Does Google Know Who To Hire?

Google is one of the most successful businesses in history.  They do many things well and they do many things with no expectation of profit.  They pay attention to everything.  Their corporate motto is interesting too.  “Don’t be Evil!” 

One thing they are becoming better at is deciding who to hire.

They have been down the road with good school, great marks, high SAT score, extra-curricular leadership, interview brain teasers and more.  What have they found?  None of these things seem to work and some may impede success.

Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, recently chatted with Tom Freidman of the New York Times.  There are interesting observations.  Among them:

  • “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”
  • To be a leader you need to create space for others.  “And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”
  • “Talent exists in so many places that hiring managers who rely on a few schools are using it as a crutch and missing out.”
  • “College can be an “artificial environment” that conditions for one type of thinking. IQ is less valuable than learning on the fly.”
  • “For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. It’s learning ability.”
  • “What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead.”

I have written several pieces on the value of failure and of mistakes.  Google has taken it further and has the records to support their ideas.  I know from experience that hiring those who studied outside the field required is a winning decisions  You don’t have to un-educate them before they become useful.

There are a few more interesting areas to look at.  In the accounting world, oldest or only children do best early on.  In the sales world, youngest children do better.  I have not thought through astrological signs but they seem to be not completely meaningless.

Hiring people is a big decision and a sizable risk, especially if you are a small business.  An edge is an edge and if there are things that you have learned to be indicators of success, use them, even if they don’t seem to make sense.

The final thought in Friedman’s article:

“The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”

Please pay attention.


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Contact:  |  Follow Twitter   @DonShaughnessy

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

2 Comments on “Does Google Know Who To Hire?

  1. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know. Now this is what I call a mouthful! Holy Pete, what a sobering thought. My headful of stuff doesn’t mean anything unless I can do something with it.

  2. Intriguing observations…But once you get by the geek-speak, the answer is “no.”
    They’re obviously interested in gathering together a master race of employees.
    Here are their 5 interview (trick) questions:
    1. Do you have an IQ over 130?
    2. What shall we have for dinner this evening?
    3. Why did you choose the last five articles you read?
    4. Are you incompetent and lazy?
    5. Do you have a track record of doing something really well?
    Obviously these questions leave the interviewer broad latitude to hire whomever they like.

    Reality is, the median age of Google employees is 29, and Google’s revolving door has earned it one of the lowest employee loyalty rates of any major company in America. Average employee tenure is 1 year, They refuse to release statistics on the racial diversity of their employees. It’s a “trade secret.”

    While Google was near the top of the corporate donors list for Barak Obama’s re election in 2012 (along with University of California, Microsoft, and the US Government) they are also high on the list for IRS audits, being cited in 2013 of channeling profits offshore to AVOID taxation. It’s quickly evolved from being an innovative startup, to the status of yet another large corporation, with all the predictable baggage.

    In view of the whole picture, I prefer to continue my time-proven (and underrated) method of hiring. I’ll be happy to demonstrate for the inquiring masses, as soon as I get a new dart board and a fresh set of dice.

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