Chris opened her own catering business last year, doing all the tasks herself. The business has been successful and has grown to the point where she needs to hire help. But what sort of person should she hire? What does she need the person to do, and what skills does she need the person to have? Answering those questions requires the HR tool of job analysis, and O*NET is a valuable tool for job analysis.
What Is Job Analysis
Job analysis is a structured method that is used to analyze jobs and people. On the job side, it helps us determine the tasks that are required, and the characteristics people need to perform those tasks. The characteristics are the KSAOs (Knowledge, Skill, Ability, and Other Characteristics) needed. They can be assessed for the job and those KSAOs can be assessed in job applicants to find good matches. Chris decides that her new employee will primarily set up and serve food (Chris will do the preparation). Therefore, her employee needs
- Knowledge of food safety
- Skill in handling serving utensils
- The ability of hand-eye coordination
- Other Characteristic of friendly personality
I discuss job analysis in greater depth in my IO psychology textbook.
How Is Job Analysis Done
There are many methods that are used to conduct a job analysis that identifies tasks and KSAOs.
- Survey employees and/or their supervisors
- Interview employees and/or their supervisors
- Observe employees while they perform the job
- Perform the job yourself
These methods can require a great deal of effort and expertise to do properly. Organizations will often hire HR consulting firms or Industrial-Organizational psychologists to conduct job analyses. The cost can be prohibitive for small organizations, and might not be worth the effort for large organizations if they have few employees in a particular position. This would be true for a small business owner like Chris. Thankfully there exists an alternative—O*NET.
O*NET Is a Valuable Tool for Job Analysis
The U.S. Bureau of Labor created the online resource of O*NET as a public service to provide information about civilian jobs in the U.S. economy. The O*NET provides job analysis and other information on more than1000 job families. Although it is not as precise as a custom job analysis done by a firm, it can be a good starting point for determining tasks and KSAOs. For a small business owner like Chris, it is likely the best option, as she can browse the jobs available and find the one that comes closest to her needs. She can use the O*NET information to help her figure out what she is looking for in her new employee. She can then screen potential hires through the lens of the KSAO requirements.
I went to the O*NET website and did searches for caterer and server. The occupation that was the best fit was “Food Servers Nonrestaurant”. Although this category is not specifically for the catering business, it deals with the serving of food in settings other than restaurants. There is a long list of tasks, KSAOs, and other information about the occupation. Some that are relevant are:
- Place food servings on plates.
- Knowledge of providing customer and personal services.
- Skill in active listening
- Ability to understand spoken words
- Interest in social occupations that involve working with people
Chris could do what I did, go through the list and pick out the tasks and KSAOs that fit what she has in mind for her new employee. It can help her develop a job description that will help her communicate expectations to her employee, and allow her to hire someone based on job relevance rather than a gut feeling that someone might be good. Hiring based on KSAOs is likely to result in a better hire, which for a small and large business alike, is vital to long term success.
Job analysis is a valuable tool that has many HR uses beyond hiring. Where feasible, it is preferable to conduct a custom job analysis for an organization so results match the current situation closely. But when the cost is too high, or time is too short, organizations often find that O*NET is a valuable tool for job analysis.
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