Because job analysis (JA) is the first stage in any good process of personnel selection (Schmitt & Chan, 1998), the selection process cannot proceed without it. We will further examine this issue by addressing the question in three parts. Part 1 will briefly describe JA and look at its implications for selecting the most suitable candidates. Part 2 will address implications for choice of selection method. Part 3 will address issues of predictive versus current validity. We will conclude that while much about job analysis is subjective and unpredictable, a selection process that does not begin with JA would, by default, rely on performance criteria that have no basis for predicting successful job performance.
Part 1: Implications for selecting the most suitable candidate
Cooper et al (2003) define “JA” as “methodologies that allow personnel specialists to set the necessary standards by discovering exactly what the job entails and which skills and abilities are necessary for successful job performance.” We should recognize that the analysis can focus on either tasks or behaviors or, presumably, a mix of the two. Successful completion of the analysis allows for the specification of tasks and responsibilities, which further allows for the development of job performance as well as measurement and data collection of KSAOs (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (Schmitt & Chan, 1998).
The criterion problem. The “criterion problem,” Austin and Villanova (1992) is one of the most familiar issues in selection and assessment. Essentially, it just means that we must be able to identify the particular job performance facet or facets that we want our selected candidate to bring to the job. We cannot identify these facets unless we first perform an analysis of the job.
We can set the process on the wrong course immediately if we do not carefully consider which methods we should use to assess the job. For repetitive tasks, such as production work, observation may be an appropriate method of analysis. However, observation is not sufficient for jobs that require significant internal mental operations. Those kinds of jobs would be better assessed by diary studies or a measure such as the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ). The PAQ is completed by a trained analyst and has six divisions: information input, mental processes, work output, relationships with other persons, job context, and other job characteristics.
This is an extreme example, but we if rely on observation to analyze a desk job that requires significant mental processes, we might conclude that our job performance facets are the ability to sit quietly at a computer and furrow one’s brow occasionally. However, if we forgo a job analysis completely, we have no information whatsoever on which to base our choice of selection method, job description or assessment of job performance.
Subjectivity. We also need to realize that because JA involves human judgment, eliminating subjectivity is not possible. However, we can try to guard against its harmful effects by being aware of where and how various selection methods are vulnerable to various kinds of psychological sources of inaccuracy. Morgeson and Campion (1997) identify six social factors, including conformity pressure and motivation loss, and 10 cognitive factors (including information overload and heuristics), which can introduce bias into job analysis.
The future. Another important point to keep in mind is that jobs change, and today’s analysis might not be relevant for what the job demands in the future. Schneider and Konz (1989) have developed a strategic job analysis, which can be conducted alongside a traditional job analysis in hopes of identifying relevant knowledge, skills and abilities that will correlate with successful performance at some point in the future.
Part 2: Implications for evaluating the suitability of a selection method
Only after performance criteria have been identified, can we consider how to measure for them. A good illustration can be found in comparing validity coefficients (VCs) for cognitive ability tests (CATS) with regard to semi-skilled versus unskilled jobs. The validity coefficient (VC) tells us how strongly a particular selection method correlates with performance. It is based on criterion-related validity, which is a characteristic of the relationship between the selection method and the particular performance criterion being measured.
Semi-skilled versus unskilled jobs have VCs of 0.40 and 0.23, respectively (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). Conscientiousness has a VC of 0.31. For a job that is semi-skilled, a CAT should be a better predictor of job performance. However, for a job that is unskilled, a measure of conscientiousness should be a better predictor.
We must re-emphasize the point that if we skip the job analysis, we are skipping job performance criteria, which leaves no basis for choice of selection method.
Part 3: Implications for predictive and concurrent validity
Predictive and concurrent validity are both types of criterion-related validity. Predictive validity means that the successful candidate’s performance is evaluated after he or she has been on the job for awhile, and predicted job performance is correlated with actual job performance. Concurrent validity means that predictor and the job criterion are measured for an existing group of employees. Even though correlations from existing employees might not apply to prospective employees, Barrett et al (1981) and Schmitt et al (1984) found little difference between the two methods’ validity coefficients. The major implication here for job analysis is that employers can use concurrent validity, which is more convenient and can be done more quickly, without compromising criterion-related validity overall. However, they might consider using cognitive ability tests, to control for the experience level advantage among existing employees.
We have described job analysis and looked at implications for determining suitable candidates, choosing methods of selection, and evaluating predictive versus concurrent validity. We conclude that while much about the job analysis is subjective and unpredictable, a selection process that does not begin with job analysis would, by default, rely on performance criteria that have no basis for predicting successful job performance.