Why Accountability in Recruitment is All or Nothing

Why Accountability in Recruitment is All or Nothing

If your recruitment business is not getting the results you want, the problem may be lack of accountability. I’m not just referring to the individuals in the business, there are multiple layers and players in this. Take a moment and think about the 3 key parties involved in the process that a recruitment professional has to manage- the client, the candidates and the recruiters themselves. Everything needs to fall into place for a successful search to happen, and for that it requires everyone being accountable to their word.
Every recruiter knows how painful it is when someone in the chain doesn’t keep their word. The challenge sits on the shoulders of the recruiter to be the one who expertly manages all the moving parts so that everyone stays accountable.

So how can recruitment business owners improve this? Would it surprise you if I said there is no silver bullet? Instead, it is a mindset, a culture. We’ll circle back to that culture in a moment.
Last year I discovered Greg Bustin’s book “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High Performance Culture”. Greg Bustin is a business and leadership consultant, an international speaker, and a Master Chair for Vistage International. In the book he explains this powerful trait in easy-to-understand components and as you will shortly see, there are important lessons for recruiters of all levels.


What does accountability really mean?

Greg Bustin writes about accountability from the perspective of creating a high performance culture in your organisation. This in itself is extremely powerful however I feel that recruiters can, and need to, take it further by looking at how accountability can also be carried outside of your immediate organisation/department and applied to candidates, clients and hiring managers.

Let’s start with Bustin’s explanation of accountability, which captures it brilliantly:

“Doing what you said you would do within the time frame you agreed to do it.

Practiced effectively, accountability is a way of thinking and acting all the time and ultimately trumps any financial, intellectual, structural, or technological ability. The reason is simple: Accountability is not based on circumstance but rather on an attitude of accomplishing a task or achieving an objective despite circumstance.”

Bustin’s final paragraph paragraph feels like it was written for the Recruiting and Search profession,

“Accountability is critical to anyone leading a group of people, because, after all, every business is a people business. Accountability is how people get things done—or don’t get things done.”


The Seven Pillars of Accountability

In the pursuit of understanding what separates high performing companies from the rest, Greg Bustin undertook more than 5000 interviews with successful CEOs worldwide. What he discovered was a mindset grounded in seven distinct characteristics.

Using the memorable acronym C.U.L.T.U.R.E, he calls these characteristics the Seven Pillars of Accountability. From all of his in-depth research, Bustin concluded that culture is a significant predictor of your future performance.

As you read through these seven pillars ask yourself the challenging questions that each point raises. Is yours a culture that is created and nurtured intentionally, or is yours a culture that occurs by happenstance?


Character: An organization’s character is shaped by its values, and these values are clearly defined and communicated. The organization does what is right for its customers, employees, suppliers, and investors, even when it’s difficult to do so.

Unity: Every employee understands and supports the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategy, and knows his or her role in helping to achieve them.

Learning: The organization is committed to continuous learning and invests in ongoing training and development.

Tracking: The organization has reliable, established systems to measure the things that are most important.

Urgency: The organization makes decisions and acts on them with a sense of purpose, commitment, and immediacy.

Reputation: The organization rewards achievement and addresses underperformance, earning the organization and its leaders a reputation, both internally and externally, as a place where behavior matches values.

Evolving: The organization continuously adapts and changes the organization’s practices to grow its marketplace leadership position.

“Just as you cultivate a garden, you must cultivate a workplace environment where high performance is the expectation.”


In his book, Bustin talks about accountability being an all or nothing standard. Does the idea of accountability being consistently present sound too idealistic? Well, he makes makes a very strong case for it by pointing out that “wee problems”, which can seem inconsequential, can create much bigger issues.

It doesn’t need much imagination to think of the ‘wee problems’ that can arise and compound along a search process potentially causing it to fail….ie the search you jumped into without fully qualifying it, the client failing to sell the candidate on the opportunity at interview, the counter-offer conversation you didn’t have, the relocation questions you didn’t ask, the candidate backing out of the offer. There can be so many, and these are the kind of dropped balls that can cost the entire search.

Going back to Bustin’s point about culture, accountability really has to become part of the company DNA. When this happens the recruiter will set every assignment up for optimal chances of success by setting the foundations for accountability with all key parties from the beginning, and then managing that high standard throughout the process.

The way I see it, what starts in your business as a culture underpinned by the 7 pillars, must then extend beyond the organisation as the ‘culture’ of every search assignment.


Here are some questions to help challenge your thinking about accountability in a constructive way:

What “wee problems” are taking root and damaging your business’s results and/or culture?

What would the typical ‘culture’ of your search assignments look like?

What would an impartial visitor to your business see, hear, and experience?

How would the observed behaviour align with the behaviour you say you want?
For regular ideas and resources related to accountability and reaching your recruiting potential, come and join us in the LinkedIn Group The Intentional Recruiter.


Note: I acknowledge that their are small differences between some US and UK spellings. Being from Scotland, my writing follows UK English so please excuse what might appear to be spelling errors in the US.

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