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What is Job Analysis and Why You Need It: A Beginner’s Guide

We explore the meaning, scope, and compliance ramifications of job analysis in this beginner’s guide.

What is Job Analysis and Why You Need It: A Beginner’s Guide

We explore the meaning, scope, and compliance ramifications of job analysis in this beginner’s guide.

Job analysis is the practice of gathering necessary information about a job to enable organizations to make informed decisions and develop more objective processes for selection and promotion. 

While job descriptions and class specifications are often used interchangeably with job analysis, it is important to note that “job analysis” is the process of gathering all important information about a job, and that “job descriptions” and “specifications” are outcomes of that process and contain the specific information from the job analysis for their intended purposes. 

For example, a job description typically lists key tasks and knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KASOs) of a job, while a well-researched job analysis outlines everything that a job may entail – minor tasks and KSAOs, as well as information about the social context, working conditions and the physical environment of the job. 

Without the information gleaned from a thorough review of each job or job family, an employer is vulnerable not only to legal challenges, but also the potential of hiring candidates who do not have the necessary qualifications to perform the job adequately.

Why Should You Perform a Job Analysis?

A well-executed job analysis can provide the necessary information for many human resources related programs and processes, such as the following:

  • Classification and Compensation
  • Recruitment
  • Selection and Promotional Testing and Assessment
  • Performance Management
  • Workforce and Succession Planning
  • Licensure and Certification Testing

Because a job analysis can support multiple HR functions, if it is conducted properly, an organization can save time and money conducting one thorough job analysis, as opposed to conducting multiple smaller studies to derive similar outcomes. Oftentimes, too, multiple studies may contradict each other if different people or vendors are involved.

As organizations are being reshaped by the things such as advancements in technology, flatter organizational structures and more team-based work, so too are the ways in which work is carried out. As a result, it is becoming increasingly more common for the basic roles and responsibilities of a job to change drastically over a relatively short period of time. This phenomenon, coupled with a shifting legal atmosphere (e.g., more well-informed and litigious candidates, increased scrutiny of validation efforts), further highlights a primary challenge for HR professionals – keeping internal employment practices up-to-date and legally defensible. It is critical that fundamental shifts in the essential functions of a role are accompanied by an updated job analysis.

Job Analysis and its Impact on Compliance 

If candidates were to initiate a legal challenge of a selection process, the employer is burdened with demonstrating that its process is, indeed, based on job-related criteria and is fair to all candidates. The standards by which these outcomes are evaluated are specifically detailed in legal and professional sources. The most commonly used sources are the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978); the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education, 1999); and the Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists, 2003). Fortunately, there are many acceptable methods for conducting job analyses, as well as a wealth of resources available to assist in the process.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 sparked the rise of job analysis and subsequently set the stage for landmark Supreme Court cases such as Griggs v. Duke Power (1971), which coined the term, “analysis of the job,” and Albemarle Paper Company v. Moody (1975).

While these cases were focused on the treatment of employees in a protected group in hiring and promotional processes in violation of the Civil Rights Act, the thrust of the judgment in both cases was that organizations must define the scope of a job as it is directly related to its effectiveness in accurately identifying candidates who are best suited to perform the job being filled and that the foundation for gathering such evidence is a properly conducted job analysis.

Check out our five-step job analysis article here.


Keeping up-to-date job analyses that are also fully compliant with the ever-changing nature of jobs and skills be a daunting task for any organization. 

Expert job analysts can guide your process and ensure that it follows all applicable legal standards and best practices. As a company operating at the intersection of technology and psychology, our job analysis methodology is proven to work in the real world.

Learn more about how Yobs can help you attract top talent while staying compliant.