Google’s Recruitment Process Will Make You Change the Way You Hire
Analytics disciples say the key to hiring great talent is big data. But data giant Google, which Fortune magazine ranked number one on its 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 2012, is rejecting cold, hard facts in favor of the old-fashioned, personal interview.
Interestingly, what led Google higher-ups to adopt this method of hiring were results obtained from… data. Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, explained in a New York Times interview:
Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.
Another reason Google doesn’t rely on robot recruitment is that sometimes the hiring process needs a human element. True, it’s not always a great thing—Tim Payne, a partner at KPMG Management Consulting, told the BBC that people tend to change how they evaluate a resume if the applicant’s name or ethnicity is altered—so sometimes a computer’s unwavering objectivity makes the process fairer.
But what about the case of someone who took five years to get through undergraduate school? A computer would pass over this candidate in favor of one who took the traditional four years, but in a personal interview, a recruiter could discover that the candidate took a year off to care for a family member or join the Peace Corps, and suddenly that applicant doesn’t seem undesirable.
Google hiring managers also eschew the Mensa tests for prospective employees.
“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” Bock said. “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”
Questions like that can also be poor indicators of how well an applicant will perform in the position, and they can weed out excellent candidates (or admit terrible ones).
Instead, Bock said what Google finds works the best for them are behavioral interviews in which the interviewer will ask predetermined questions about how the candidate has handled certain situations personally and will then grade the answers on a consistent scale, so it isn’t arbitrary or as biased.
Lastly—and in the software world, where many programmers are self-taught, this should be refreshing—Google recruiters couldn’t care less about applicants’ school transcripts.
“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless—no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said.
The company also doesn’t demand a college degree, and Bock said the proportion of Google employees without any college education has increased over time. He said the reasons behind getting rid of a diploma requirement are that not only does an employee’s ability to perform at Google have nothing to do with classes or test scores, but also that the kind of thinking Google values can’t be graded.
“One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” he said. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”