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Assignment Writing

How would you describe the job of a police officer? What are the different tasks that police officers do, and how much time do they spend doing each one?


Chapter 3

How would you describe the job of a police officer? What are the different tasks that police officers do, and how much time do they spend doing each one? How difficult is it to learn the various tasks, and how long does it take? What personal characteristics does it take to do each task, as well as the entire job? These questions are addressed by a variety of techniques that I/O psychologists refer to as job analysis.

Even for the most familiar jobs, a job analysis is necessary to provide an accurate picture of all the details of the job and all the characteristics required of the people who will do it. For example, everyone is somewhat familiar with the job of a police officer. However, the public perception of the job is based to a large extent upon depictions in movies and television programs, such as Law and Order and CSI. Television programs focus on the more dramatic aspects of the job, which may be rarely performed. Most police officers spend more time carrying out routine patrol duties and completing paperwork than on apprehending criminals (Bernardin, 1988). The firing of a weapon is a common occurrence on television, but it is rarely done by most police officers on the job. A thorough job analysis would provide an accurate picture of what police officers do all day on the job. The police officer's job has been thoroughly studied with many different job analysis methods and procedures. We look at some of them throughout this chapter.

There are two different categories of job analyses—job oriented and person (or employee) oriented. The job-oriented job analysis focuses on the tasks that are done on the job, whereas the person-oriented job analysis is concerned with the personal characteristics needed for a job. In other words, the job-oriented procedures describe jobs, and the person-oriented procedures describe the characteristics people need to perform jobs. Both are important tools for describing jobs and their requirements.

In this chapter, we discuss the job-oriented and person-oriented approaches, as well as the particular methods that are used for each. In addition, we discuss the uses and purposes of job analysis information, the sources of information that goes into a job analysis, and the reliability and validity of job analysis methods. Finally, we discuss job evaluation, which is a job analysis technique used to set salary levels.

Objectives: The student who studies this chapter should be able to:

  •  List the uses of job analysis information.
  •  Describe the sources and ways of collecting job analysis information.
  •  Discuss the different job analysis methods.
  •  Describe the evidence for reliability and validity of job analysis methods.
  •  Explain how job evaluation is used to set salary levels for jobs.


Job analysis is a method for describing jobs and/or the human attributes necessary to perform them. According to Brannick, Levine, and Morgeson (2007, p. 8), there are three elements that comprise a formal job analysis:

  1. The procedure must be systematic. This means the analyst specifies a procedure in advance and follows it.
  2. A job is broken into smaller units. We describe components of jobs rather than the overall job.
  3. The analysis results in some written product, either electronic or on paper.

There is no one way to do a job analysis. Many methods provide different types of information about jobs and human attributes needed for jobs. As noted earlier, job analysis techniques can be used to collect information that is job oriented or person oriented, depending on the purpose of the job analysis.

The Job-Oriented Approach

The job-oriented job analysis provides information about the nature of tasks done on the job. Some methods describe the tasks themselves. Other methods provide information about characteristics of tasks. For example, a task for a police officer would be:

Completes report after arresting a suspect

The statement above describes something a police office does. A characteristic of an officer's job would be:

Uses pencils and pens

The characteristic isn't a specific task but describes common features that cut across tasks. A police officer performs many tasks involving writing, such as completing reports of many types and giving citations to motorists. The purposes of the job analysis determine which type of approach would be more useful. The task descriptions provide a picture of what people do on a job, whereas the characteristics of tasks can be used to compare the nature of tasks across different kinds of jobs. Police officers and teachers share the characteristic of using pencils and pens to do tasks, so there can be some similarities in types of tasks, even though the specific tasks themselves may vary.


A job analysis is needed to describe what a police officer does at work. (Richard Hutchings/Photo Researchers)

Tasks can be divided into a hierarchy in which higher-level descriptions are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces of the job. For example, one of the major tasks performed by police officers is apprehending suspects. This police function can be further broken down into the specific actions that are involved, such as:

Go to suspect's house to make arrest

Knock on door and identify self

Handcuff suspect

Inform suspect of legal rights

Put suspect in car

Drive suspect to police station

Brannick et al. (2007) discussed a hierarchy that contains five levels of specificity:

  1. Position
  2. Duty
  3. Task
  4. Activity
  5. Element

A position is a collection of duties that can be performed by a single individual. Typically each employee has a single position, although it is possible that one individual holds more than one position. Furthermore, a number of similar positions might be given the same title; for example, several police officers within a department might have the title of “patrol officer,” although each has a separate position and collection of tasks. One position might be assigned to patrol an area of the city by car, another to patrol on foot, and a third to work at a desk in the station.

A duty is a major component of a job. For a police officer, a duty would be:

Enforce the law

Each duty is accomplished by performing one or more associated tasks.

A task is a complete piece of work that accomplishes some particular objective. One of the tasks involved in enforcing the law is:

Arrest suspects who violate the law

Each task can be divided into activities, which are the individual parts that make up the task. In this case, activities that make the task of arresting suspects would include:

Driving to a suspect's house to perform an arrest

To accomplish this activity, a number of very specific actions or elements are involved, such as:

Turn the ignition key to start the automobile engine

For most jobs, there are several duties; each duty is associated with several tasks; each task is associated with several activities; and each activity can be broken down into several elements. This means that a job analysis can contain a great deal of very specific information about what happens on a particular job. A job analysis that goes to the level of job elements results in a long and detailed report.

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