Google executives believe that, “Hiring is the most important thing managers do.” Everyone knows someone great, and recruiting is part of everyone’s job.
I will be the first to tell you that what works for Google is no guarantee of success for other high-tech companies or businesses in other industries. Companies should always develop human capital strategies based on their business objectives, purpose, principles, and culture. I believe, though, that many companies can learn a few lessons about hiring well by looking at Google.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend you read How Google Works (September 2014, Grand Central Publishing, New York) by Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO, Eric Schmidt, and former Senior Vice President of Products, Jonathan Rosenberg. It is a fast read and shares many fascinating stories from Google’s history, not only on hiring and talent management, but also how Google has handled some very complex business situations.
Google’s ideal candidate
The book explains how Google’s ideal candidate is the “smart creative” with “Googleyness” – someone who is smarter than you, has passion (through their actions not just their words), is a “learning animal,” and can pass the “LAX test.” That is, someone who has a trustworthy character, is well-rounded, engaged with the world and who would be interesting to be with if your flight at LAX was delayed several hours.
Below are the authors’ hiring recommendations:
- Hiring should be peer-based, not hierarchical, with decisions made by committees that include the hiring manager (who has a veto).
- Hiring should be focused on finding the best possible people, even if their experience does not match the job opening. Google believes this “expand the aperture” emphasis is best for the company in the long run.
- Hire people with insights, which can’t be taught, and check your biases at the door.
- Interviewing is the most important skill for any business person. It begins with reviewing the applicant’s resume and doing an on-line search of the candidate. Then, during the interview, ask challenging questions to find out the person’s capabilities without making the interview overly stressful. Ask role related questions to see how the candidate thinks as well as large and complex questions that require candidates to share what insights they have gained from their experiences. An example question might be, “What surprised you about….?” For more senior people, ask, “When you were in a crisis, or needed to make an important decision, how did you do it?” Google has implemented a “trusted interviewing program,” and its graduates do most of Google’s interviewing. The Interviewers are regularly evaluated on how well they interview.
- Google’s own research shows that after four interviews, the company typically does not learn anything new, so they recommend that no more than five people interview each candidate.
- Schedule interviews for 30 minutes because you should know by then if you have an interest in this candidate or not and, therefore, why waste time? If you want to know more from a candidate, you can invite them back. (I personally disagree with this advice and believe interviews ought to be at least 45 minutes to an hour to fully understand a candidate’s background, ways of thinking, how they recovered from adversity, why he or she left previous jobs and their ethics.)
- This next hiring recommendation surprised me. After observing that many of their hires in the early 2000s were not strong enough, Google co-founder Larry Page, implemented a policy that senior management review every offer in order to send a message throughout the organization about the importance of hiring.
There is much to admire about Google. I, for one, believe that many companies could benefit from their dedication to hiring excellence!
What do you believe is most important in hiring the right candidates? What practices do you have in your company? I would love to hear from you.
Victor Assad is a strategic human resources consultant and coach who works with key decision makers and human resources leaders on talent management, accelerating change, leadership development, and mergers and acquisitions initiatives. Please e-mail Victor at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Victor’s website at www.victorhrconsultant.com.