Pro Hiring Tip: Create Key Accountabilities

All organizations want to hire the best people, and they strive to do so, but most focus on the wrong thing! 

Most focus their efforts on “getting the job” vs “doing the job.” 

If you read most job descriptions or postings, you’ll notice they ALL read the same. They start with a glowing advertisement of the company and imply that anyone in their right mind should want to work there. As of late, many are three, four or even five paragraphs long; a mini version of the company brochure! There is nothing wrong with creating a description of your company and the opportunity, but be reasonable.

It’s what happens next, in the job description/post, that concerns me. You typically find several bullet points of “Must Haves;” Must have this, must have that, must be here, must be there, etc! This is where the candidates eyes begin to glaze over and the super stars you want to hire, hit delete!

“Most people in transition look for three things: Interesting and challenging work, professional growth and financial opportunity; How will I contribute, how can I grow and how much can I earn.”

Employers, needing/wanting to hire recognize there’s a problem they have, and don’t want OR, there’s a result they want and don’t have. Once the problem/result has been identified, what’s next? What, specifically, do you want your new hire to accomplish and by when? This simple question is the catalyst for creating Key Accountabilities.

What Are Key Accountabilities? 

Key Accountabilities are the five to seven key things a person in the role needs to accomplish for the organization to consider this person a great hire. They’re not everything the employee does; just the key items that move the needle. Here are a few examples for various roles.

  • SELLER: Generate $2.0M of revenue selling EHR software to behavioral health clinics in a 5 state region by 12/31/2022. 
  • SELLER: Learn the product offering within the first 90 days of hire. Be able to proficiently demo the software by 12.31.2021
  • MANAGER OF SALES: Build a sales team of 5 sellers, within 6 months of hire, that covers the Western half of the U.S.  Hire, onboard, train and develop this team to go live by May 30, 2022.

Key Accountabilities offer extreme clarity into the role and focus on what needs to be accomplished, specifically, by whom, and by when. You may also have noticed that each example was written as a S.M.A.R.T. Accountability (Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Results based, with a Timeline). IMHO every role within an organization should have Key Accountabilities. It simply takes the guesswork out of your expectations!

Now that you’ve defined the problem/result you want and constructed your Key Accountabilities how can you use them?

Key Accountability Uses.

  • SELECTION: Incorporate into your Job Profiles and Posts. it’s how you envision the role and what’s expected. Candidates begin to visualize how they could contribute.
  • STRUCTURED INTERVIEWING: Since these ARE the Key Accountabilities of the role, then it makes sense that these are the main questions you want to ask. If there’s an interview team, assign each interviewer one to two questions to concentrate on.
  • ONBOARDING: These are the expectations of you in the role.
  • TRAINING: Train the new employee to meet the expectations of the role.
  • COACHING: How are you doing with what is expected in the role? Do you have what you need to accomplish your Key Accountabilities? How can I help?
  • REVIEWS: Did you accomplish what was expected in the role?

Key Accountabilities offer you many benefits. They’re a great selection tool, leadership tool, and review tool. They offer extreme clarity into expectations and remove the guesswork. They imply “ownership” of expectations which will serve you well, now, and in the future.

Most importantly, everyone in the team will be on the same page. Once established it’s pretty hard to say, “I didn’t know what was expected.” So ditch the old, boring Job Descriptions and create Key Accountabilities. Cheers! Here’s to a better way!

If you would like to learn more about constructing Key Accountabilities or would like to discuss a Key Accountabilities session, let’s chat!

Jim O’Hara is a veteran executive and former agency firm owner. He is now President of Kellen James – Performance Advisors, an Advisory, Diagnostics and Talent Consultancy that helps organizations hire more accurately, lead more effectively and get results more efficiently. To learn more, connect with Jim on LinkedIn or email him at


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