Feeds

back to article Google staffing boss: Our old hiring procedures were 'worthless'

Want to land a job at Google? Just doing well at school and being good at solving puzzles and brainteasers isn't going to cut it anymore, according to Laszlo Bock, the Chocolate Factory's vice president of "people operations." Over the years, prospective Google hires have recounted tales of the company's elaborate interview …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

WTF?

World's cleverest company states the obvious

Er, I've been interviewing people for 20 years and I figured that out after about 5 interviews. And I didn't need an algorithm to do it. Does this qualify me for a job at Google?

21
0
Silver badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

I've been interviewing people for 20 years and I figured that out after about 5 interviews. And I didn't need an algorithm to do it. Does this qualify me for a job at Google?

No. Because at Google you need an algorithm. Perhaps you could make one up.

4
0
Silver badge
Holmes

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Actually Google is almost a one trick pony. They do a huge amount of stupid stuff.

They are good at selling advertising and doing search. Android is pretty much a "bought in" development based on Linux and Java.

Most of the really smart companies are small ones you never heard of.

13
4
FAIL

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

I agree. One of the absolute stupidest idiots I know is a long time Google employee, pretty high up in management. On the other hand, a couple of really smart people I know are also Google employees. The idiot guy would always brag about Googles brain teasers for interviewees. The smart people thought the whole thing was an exercise in intellectual masturbation.

27
0

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Well, I for one would like to be a one trick pony like Google...

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

"..I've been interviewing people for 20 years .."

Careful. Say something like that and you'll have Jake in here telling us all how he invented interviewing and has been doing it for 40yrs and has never hired a dud employee and turned down Google when they begged him to be their CEO.

9
0
Gold badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

I, for one, have only every actually done 3 interviews sitting on the employer side of the desk. I find the information about what worked (and didn't) for Google helpful. Doubly so now that I have my own company and it's future growth to worry about.

5
0
Bronze badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

> The smart people thought the whole thing was an exercise in intellectual masturbation.

And were then disappointed to find out that it was a recruitment scheme from Google.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

@Trevor - "I, for one, have only every actually done 3 interviews sitting on the employer side of the desk. I find the information about what worked (and didn't) for Google helpful. Doubly so now that I have my own company and it's future growth to worry about."

I, for one, am glad that someone finally admitted that where you went to school and what grades and test scores you got don't mean anything about what kind of employee you will be. Some of the most highly risk averse, uncreative people are fantastic at memorizing crap to regurgitate on a college test.

19
0
Bronze badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

The difference is that, much like you did right now, Google made an assumption on what would be an effective technique, BUT (a big but there) they didn't just sit on that assumption. They actually kept records and over many years compared those assumptions against real world performance to see if they were right.

Yeah, a lot of things seem obvious at the time, the impressive part about this story is that it's about a group of people that freely admit they were wrong, and told us why.

17
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

I find the information about what worked (and didn't) for Google helpful. Doubly so now that I have my own company and it's future growth to worry about.

Careful - different parameters :). From my own experience I have found HR only ever to be remotely useful when recruiting horizontal layer office staff. Any kind of specialism, and HR cannot cope (and thus tends to hide behind tick box management, one of the many reasons why I intensely dislike any software being involved in the selection process) - we found it takes one to know one. Especially with vacancies that run opposite to organisational structures like security and risk management you need people that understand that job, the ethics and the politics involved to recruit the right people for it, AND the right managers.

8
0
Gold badge
Happy

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

"I, for one, have only every actually done 3 interviews sitting on the employer side of the desk. I find the information about what worked (and didn't) for Google helpful. Doubly so now that I have my own company and it's future growth to worry abou"

Let me suggest that if their qualification are important to their ability to do the job people actually check them because people have a tend to err, lie.

For the rest may I suggest you set up a dummy environment and get them to actually test their skills. It's going to be time consuming but with virtual machines should be fairly easy to re-set for the next candidate.

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Evidently, they did not read C. Northcote Parkinson's chapter "The Short List" in Parkinson's Law. It tells you exactly how to weed out unsuitable candidates, and he presents an algorithm which gets you just one applicant (the right one) obviating the need for an interview.

I find it odd they did not find that paper, as it must have been scanned by them, and a quick google got me this.

