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Analyzing a Job's Requirements When Hiring

Filed under Hiring Workers. Fact checked on January 30, 2013.

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A three-step process of doing a job analysis, determining job qualifications, and creating a job description can help you determine what you need from the people you hire. There are several components involved in the first step, which is performing a job analysis.

Deciding to hire someone to work for you is a big decision. This is particularly true if this is the first time you're bringing someone aboard. Once you've made the decision to hire someone, you'll need to determine exactly what you want the person to do for your business. If you make this determination before you start the process of hiring, you have much better odds of getting the right person for the right job.

There are three basic steps in the process to finding out what you need in an employee, and each can be as complicated or as simple as need be for you and your business. The first step in figuring out what you need in an employee is doing a job analysis to gather information and make decisions about the work to be done. Once this step is completed, you'll be able to determine what the job qualifications for the position are and can then create a job description to document what the job will entail.

Work Smart

You may find it tempting to skip this first step and dive right into the hiring process thinking that when the right person for the job comes along, you'll know it. Resist this temptation and spend some time now clearly defining the work you need to be done and the skills needed to do it. Putting effort and care now into making sure that you get just the right person for your job and that the fit is the best that you can find may save you from hassles later that can cost your business dearly in time and money.

Performing a Job Analysis

Job analysis is the process of looking at exactly what a job entails in order to determine the necessary job qualifications.

Job analysis doesn't have to be difficult or complicated. By analyzing the tasks you need done, you can create just the position you need.

Is a job analysis required to determine job qualifications? No, but remember that planning is the key to successful, effective, and cost-effective hiring. The better you know what you need in an employee, the more likely you are to find the right candidate.

Doing a job analysis is just a formal documentation of an unconscious thought process that you should go through anyway. And, it's a great first step toward creating a job description.

Hiring your first employee? For first-timers, we recommend a simple analysis of your needs. It's a basic exercise that will help you get your thoughts together and may be just enough analysis to get you started on searching for that perfect candidate.

Hiring a replacement for an employee who has left? If you're replacing an employee, you will be analyzing an existing job and will have more information and knowledge to work with. You can talk with the employee who is leaving and, if you have other employees doing the same type of work, you can get input from them. There are a few ways to gather this information ranging from informal to formal, and you may choose to try one or all of them.

Job Analysis Tips For Your First Hire

So how do you figure out what you need in a worker, particularly when you're hiring for the first time? Most of what job analysis means, if you're hiring for the first time, is figuring out how your life is going to change by having someone else working with you.

Questions to ask yourself that can lead to an adequate job analysis include:

  • What work do I have that I'm willing to let someone else do? Many business owners have a hard time bringing in someone — especially a stranger — to help them do work. It means a shift in the way they operate and, harder yet, it means letting go of some control. That's why it's imperative that you trust whomever you bring in.
  • Which decisions will I be comfortable leaving to someone else to make? You may want to start out small and work your way up, depending on how you feel your employee handles decision-making on a small scale. Are you going to let the employee sign for deliveries? Are you going to give the employee the password to the computers? Will you let the employee handle cash? Will you give the employee a key to the office to work on weekends?
  • What level of authority do I want this other person to have in performing these jobs? This issue is also tied to trust. Will you let the employee bind you to contracts? How about giving your employee signing privileges on your bank account? There are levels of authority. Decide which one you're comfortable with.

Do you need some help with your job analysis process? The best source for information is to ask around. Call your colleagues; call people who do the job that you're thinking of creating. You may also be able to get some direction from the Small Business Administration or your local chamber of commerce.

There are plenty of resources that can help you out if you need more direction in analyzing jobs and duties. If you have more time to do in-depth research, there are government resources available to assist you:

  • O*Net OnLine (which replaced the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles), contains detailed descriptions of the duties for occupations. While the descriptions may not match exactly with your job, you can get an idea of the tasks included in jobs that are probably similar to yours.
  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook, made available by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), describes the employment outlook of different jobs. It also includes information such as the education and training necessary for the listed jobs and the tasks involved in each job.
  • The BLS also provides employment-related surveys that contain job description information useful in job analysis. You can obtain job analysis information by contacting the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Analyzing An Existing Job Position

If you're hiring for an existing position, you have more information and knowledge to work with than if you're hiring for a position for the first time. You can use different information gathering methods such as questionnaires, observations and interviews.

There are a few ways to gather this information ranging from informal to formal, and you may choose to utilize one or all of them:

  • Job analysis interviews. If you're gathering information about a position that is currently filled by an employee, the best way to get good information about that position is to talk with that employee. It can be especially helpful if the employee is leaving and you will need to replace him or her, or if you are hiring someone else to do similar duties as the current employee.

    Job analysis interviews are especially helpful for analyzing management jobs. Interviews can also be an excellent way to follow up on the information that you assemble through written questionnaires.
Tip

If you have only one or two other employees, the formal job analysis interview may not be the best approach. Instead, sit down with the employee and discuss which duties may have changed and which skills they felt were the most important in doing the job. Hopefully, employees will give you some honest feedback which you can use for your job analysis.

  • Employee observation. Observing employees is, historically, one of the most commonly used job analysis techniques. In most small businesses, the owner is the only supervisor, so to some extent you'll already be observing the employee who's leaving. Observation can also serve as a complement to an interview, just to be sure that nothing was left out. Here are some employee observation tips to keep in mind:

    • A good job analysis will analyze the employee performing the job through a complete job cycle.
    • When observing an employee, the person observing has to be sure not to let opinions about the employee get in the way of observing the job. Don't analyze the employee — analyze the job.
    • Observing employees is easier in a manufacturing or production environment. Observing an administrative assistant may not be as easy because the jobs and tasks may vary so widely from day to day.
  • Questionnaires. A questionnaire is a written series of questions completed by an employee that relate to the specific duties of the job, the tasks the employee does most, and the skills the employee will need to do the job.

    Questionnaires can be simple or complicated. The questions can be highly structured or open ended. For most small businesses, you'll want to ask a series of open-ended questions that allow the interviewee to give a narrative form of answer. Open-ended questions are especially effective for positions that cover a wide range of responsibilities.
Tools to Use

Available among the Business Tools are sample job analysis checklists. Try to customize the questions as much as possible to your type of business and the work that your employee does or will do.

Remember, the main objective is to find out what is done and what you need done. Going through this process can help you to crystallize your thoughts into a clear picture of what you need and which skills a prospective employee must have.

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