Job Analysis Specialist  What They Do

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Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists Career Video

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dotJob and occupational analysts do all the nitty-gritty, fact-finding work behind the scenes in human resources departments. They provide a company's decision-makers with the means to wrap their brains around all the work being done within their walls.

"We're a sort of a vested in-house brain," says Jay Tartell. He is the director of the U.S. Air Force's occupational analysis program.

"We provide the information about the work people do here. And then those who are responsible for decisions about classification, training, recruiting, selection -- they can use our information to make those decisions."

These analysts interview and survey employees to collect task lists and statistics. They analyze the information to write job descriptions and classify jobs into groups to improve the selection, training and promotion of workers. The job analysis process is very detailed and comprehensive. It requires the feedback of thousands of workers to analyze a single job.

"Job descriptions are getting very specific. It's not just a point-form thing anymore," says Travis McCavour. He is a human resources classification advisor. "We evaluate jobs using certain criteria to determine things like salary level and career paths. We need to know their responsibilities, what their work environment is like, everything."

dotJob and occupational analysis is a popular tool used by organizations throughout the workforce, in both the public and private sector. Johnny Weismuller co-founded the Institute for Job and Occupational Analysis (IJOA). He says the more forward thinking the company, the more of a priority it puts on analysis.

But he also says that having or lacking the budget needed to undertake good job analysis will also determine if an organization uses it.

Weismuller has done analysis for bodies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the United Nations. He says it's a tool used more often in the military and civil service than in the commercial world. He says this is simply because government coffers are generally fuller.

"[Government and military] are among the few organizations who have the resources to invest in this," says Weismuller.

McCavour says government also uses analysis to keep themselves accountable to the public.

"Writing and evaluating an accurate job description is all about being open about the process of who gets hired to do what, and how much they get paid for it," says McCavour. "The government acts as a leader [in job analysis]. We have to make sure the process is as fair and equitable as possible, because we're under a magnifying glass. Our actions are looked at by everyone."

dotThe field is made up of two very different roles -- job analysts and occupational analysts. Weismuller says a job analyst looks at the worker. An occupational analyst looks at how that worker fits into the greater occupation of which they're a part.

"Job analysis focuses on a single job and is mostly concerned with compiling task lists and writing descriptions to facilitate the selection process," says Weismuller.

"Occupational analysis is about the whole life cycle of the person. It's a cradle-to-the-grave plan that's best for the employee and the company. It ensures smart promotions that make good use of their skills, helping people guide themselves through a career."

dotThe focus on promotion is a big part of the work of both job and occupational analysts. The information they collect and analyze builds standard promotion tests, used especially in military and police organizations.

"When promotion tests are made, our occupational survey information is used to determine what parts of the occupation should be tested, essentially validating those test questions," says Tartell. "If you're going to validate any promotion test, you better make sure it's grounded in the work that people do in that occupation."

Analysts also point employees in the right direction by assessing their skills and what kind of jobs use those skills higher up in a company.

"The main goal is to establish a career path," says McCavour. "If someone is starting out in an administrative area, we establish that's where their career path is most likely going to lead.

"If we've got someone in a management level writing policies, we make sure they're working at the right level so their career can progress properly. We don't push them, but we allow for career planning to happen."

dotJob and occupational analysis is generally a 9-to-5 desk job. It could easily include people with special needs in its ranks. Its only physical demands involve some heavy jet-setting. Interview subjects are usually met in person. That requires extensive travel on the analyst's part.

"The people we have building our questionnaires spend from 50 to 60 percent of their time traveling, often worldwide," says Tartell of the air force.

McCavour says it's important to talk to workers face to face. That's because it contributes to good staff relations.

"I've been on seven trips in the last year," he says. "I think one of the reasons is to make sure the employee feels represented in their job description. And face-to-face contact is a big part of that. Employees have to feel they've been consulted and involved."

dotThe actual work involves collecting and comparing the results of detailed interviews and questionnaires. Analysts have to come up with a big picture specific to one job.

"First we make up a list of tasks done on the job, using feedback from experienced people," says Mitchell. "Then we take that list to others and have them look at it. We use a sample of people in this occupation from different organizations all over, usually about 4,000 to 5,000 people.

"We ask each person if they perform these tasks, and if so what is the normal amount of time spent on them. We get ratings and time estimates. Then we pull all that information together to see how consistent the information is throughout the occupation. We use a computer database to manage the information and process the results."

Just the Facts

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At a Glance

Analyze job descriptions

  • There's a lot of travel in this job
  • These analysts interview employees to collect task lists and write up job descriptions
  • Most have training in industrial and organizational psychology