At Google, unlike the X-Files, the truth is in there.

In both cases, it is a matter of finding things

2
0
Gold badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Learning what does and doesn't work for others helps me refine my approaches. After all, don't we all learn by either making mistakes ourselves or trying to modify our behaviour based on the mistakes others make? More data is always useful, especially in areas where I have little expertise.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

@Andy

The alternative to checking grades seems to be checking experience. So the projects you work on for the first few years of your career can define your entire career, even though it says nothing about capabilities or how you are as an employee. My first projects were on old technologies and didn't involve any difficult algorithms, and so have all my projects since then. But that doesn't mean I'd be no use at google.

2
0
Silver badge
Devil

like to be a one trick pony like Google

Well the money is good.

But there is more to life than money.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious @AC 06:50

You've found HR to be remotely useful???? You must work in a charmed environment ...

2
0
Silver badge

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

'Trouble is the Google chap speaks as if this information is being discovered for the first time ever, and by Google. As if nobody had ever studied the interview process before. Incidentally I have today discovered a technique for emptying an egg by putting tiny a hole in one end and then-

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: intellectual masturbation.

Ahhh... It's what your right lobe's for!

1
0
Childcatcher

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Ha I totally agree - I'm 25 years in IT and this is such a hopelessly obvious conclusion - reminds me of 'The Spy who shagged me' where Dr Evil (who went to evil college you know!) came up with that such complex and obvious solution to kill our hero that we knew for sure it would end in FAIL - wonder how much shareholder value Google squanders on such lame nonsense?

0
2
Bronze badge

Blind Side

"...how big the data can get..."

Well there is half the problem of finding good employees. They're always so focused on "big data", not the quality of it. I'd say H.R. should just hold an employment lottery, but then they would just over analyze that.

1
2
Silver badge

No offense but...

I want to have as little to do with Google as possible.

And only once you start thinking about how that might be done will you realize "how deep the rabbit hole goes".

5
0
Silver badge

The rabbit hole goes nowhere, since to have nothing to do with Google you need to not have an Internet connection.

Yes, I know, maybe you can fiddle with script blockers and use Bing, but I think you're only deluding yourself. As soon as you have a mobile phone and/or an Internet connection, you're on Google's radar.

0
0

Revealing questions...

Don't forget that a job interview goes both ways. The questions asked by the employer reveal much about the company and too many of those type of questions would be enough to make walk away.

20
0

This post has been deleted by its author

In general people who stay in education long enough to get PhDs do so for one of two reasons. Either they love their academic field (in which case any job Google gives them is going to be unfulfilling and so they'll be unproductive) or they have no idea what they want to do in life and so stay in education for as long as people keep funding them.

The latter set make up an unhealthy proportion of doctoral students and these people are worse than useless for a company that wants to create new things because if they had any appetite for taking risks or trying new things they wouldn't still be students.

But as Google are a one-trick company who have no idea how to spend the vast profits from their advertising business they're unlikely to know a good idea from a bad one, so it's no wonder it took them so long to notice that lots of their employees don't either.

6
8
Silver badge

"Either they love their academic field (in which case any job Google gives them is going to be unfulfilling and so they'll be unproductive)"

What an utterly ridiculous conclusion made from a sweeping generalization....

"The latter set make up an unhealthy proportion of doctoral students and these people are worse than useless for a company that wants to create new things because if they had any appetite for taking risks or trying new things they wouldn't still be students."

..ditto - of course it'll be true of some individuals who are doctoral students, in the same way it'll be true for some in other walks of life - but your generalization is utter shit. Won't try new things if they're doctoral students ? You really do know sod all don't you.... sheesh.

17
10
Silver badge

I don't like generalizations ...

... or people called Bernard.

15
0
WTF?

In general, you're wrong

"...these people are worse than useless for a company that wants to create new things because if they had any appetite for taking risks or trying new things they wouldn't still be students"

The point of a doctoral degree is to do original research, so it proves you must be able to think creatively and independently. The greater concern might be a lack of experience of working in a team.

Running up more years of student debt is a risk in itself, when you consider that they could be earning megabucks in the city.

