Business + Science: The Job Description Is Dead

Welcome to the new era of defining jobs, job success

When was the last time you read a job description? What did you use it for? Was it in any way relevant to what you actually do?

In most cases, job descriptions become obsolete quickly because they tend to address duties and responsibilities, and those are always evolving. Jobs change drastically as economic conditions shift or as technology alters the way the job is done.

As a leader working with thousands of companies over three decades in the talent assessment and management industry, I’ve been witness to the gradual erosion of the job description. Today, the job description is on death’s doorstep.

Rather than waste time updating a job description, there is a different approach we’ve perfected that companies small and large can use. It begins with uncovering and defining key accountabilities required by the job.

This process always begins with one key question: Why does this job exist?

Subject-matter experts gather to brainstorm through a facilitated process to establish three to five key accountabilities about how this job should be done. (Subject-matter experts are people who interact with the position on a daily or weekly basis: the supervisor, the supervisor’s direct manager, people who are performing well in the position or have successfully held the position within the last six months and people in lateral positions.)

Priority is then assigned to each key accountability. For example, a key accountability for an outside sales manager would be:

Effectively prospect, qualify, demonstrate and close according to company guidelines to ensure sales goals are met while maintaining company’s integrity and brand image

Another example would be for the head of a private school:

Inspire students, staff and community to achieve internationally competitive levels of academic excellence by using data and relationships to disrupt the status quo and change student outcomes.

These will later be integrated into job advertisements and postings as well as performance evaluations. They will also be infused into the interview processes, commitment statements and accountability programs.

The real value of key accountabilities is that they point out the expectations of the job, giving the new employee a clear path leading to success.

With key accountabilities, the tired four-page job description is needed no more.

Bill Bonnstetter is chairman of TTI Success Insights and Target Training International Ltd. TTI is based in the Scottsdale Airpark at 17785 N. Pacesetter Way. More:,, @ttiresearch, @TTI_SI;