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Chief Operating Officer (COO) Job Description & Responsibilities For Startups & Beyond

Morgan Lichtenstein
4 min read

A Chief Operating Officer (COO) plays a crucial role in an organization’s short and long-term success by overseeing daily operations and devising effective business strategies in close partnership with the CEO.

As a startup or even enterprise business, you may be wondering if it’s the right call for your organization to hire a Chief Operating Officer (COO).

In this article, we’ll explore the key roles and responsibilities of a COO, the main qualifications and skills to look for in a top COO candidate, and some tips and tricks to recruit them.

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What Does a Chief Operating Officer Do? Job Description, Main Duties, and Responsibilities

A Chief Operating Officer is second-in-command to the CEO and handles the day-to-day running of the organization. They oversee a company’s daily business operations and ensure teams have the operational and financial resources needed to succeed. 

The specific roles and responsibilities of a COO will vary depending on the organization they work for and how it chooses to define the position. Every business’s needs are different from one another, but for the most part, a Chief Operating Officer job description will include duties such as: 

  • Oversee the daily work and operations of the company and individual teams (Sales, Finance, Marketing, Product, Human Resources, etc.).
  • Meet with and report to the CEO about the organization’s daily operations and key objectives.
  • Set achievable company goals and business plans in line with culture and vision.
  • Design, implement, and iterate upon business strategies and corporate initiatives.
  • Assist the CEO in fundraising and participate in any expansion activities (acquisitions, business partnerships, and investments).
  • Work with the CFO and finance teams in forecasting and managing various departmental budgets and company costs.
  • Assess and implement new business procedures, systems, technologies, and processes to improve company-wide efficiency and output.

Main Difference Between a CEO and COO

While the CEO and COO are both senior executives who work closely together to drive the company’s success, these two C-suite roles still differ from one another. 

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO): The highest-ranking executive in a company. Responsible for making high-level decisions and the overall direction and success of an organization. CEOs focus on the vision and operational strategies that affect a company as a whole.
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO): Typically reports to the CEO and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of an organization. The COO role focuses on executing the CEO’s vision and operational strategies.

To learn more about the specific differences between a CEO and a COO, read our blog here.

Qualifications and Leadership Skills To Look For in a Top COO

Every business is different and because of this, the exact COO job description and the bullseye COO you’re looking for may differ. However, there are some essential qualifications and skills we’ve identified in a successful COO. 

Here are just some of the core competencies and qualifications to look for when searching for your next COO.

  • A bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in business management or business administration.
  • Proven experience as a Chief Operating Officer (years of experience subjective to the organization).
  • Demonstrable understanding of business development and strategic planning.
  • A track record of successful financial management and experience in fundraising is a plus.
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills and the ability to empathize with individual teams and team members.
  • Outstanding verbal and written communication skills that leave little to no room for misinterpretation or misguidance.
  • Natural ability to analyze data and metrics, and can make decisions based on findings to influence profitability.
  • Inherent business acumen, problem-solving skills, and ability to collaborate with all members of the leadership team.
  • Ability to communicate and relate to all levels of the organization (e.g., external stakeholders, members of the senior management team, new employees, vendors, and more).
  • Ability to adapt to changing market conditions and business focuses.
  • Excellent time and project management skills.
  • Bonus: A natural and strong connection with the executive team during interviews.

5 Tips To Recruit a Visionary COO

1. Define Your Vision

A COO deals largely with executing a company’s vision. Without a solid vision in place, a COO may struggle to instill confidence and help the organization work toward specific business goals.

So first things first, make sure your company’s vision is clear and well-known through and through. It should be your North Star, and a prospective COO will be more inclined to join a team well aware of its mission.

It might even help to share your vision statement with COO candidates during interviews. At this stage, you might ask the COO candidate to explain their interpretation of the vision, ask some ways in which they’d help you get there, and if they foresee any issues with it.

2. Write a Clear Job Description That Attracts the Right Candidates

When you’re recruiting for a C-level position, a job description is perhaps the first line of defense between your hiring teams and an overwhelming amount of applications.

Recruiting a COO is among one of the most important decisions and critical hires an organization can make, and writing a job description that invites anyone and everyone to apply may prove to be a bigger problem than it is a solution.

To ensure you attract the best candidates for your open COO role, use some of the qualifications and required skills listed in this blog above. Additionally, make sure your job description template: 

  • Clearly states the title of the role and when you’re expecting to hire.
  • Establishes if this is a full-time or interim role.
  • Includes an accurate list of main responsibilities and some of the objectives they might be expected to meet within a designated timeframe.
  • Clearly states the benefits/compensation for the role (while final compensation packages can be disclosed later on, consider sharing the salary range).
  • Includes a transparent “About Us” or culture section.
  • Is proofread for clarity and formatting.

3. Do Your Research and Offer Competitive Compensation

The top COOs, or any prospective employee, will apply to jobs and come to interviews already knowing what they’re worth. To compete for the very best COOs, it’s essential to do the necessary research on the job market and industry trends to offer compensation that aligns with what leading COOs expect.

4. Tap Into the Power of Network Effects

For a role this critical, it may not be enough to simply post an opening on your website. It’s time to unlock the power of your own network and its effects. Start by reaching out to colleagues, former coworkers, and industry contacts who may have relevant insights and connections to passive COO candidates. 

You might also create an employee referral program, attend networking events, or share your role on social media. 

5. Partner With an Executive Search Firm

Speaking of networks, working with an executive search firm like Hunt Club gains you access to our robust network, too. 

At Hunt Club, our Expert Community comprises 20,000+ industry leaders, giving our Search Team access to 8 million high-quality candidates to tap for your COO recruiting needs. 

Not only do you broaden your reach and talent pool, but a full-cycle recruiting firm can handle all your sourcing, interviewing, and hiring needs to free up your valuable time in-house. 


Find Your Future COO With Hunt Club

Finding a Chief Operating Officer is a critical decision for any organization. It requires careful planning, clear communication, and diligent evaluation of candidates’ cultural alignment and qualifications.

And because of the influence a COO has over the success and profitability of a company, it’s paramount to get it right.

At Hunt Club, we know what it takes to source hard-to-reach executive talent. With our innovative and tech-driven talent acquisition approach, specialized recruiters, and robust network of industry professionals, we can help you find your bullseye COO candidate faster and better than traditional recruiting methods.

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