8
4

This does seem to be a topic that gets some people riled up, but I'm surprised its so controversial. People who go into advanced studies planning to advance the field are doing it for the right reason. People who go into them thinking that a PhD will make them look smart, postpone having to get a job or give them a better paying one are contributing to the massive waste of resources that goes into over-educating people for the vast majority of jobs which require industry experience rather than abstract knowledge.

Google have belatedly realised that and stopped blindly sweeping PhDs by the thousand, but perhaps the fact that a multi-billion dollar business relies on people continuing to take massive loans to stay in education into their thirties explains why over-education remains a touchy subject.

4
1
Anonymous Coward

@Bernard and flamers

Bit more to it than that perhaps. Recent statistics modelling (yes highly controversial when I last bothered to read up on it) indicates too many tertiary unemployed educated people can add to political instability. No, not due to the education, but a lack of social mobility becomes frustrating when expectations are not met. Have a google on indicators of violence outbreaks. Especially on the one where a crumbling economic (hah) empire is predicted to have major internal disorder by 2020. Hello PRISM, sorted that copyright case yet ? I thought not.

3
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't like generalizations ...

"... or people called Bernard."

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's sweeping, discriminatory generalisations.

And the Dutch.

9
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't like generalizations ...

> ... or people called Bernard.

Nursie?

2
0
Silver badge

Re : Bernard

"People who go into advanced studies planning to advance the field are doing it for the right reason. People who go into them thinking that a PhD will make them look smart, postpone having to get a job or give them a better paying one are contributing to the massive waste of resources that goes into over-educating people for the vast majority of jobs which require industry experience rather than abstract knowledge."

That is not in dispute - what is, is your proposition that the latter group is basically the vast majority of doctoral students ("in general" I think the phrase was), and also that even people going in 'for the right reason' are afraid of risk and new things (your words again) and simply aren't suitable for a commercial work environment. That is what I was describing as 'utter shit' - mainly because it is.

3
1

Re: Re : Bernard

It's as well to read something a few times before flying off the handle.

~

THE LATTER SET make up an unhealthy proportion of doctoral students AND THESE people are worse than useless for a company that wants to create new things because if they had any appetite for taking risks or trying new things they wouldn't still be students.

~

No mention of all doctoral students being risk averse or unsuitable for a commercial environment. We can certainly disagree about the relative proportion of people who are in advanced studies for the right reasons (my experience is that far too many end up studying their advisors' pet projects because they don't really know what they want to research), but creating a strawman and then knocking it down isn't going to advance the discussion.

2
2
Silver badge

Re: Re : Bernard

"No mention of all doctoral students being risk averse or unsuitable for a commercial environment."

From the original post :

" because if they had any appetite for taking risks or trying new things they wouldn't still be students."

..is not having any appetite for taking risks not risk averse ?

"Either they love their academic field (in which case any job Google gives them is going to be unfulfilling and so they'll be unproductive)"

I'd class 'any job' in Google as a commercial environment - the extension to other commercial environments is a stretch, i'll accept that, but hardly a large one.

Hardly a straw-man

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Re : Bernard

and yes, I agree that we can disagree about the relevant proportion viz THE LATTER SET

0
0

Re: Re : Bernard

Hi Tim,

I cut and pasted the entire paragraph and highlighted in capitals the parts which show context. You responded by pulling out a claim I make about SOME graduate students and misunderstanding or pretending that I'm making that claim about ALL graduate students.

By then refuting the argument that's superficially similar to mine but different in the key point of dispute you're engaging in a textbook strawman.

2
1
Silver badge

Re: Re : Bernard

"I cut and pasted the entire paragraph and highlighted in capitals the parts which show context. You responded by pulling out a claim I make about SOME graduate students and misunderstanding or pretending that I'm making that claim about ALL graduate students."

Mea culpa - in my initial response I simply did not see the 'latter set' part of the sentence. I still completely disagree with your comments about them necessarily being risk averse, but I certainly made a mistake in my reading of that paragraph. My apologies for that and the following related comments.

0
0

Re: Re : Bernard

No drama.

It's also worth noting that my original point wasn't (or wasn't intended to be) about the unsuitability of this latter set (the size of which we disagree on) for commercial work in general, but specifically for Google's needs at the time they were hiring.

