All Companies Should Hire Like Google

Mar 18, 2014

I don’t work at Google. I never have. I know multiple managers and former directors in HR & recruiting who’ve been there and shared their experiences. I, like many, have read countless articles on why Google is so great place to work. In terms of products, I’m a fan but not devoted to any cult of Google. Some of its past hiring practices were arrogant, inefficient, and any experienced talent acquisition leader could tell you were a waste of time.

There are articles in the LA Times and elsewhere whose main premises are that Google is ignoring how smart applicants really are by not using intelligence testing any longer. “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless … We found that they don’t predict anything,” noted Lazlo Bock, head of talent at Google. They feel it’d be mistake to follow Google’s lead. I disagree.

I think they’re missing the big point. Companies should hire like Google but adapt to their needs.

Google makes hiring and keeping the best talent one of its core operating principles, and the commitment from the executive team demonstrates that like very few companies today. When Google says talent is important, it means it.

So yes, all companies should hire like Google — though not as a cut and paste of their model but instead adapted to one’s own company needs.

Intelligence testing is a small component, one data point in defining success on the job. This is something countless recruiters and HR leaders have known for decades, but now big data is finally validating what’s obvious to us. Over my career, I’ve been involved in the hiring of at least over 200,000 professionals. I’ve seen a lot of testing — some very good and some not so much. I’m a fan of Matrigma by Hogan for spatial intelligence; and, tools like Gild that look to define a developer’s abilities with input via crowdsourcing. The world of testing has to change and adapt. Measuring pre and post hire are two very different needs that aren’t addressed. (Here’s a video on quality of hire — published in ERE.)

Notwithstanding that GPAs are not a measure of intelligence, the key argument against Google is that 1) it is in a select category and 2) there is that general cognitive ability which is highly predictive of educational and occupational success in the broad population.

Google is in the top echelon within the tech industry. Its learnings don’t need to be replicated if not appropriate, but shouldn’t be ignored. Its hiring philosophy is one reason it is so successful.

It’s true that cognitive ability is a predictor for broad population but it doesn’t account for team chemistry, social and emotional intelligence, organizational complexity … being scored as cognitively intelligent isn’t enough to be successful. It alone doesn’t predict success on the job.

Big data and advancements in computational neuroscience will change the way we define and assess quality and improve the hiring model over time. Companies like Google have the luxury of analyzing metrics of hiring and performance most companies don’t have access to, but that doesn’t mean the strategy and principles they’re using are wrong and shouldn’t be emulated.

We can keep putting intelligent professionals into roles that don’t excite them, with organizations that don’t value transparency, without building and engaging trust in employees, or having fairer compensation design that allows more of the employee base to be rewarded based on contribution/performance. Doing this will result in the same discussion next year. The definition of madness continues.

One irony is that Google treats its employees like intelligent adults, and in return, the employees act as such. It’s not about compliance or depersonalizing work relations. It’s about trust, transparency, and paying people adequately so they’re motivated. Generous stock grants certainly help.

Examples: Beautiful campus; international food at cafeteria; bus/shuttle service support for staff with long commutes; child care for working parents; allowing engineers 10 percent of their time to create/experiment on anything they’d like, and the list goes on. With such an amazing brand being built, hiring costs will easily go down.

What does Google do all companies should do:

  • It focuses on defining quality of hire, not just cost of hire. Many companies focus on the latter to their detriment.
  • Hire and retain the best talent is not a meaningless slogan — part of the hiring managers’ performance review
  • Customize what works based on the metrics

What does Google do companies should not do:

  • Have candidates interview 10-20+ interviewers
  • Spend lots of money on a hiring process without getting feedback from practioners who’ve been doing it for awhile. Assuming old dogs can’t learn a new trick isn’t wise.

It has scrapped some of these practices, so that’s good. Even Google is learning some new tricks.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!