Between his interview with the New York Times’ Adam Bryant, and a talk at The Economist’s Ideas Economy: Innovation Forum, Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, revealed some game-changing ideas about Google’s hiring process.
The insights and solutions he offers are off-kilter and exciting.
- Screening for innovation: hire for capability, not expertise. Bock reasons that if you hire people based on their capability and learning abilities, before expertise, you’ll drive innovation. Google seems to value curiosity because they believe it correlates to problem-solving skills. People with expertise on the other hand, according to Bock, tend to replicate solutions they’ve seen before. He says there needs to be a healthy balance of experts and smart people—but that Google skews toward the latter. Here’s what he told Adam Bryant after saying that Google’s offbeat interview questions were a waste of time:
Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews… where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, ‘Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.’ One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.
- Don’t compromise the hiring bar—ever. This is clearly one of the biggest factors behind the amazing success of Google. Sure you’re sacrificing money and time, but you gain more than a low turnover rate—you can create an enduring culture that drives company success for years of growth. With respect to leadership, what is Google looking for?
On the leadership side, we’ve found that leadership is a more ambiguous and amorphous set of characteristics than the work we did on the attributes of good management, which are more of a checklist and actionable. We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability.
- Be objective. Google gathers great data and makes the hiring process democratic. Hiring managers do not make the final decisions on candidates. Instead, they are only one vote of many. Letting everyone play their role in fact-based decision making is at the heart of cultivating company culture. Being objective with data also assists people in changing their behavior once they’ve joined Google.
The lesson for anyone looking at this space is that you need to construct this really powerful tent of trust in the people gathering the data and how they use it…One of the applications of Big Data is giving people the facts, and getting them to understand that their own decision-making is not perfect. And that in itself causes them to change their behavior.
Google clearly understands their ambitious goals: “At Google, our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.” It would be impossible for them to deliver on that mission without a close-knit culture. Regardless of where your company competes in the market, you have to organize your workforce around a core set of values to ensure success. Don’t be afraid of forward thinking or challenging traditional hiring norms—think instead of how you can bring novelty to a workplace that reflects the diversity of your customers.