Google’s Secret to Hiring the Best People

Laszlo Bock’s new book, Work Rules: Insights from Google that Will Transform How You Live and Lead, is chock full of revelations about leadership and business. The chapter on hiring (excerpted by Wired magazine back in April) dishes some real dirt on Google’s candidate evaluation process. (Spoiler alert: it’s kind of boring.)

Google uses “structured interviews” as described in Bock’s book:

…candidates are asked a consistent set of questions with clear criteria to assess the quality of responses. There are two kinds of structured interviews: behavioral and situational. Behavioral interviews ask candidates to describe prior achievements and match those to what is required in the current job (i.e., “Tell me about a time . . . ?”). Situational interviews present a job-related hypothetical situation (i.e., “What would you do if . . . ?”). A diligent interviewer will probe deeply to assess the veracity and thought process behind the stories told by the candidate.

Structured interviews are predictive of future behavior to a remarkable degree, as long as they’re tested for reliability with your company and are utilized in a consistent manner. Here are the example interview questions from Work Rules:

Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team. (Follow-ups: What was your primary goal and why? How did your teammates respond? Moving forward, what’s your plan?

Tell me about a time when you effectively managed your team to achieve a goal. What did your approach look like? (Follow-ups: What were your targets and how did you meet them as an individual and as a team? How did you adapt your leadership approach to different individuals? What was the key takeaway from this specific situation?)

Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone (can be a coworker, classmate, client). What made this person difficult to work with for you? (Follow-ups: What steps did you take to resolve the problem? What was the outcome? What could you have done differently?

See? I told you it was boring.

Predictive interviewing is nothing new; in fact, it’s an age-old HR practice. Google’s use of predictive interviews in combination with other assessments of cognitive ability, conscientiousness and leadership, along with constant monitoring of the analytics around interviewing, are what makes Google’s process unique.

Is predictive interviewing part of your recruitment quiver?

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One thing Google has no trouble with is finding candidates. (I shudder to think of the number of resumes their HR folks must wade through.)

But what about the rest of us? Most companies struggle with not just selection but attracting high quality candidates in the first place. And on top of that, in any competitive industry, we are fighting against one another with only handful of true differentiators between us.

Those differentiators need to be communicated with vigor in a crystal clear and consistent voice.

One recent example we dealt with here at Tribe was for the professional services firm KPMG. Read the case study.

The series of videos introduced a cast of KPMG professionals from various disciplines and locations, chosen for their stories. Each video reveals a key strategic motive to help a prospective new hire answer the question: why should I choose a career at KPMG over its competitors?

→ Attracting Experienced Hires - KPMG's Case Study 

Google can point and laugh at their piles of qualified resumes, but the rest of us need to communicate our message clearly and connect with recruits in an honest and authentic way.


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