There's lots of commercial work that needs people who are academically able and diligent but need a defined ruleset within a structured environment (and it remains my contention that lots of people hang around in education longer than they should because they're scared to step out of that). While a random PhD is no better than an expensive signal in indicating suitability for a role of this sort, I'm not claiming that this random PhD wouldn't be up to this kind of job.

What I am claiming is that Google were in the situation lots of highly successful internet startups find themselves in of having a market capitalization and profile which feels wrong in comparison to the number and profile of their employees. The response of hiring as many highly qualified people as possible in a scattergun way and putting them in an environment that needs entrepreneurial verve and risk taking looks so obviously flawed in retrospect that it's hard to see why they've taken so long to find out.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Re : Bernard

That I can agree with. My initial beef was partly with the idea that doctoral students could be split in two categories (regardless of what the categories were), and then with the characterisations themselves. The points you just made i'd say were pretty much on the money.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Reason...

The reason for this volte-face could be that their original hiring mechanism is not scalable. There is already a scarcity of good software engineers in the industry. And believe me lot of good software engineers hate so called brain-teasers because these teasers are outright silly. What software engineers do like is logic based problem solving which the interview process at Google possibly did not cater to. So really good applications could have dried over the years with good software engineers not even bothering to apply at Google.

I hope other companies will follow suite in changing their silly interview processes.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Reason...

That's not it. What they've probably realised is that it's better to hire people who can learn than it is to hire learned people.

Now before anyone gets their back up, that's not a dig at formal education at all. It's a statement about priorities and all I'm saying is that the ability to learn is more important than what you already know, particularly in positions where you are trying to be creative/innovative. What Google were doing previously was hiring people who knew how to take a test. That's not quite the same thing.

7
0
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: Reason...

"... all I'm saying is that the ability to learn is more important than what you already know, particularly in positions where you are trying to be creative/innovative."

If you beat a puppy (even if she has a PhD) then you'll probably create a fearful dog who knows how to avoid beatings rather than a creative/innovative self-confident dog who might be hiring a great new puppy for the "family". You don't reverse that death spiral by saying "we do things differently now".

1
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Re: Reason...

absolutely true. Suffered in a few organisations where people good at tests were selected and eventual disaster as the resultant underlings or co-workers got fed up keeping newly hired incompetent out of trouble and quit. Then systems broke. One wonders if HR droids are responsible because it is easy to have a checklist with degrees on it rather than get an overworked technical person to do and write up interviews. Particularly where HR standards require linguistic gymnastics that irritate said techie, such as public sector. I had an unpleasant experience of being overridden by HR (abusively) on a non-technical but semi-skilled clerical job where the selection based on real work criteria was deleted and a HR favourite, who failed basic questions, was selected. I lost my best staff member after that. The rejected candidate went to another area and did brilliantly. The rest of us in team stressed out and most left including me. HR defended their choice to the bitter end.

Note: I accept that some jobs require a higher education and only brilliant people can do some jobs. Fine, but there has been a creeping snobbery about tertiary education meaning the same thing as better/competent for generations. Historically, IMHO, it is a variation on the aristocratic snobbery. Good family, right schools, fine, make him a general even if he is a blundering fool. Worked really well in WW1. Even military learned to start selecting on competence after that.

7
0
Bronze badge
Holmes

Where are the customers?

Well, pretty good point, but I think it's more relevant that they are losing track of the real world. Insofar as there are lots of less educated and dare I say older people in the real world, how much can the google know about them? Weekly email to your parents is scarcely sufficient...

P.S. I just like the icon and the old classic mysteries, but I've never smoked a pipe.

0
0
Bronze badge

@ Gannon (J.) Dick

I think you'll find that taking an interest in puppies, as part of your selection criteria, is going to put you on the wrong end of a harassment complaint.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: @ Gannon (J.) Dick

I once had an interview with multiple department heads, and my future boss asked me (his only question):

"We like to promote from within ... do you like to torture insects and small animals ?" with an assist from the sight of dropping jaws, I blundered into the right answer: I laughed my ass off. I was a good listener.

1
0

About five years ago I had a phone interview with some dolt who turned out to be product manager for Picasa. I knew more about the product from casual use than he did and name a dozen glaring UI bugs that he wasn't aware of.

At about that point in the interview I became a body he needed to bury.

6
0
Bronze badge

who knew?

"except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world's leading expert."

Their streetview team was trained by the stig.

4
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.