Protecting your tax dollars…..Human Resources Analyst

I am a Personnel Analyst at a large County, in the Personnel Department. I have a B.A. in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I have been doing this for almost three years. Before that and during college I worked as a Retail Clerk for about nine years total, in two supermarkets that merged and then for two large drugstore chains that merged. I think that my experiences in retail – how terribly the clerks and even store management were treated by these companies, particularly during the mergers – that was one motivating factor in my going into this field. Specifically,

“I-O Psych,” as it is known, is the application of psychological principles in organizations, whether that be theories connected with organizational culture, creativity, social interaction, personality, dysfunction, cognitive ability – almost all of the major bodies of knowledge in psychology can be found in this field in some form. Plus, it sounded like something I would enjoy, the money looked pretty good, the career prospects looked good, and I liked the fact that is was an applied specialty – I would be doing work that served an immediate need and purpose. I chose the public sector because I believe that merit systems are the fairest hiring systems we have today. There are applicants, employees and managers (even in H.R. itself) who work the system, of course, but ultimately the goal is to strive for impartiality and equality in the hiring process. Furthermore, government is one of the few places that hire people like me, who practice the “industrial” side of I-O. Furthermore, after my experiences in large corporations, I really have distaste for corporate America. Most mega-corporations today are predatory and out for a buck no matter what, and I want none of that. Moreover, I believe in public service.

The major function of my job is to develop Civil Service examinations for the entire County and for departments in the County that request them. These are written tests, interviews, writing sample tests, things like that. Our applicants take the tests I develop and are asked the interview questions that I write. I develop the ratings standards by which the applicants are rated in interviews, and participate in setting the cutoff scores for the tests I have develop.

The best part of my job is going out and doing job analyses, which consist of meeting with a group of people in the job and/or their supervisors, and talking with them about their jobs, what they do, and what the requirements (knowledge, skills, and abilities, and other characteristics) are to perform it. Then I administer questionnaires and they rate them all numerically, so to speak. This way, the exam parts that are developed are valid because they’re based on the opinion of experts. It’s all pretty structured. It has to be, because things can get off track. I use a laptop and projector and I run the meeting on a schedule. I also do a lot of preparatory work beforehand. Still, what I do is often a mystery to the people in the meeting. Sometimes they think I’m there because I’m reclassifying their job, which has salary implications. I used to go through this whole thing explaining why I was there, but now I just hand out a sheet. Those are things one learns along the way. You want these meetings to get off to a good start because you don’t know how you will be viewed. Sometimes the department has a hostile attitude and this is reflected in the employees. Or they have no idea why they’re there, because the supervisor or manager didn’t bother to tell them why.

A lot of my job consists of routine clerical-type tasks, which are pretty boring (but which can also allow one to daydream if one is skilled enough at them). I type and format all of my own written tests, reports, and memos – everything. I make my own copies. I arrange my own meetings. The economic boom left a dearth of clerical staff in the public sector, where money is scarce besides, so they can be pretty rare. General clerical help is getting to be a thing of the past in County government. I also write and choose test items, which is the most fun part of my job. I consult with Human Resources and department staff and managers. I also receive pretty excellent benefits – pension, plus matched 401-k and 457, all the medical and dental, health care spending account, and up to 30 days off per year plus 11 holidays. I work a 9/80, so I get a three-day weekend every other week. I also get a reimbursement every month from my benefit fund that adds significantly to my salary. You end up having a lot of time off, which is nice.

I think about quitting on occasion. A great deal of my job is routine, and some of the employees are incompetent, and this is at all levels of the County. However, many are hard-working. I think I may one day go for my Ph.D., probably in Social Psychology, but extend my education in some capacity nevertheless. College can really open you up to new ideas and experiences, something that is often lacking in the professional world. I think about doing consultant work some day, building up a clientele and then going out on my own. I think about opening up a coffee house or a plant store. I do believe I am providing a valuable service, which ultimately is to make sure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely. A good examination can screen out individuals who have no business in the job, thereby saving the taxpayers money from lost productivity due to incompetent employees who can be difficult to get rid of once hired. Ultimately, I am proud of the work I do.