What Google Can Teach Us About Interviews and Hiring
Google is arguably one of the best companies to work for in the world. Their employee perks are well-known (free gourmet meals and fitness classes, to name a few), and people would kill to work alongside the manpower behind the ubiquitous, multinational tech company.
You can expect that Google receives tons of daily applications, and has refined its hiring process to find only the most competent employees who fit their culture. On average, their whole interview process takes around 4 months, involving several stages in and out of their office. People from both the department you’re applying for and from other departments get involved in the process, until an independent committee reviews all of your interviewers’ feedback.
It’s been described as rigorous by everyone who has tried to apply there, so it’s highly recommended that applicants prepare and do their research ahead of time. Looking at Google’s hiring process, what can we learn about the way they find future employees?
You may have heard about the ridiculous “brainteaser” questions Google used to ask their applicants during interviews, questions such as “How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?” and “How much would you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” that they didn’t really expect a literal answer from. Instead, Google is more interested in seeing how your mind would go about solving seemingly impossible tasks. The only way you could answer these brainteasers, really, would be through approximation: asking a series of related questions and getting several approximate answers, and then drawing a conclusion from there. But, as far as we know, Google now discourages asking such questions, as these have little ability in determining a candidate’s actual performance for the position, in addition to being just plain frustrating.
Is it Just Technical Skill?
Like any other company, Google considers your role knowledge, or how much expertise you have for a position. But that’s the last thing they look at. There’s no doubt that there are more than enough people in the world who possess qualified skills. You need the usual: collaboration skills, responsibility, time management, and all that. But regardless of whether you acquired your knowledge through a college education or self-study, Google cares more about what can do with the knowledge you possess, or what you can do as you learn along the way. In short, you don’t necessarily need a degree to be hired by Google.
What They Really Look For
According to Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, Google considers three other factors in potential candidates besides role knowledge. They examine general cognitive ability, which isn’t just intelligence, but the ability to learn things as you go along and to solve challenging problems. They look for leadership skills, what they specifically call emergent leadership. It’s not about sticking to your roles, but knowing when to step in and lead, and also knowing when to step back and hand the reins over to someone else. They especially look at a person’s “Googleyness.” They value people who like to have fun, and who are, at the same time, self-motivated enough to consciously work on their tasks without anyone telling them to and in order to be better at what they do. Owning your responsibilities, going straight for the solution of any problem, and being okay with failing and accepting if someone else pitches a better idea than you are the kind of traits that ensure your place in Google.
They also dislike people who, without fail, attribute their success to their own skill or intellect, but blame others or an external factor when something goes wrong for them. This is known as fundamental attribution in psychology, or the tendency to excessively and unreasonably focus on internal characteristics when explaining a person’s behavior, rather than external factors. That’s toxic for any workplace.
Most jobs at Google are technical jobs, which require a proficient level of technical skill, but it all boils down to how you collect knowledge, how you collaborate and deal with people, and how you do your work. In fact, learning from failure is a big part of their culture. When you screw up, you acknowledge your mistake, and do something about it, and constantly express a willingness to learn. They promote the idea of learning on the way, which is pretty much what life is in general, if you think about it.
Originally published at blog.bridgesoutheast.com on March 16, 2016.