What Google Has Learned About How to Hire People

Have you read this New York Times article, In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal? It's an interview with Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google.

There are several points that are critical for you to read:

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.

Why was it a complete random mess? Because they had used irrelevant questions and riddles. (Image of short woman pulling her hair out in frustration!)

What works?

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. 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.

Fist pump! I say this in Hiring Geeks That Fit. Well, I don't actually say that all they do is make the interviewer feel smart. I only say that here on this blog. I don't want to alienate my book readers. I want to bring my book readers along and help them realize what does work:

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

This is why I recommend a matrix for the interviewing team, where two people specifically ask questions for each essential skill. That's the consistent rubric.

Behavioral interviewing also works — 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.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. 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.

If you want to be a great interviewer, behavior-description questions work. Add auditions, and you have a winning combination. Remember, auditions are about behaviors.

The rest of the interview is about leadership and how to interview for that. You should read the entire interview.

If you want to learn how to do this, buy Hiring Geeks That Fit. If you have already bought it and read it, please leave a review on Amazon or goodreads. I am getting the print version ready. My book designer and I are close… The print version will be available this summer.

I owe Keith Ray a tip of the hat for this post. He pointed me to the New York Times article. Thanks, Keith!

2 thoughts on “What Google Has Learned About How to Hire People”

  1. Walter Underwood

    This is a really severe case of “two months in the lab can save two hours in the library”, but this is more like fifteen years and fifteen minutes.

    It is hilarious that they finally figured out brainteasers were just stroking their own ego. How totally Google. Their corporate persona is being smarter than everyone else.

    Three years ago I asked a Google recruiter to stop calling me. I had a dozen years of enterprise search experience and they wanted to hire me but would not (could not?) tell me what I would be doing.

    HP trained me in behavioral interviewing five years before Google was founded. HP was doing auditions (find the problem in this circuit diagram) at least as early as the 70’s.

  2. Pingback: Team Diversity – Getting the right mindset | Adam White

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