Type of Realistic Job Preview: Structured Observations
Adapted with permission from materials developed by Susan O’Nell, Sherri Larson, Amy Hewitt, and John Sauer from the University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration.
These are observations at a work site that are structured by the employer to give potential employees a comprehensive overview of job expectations. In a structured observation, employees might spend some time talking with the observer, but the strategy is most effective if the observer takes responsibility for gathering information, so that working staff are focused on performing their duties in the usual way. Scheduling structured observations during busy, but routine activities, helps ensure that staff members act naturally during the observation.
Structured observations should be carefully planned to identify critical components and make them effective and comprehensive. The observer should have a checklist or other tools (see Questions to Recent Hires[2.2.1.h.1] and Questions to Supervisors or Incumbents[2.2.1.h.2] for some suggested topics that may be asked) that guide them in the information-gathering process, and they should be free to seek additional information. Employees being observed and anyone else involved in the session should be asked to participate in planning the session.
Observations should take place in the exact site where the person would work, if possible. In addition, they should occur at times that will help the applicant get a realistic expectation of the job’s responsibilities (when staff members are not focused on the visitor and are acting naturally.) Observations should be followed by a debriefing to answer questions and provide additional information about job components that were not observed. Scheduling should take place well in advance to ensure a convenient time for all involved.
Structured observations are the least expensive RJP method to implement, because extra staff time is not required during the observation. Materials such as checklists are inexpensive to produce and update.
- Are inexpensive to develop/implement;
- Are easy to update;
- Are easy to customize to individual sites and consumer populations;
- If the position is consumer-centered it can provide consumers with opportunities to be directly involved in the hiring process;
- Provide direct information to the potential hire from the people who understand the job best;
- Offer easy access to staff to ask questions; and
- Set the expectation that the job requires supporting and informing new and potential staff.
- Could be invasive to employees or make it difficult for people to act naturally during the observation;
- Could be invasive to consumers or family members;
- Will vary with each visit;
- Do not address all issues of concern to new employees (i.e., pay and benefits, all job duties);
- Can be difficult to schedule;
- Are not portable; and
- Might involve risks for observations in the field, in locked units, or in correctional settings.
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