific job (Prien, et al., 2009). Individual interviews also are typically used during the exploratory phase of a job analysis and is proceeded by further interviews with groups. Group interviews are more structured and facilitated in a manner that does not lead recruits towards a specific direction. Individual and group interviews typically occur in office settings, however they are time-consuming and somewhat expensive. As such, many companies will utilize subject-matter experts in order to defray costs to productivity (Prien, et al., 2009). According to Aamodt (2016), the use of subject-matter experts both individually and in group settings is the most widely used job analysis method. While interviews provide employers with the most information or data pertaining to jobs, the strength of this information is predicated on the effectiveness of interviewers and group facilitators.

Questionnaires and surveys are another method of job analysis and while there is no one method that is ideal for analyzing jobs, both questionnaires and surveys are perhaps the most effective of the ones listed in this paper primarily because they can be used in all work settings (Prien, et al., 2009). The better questionnaires and surveys are comprised of close-ended questions typically rated on a Likert-type scale (i.e., rating from 0-to-5). These methods may use workers, supervisors, and subject-matter experts to address a variety of work-related issues regarding, for example, performance, risk, aptitude, and task importance (Aamodt, 2016). While the wide variety of information culled from both questionnaires and surveys may appear similar to that of interviews, it is more reliable in the sense that the data extracted from both are readily quantifiable. As such, the data collected from questionnaires and surveys can be used in a way that is more appropriate when developing job descriptions, performance appraisals, worker selection and grading positions for purposes of compensation (Aamodt, 2016). As stated previously, however, there is presently no one ideal method of job analysis, and Prien, et al. (2009) list a number of issues that should be carefully considered.

It appears to be ideal to use questionnaires and surveys that are designed for each specific job. This information is gleaned from workers, supervisors and subject-matter experts through interviews conducted previously, however the downside to this approach is costs to time and productivity which means that most employers using questionnaires or surveys tend to use those that are commercially available (Prien, et al., 2009). While viewed as relatively reliable, commercial questionnaires and surveys have a significant problem in that they are designed to cover a wide-variety of jobs. Tools that are commercially available take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, meaning they do not account for whether a job is entry-level or a position in management (Prien, et al., 2009).

While questionnaires and surveys may be the most reliable of all job analysis methods, like the other methods they are commonly seen as relatively unreliable. Factors accounting for this are varied, and include the changing nature of jobs which may have to do with technology or worker efficiency over time; bias by those conducting an analysis resulting in the inflation or deflation of work-related elements, or the distortion of data; or the instability of certain jobs that tend to change during specific times of the year, such as in retail environment over holidays (Prien, et al., 2009).

  • Aamodt, M. G. (2016). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
  • Prien, E. P., Goodstein, L. D., Goodstein, J., & Gamble, L. G. (2009). A practical guide to job analysis. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.