June 21, 2013
Google Rethinks Its Hiring Process – Less Emphasis On Test Scores, More On Personal Experience
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In the early days, the folks at Google made themselves an example of a new age; a few people with an idea and a few lines of code could build a billion dollar company. They took this even farther with their unorthodox thoughts on how a business should be run. Employees were given time during the week, while on the job, to work on their own pet projects. This, of course, later meant Google would have to begin shuttering many services to streamline their business. Before anyone could become an employee of Google and call Google Campus their workplace, they had to go through an intense hiring process, complete with brain teasers, off the wall questions and meetings with four or five interviewers.
These days Google has changed their approach, and in a recent interview with the New York Times, senior vice president of people operations Laszlo Bock explains that they studied their own approach and found it lacking.
Typical of anything Google, the company compiled vast amounts of data about their hiring process, then compared it against the actual job performance of those people who had been hired using this process. According to Bock and the data his company has collected, there’s zero correlation between a promising interview process and a talented and productive employee. Bock specifically mentions one Google employee who conducted interviews for his team, and only he was able to bridge the gap between how he scored a candidate in the interview and how that person actually performed in their job years later. Bock also says this one employee was able to earn such a track record because he only hired for a very specialized area in the company and happened to be the world’s leading expert in his field.
In addition to learning that the hiring process, as it stands, is completely random, Bock says Google has done away with those brain teasers they famously asked in the interview process.
“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,” said Bock.
Instead Google’s new hiring data found that it’s more efficient to ask a candidate about their own experiences on the job and how they handled themselves in real life situations rather than trying to make assumptions based on hypotheticals.
“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,” said Bock.
In its earlier days, Google was also notorious for screening candidates based on their GPA and SAT scores. Even potential employees who had been out of school for 20 or 30 years were asked for this information and sorted out if the numbers didn’t match what the company was looking for. Google no longer uses these scores as a metric for hiring and has even begun hiring employees without any college experience.
“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that GPAs 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,” said Bock.
“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”