Accountable. Now that indeed is an interesting word.
I found two good definitions:
1) responsible for the effects of your actions and willing to explain them
2) responsible to someone or for some action; answerable
It almost seems the two words, responsible and accountable, are interchangeable. But not quite.
The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions.
So let’s ask your applicant what the word means.
“Frank, what is your definition of the word accountable?”
Now I’m going to give you a heavy dose of my opinion here. If Frank can easily communicate a fairly complete definition, this is a good sign that he demonstrates the quality.
If Frank fumbles around for an answer, then this could be a weak area for him.
The key here is that Frank can easily talk to you about accountability. It’s not foreign to him. He has familiarity with it.
So, instead of asking directly about being accountable, ask them to define the word. This may give you a better clue as to just how accountable they are.
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