I’ll be honest. I’m not employed right now and it is not the best feeling in the world. (Although but it is kind of a relief after working a previous job that was incredibly stressful - so it’s been a nice break!) Anyway, in my spare time, have been trying to stay productive by scouring job boards, various company career pages, and I have started working with a Career Coach to help me identify my valuable skills, polish my resume and cover-letter-writing skills, as well as my interviewing skills.
Looking at all the job boards and examining my skills lately made me truly question how job listings/postings/descriptions in general, “how do employers know exactly what skills are needed in a candidate to succeed in any position?” and, “why is it important to outline so many desired skills?” More personally, “how will I know if I have the skills to be successful in this (given) job?”
This is where I got thinking seriously about the KSAOs and how they can play a larger role in a company outside of an online job listing floating out there on the inter-webs.
Susan Heathfield wrote in The Top Positives and Negatives About Job Descriptions that the definition and function of a job description is as follows:
Employee job descriptions clearly identify and spell out the responsibilities of a specific job. They also include information about working conditions, tools, equipment used, knowledge and skills needed, and relationships with other positions including the immediate boss (2018).
Basically, KSAOs are a list of required competencies needed to succeed in any job. KSAO stands for Knowledge, Skill, Abilities, and Other characteristics, which are derived from conducting a job analysis, which is an in-depth process in examining overall job functions and where the most desired qualities are teased out (Aamodt, 2010).
You can see an example of some job description requirements here on Indeed.com.
Like I mentioned above, KSAOs are important for writing accurate and compelling job descriptions , but meanwhile, they should also be attracting quality candidates who currently fulfill job requirements and have the potential to growth with a company. Sometimes companies don’t have the available time or manpower to train candidates on required skills and are often required on day 1 to help save resources (other times, they do and are TOTALLY okay with training which is a GREAT thing because effective training programs can and should be polished and treasured like gold).
Also, companies always benefit from those candidates who immediately (or in a reasonable amount of time after hired) fit, achieve, and succeed with the challenges put before him or her. Additionally, having quality people stick around for several years will carry (and hopefully share!) knowledge and valued skills which is also always beneficial for the continuation of company loyalty and health of a company culture.
Next, and very importantly, companies can use these KSAOs to develop employee performance criteria (the dreaded annual review) which ultimately can affect wages (aka getting a raise!) as well as things like accuracy of job titles and developing career/trajectory paths.
Though I wasn’t able to find any articles on this next point, but I think it holds water. I believe that KSAOs can directly reflect a company’s pre-determined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Whereby once a company can establish KPIs and set overarching company goals, the supervisory management/SMEs can boil down the KPI metrics to engineer the ideal set of KSAOs for key positions in order to drive a department goal. For example, a company with a goal to sell 5,000 TV’s by next quarter can recruit a new tech salesperson who has 5-10 years of successful sales experience, an education in sales or related field, a proven track record of increasing sales in past companies, strong negotiation and communication skills, and powerful risk assessment and decision making abilities, etcetera.
Over these past three days as I took notes while researching this topic, I came to appreciate the need for job descriptions to have specific skills outlined. (Honestly, in the start of this process, I was a little annoyed by the specificity of some online job description’s required skills. Only to later realize that I was a little insecure about being out of work and having to jump back into the job-seeker world after having been employed by the same company for the last 3+ years. I have since come to terms with it. :D) It’s not that companies are trying to deter applicants with these bulleted lists per se, but they are trying to be selective in order to help make their company strong and healthy. Attracting, landing, and keeping quality employees are what make a company. The work cannot ‘do’ itself (unless it’s a robot, which is a whole different thing). Essentially, the work doesn’t make the company, the people make the company. I can definitely appreciate that!
Aamodt, M. (2010). Industrial Organizational Psychology An Applied Approach.
Heathfield, Susan, (2018). The Top Positives and Negatives About Job Descriptions. The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/job-descriptions-positives-and-negatives-1918556
How to Write an Admin Assistant Job Description, (2018). Indeed.com. (https://www.indeed.com/hire/job-description/administrative-assistant)
You can also read more about job descriptions here: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/importance-of-written-job-descriptions-3515485
Also, please excuse any errors in my citations. I have been out of gradschool for 5 years…