Staffing News – Google Says Some Hiring Practices Were “A Complete Waste Of Time”

Posted in: Staffing Factoring Articles- Feb 14, 2013 No Comments

It’s hard to get hired at Google. Job candidates at the tech giant have had to submit to as many as 29 interviews before getting an official offer. And attempting to answer intentionally confounding interview questions proved too much for most. But now Google admits at least some of those hiring practices don’t work.

“On the hiring side, we found that Google Says Some Hiring Practices Were “A Complete Waste Of Time” brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” stated Lazlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google in this New York Times article. “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Instead, what does work, according to Bock, is structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent methodology for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

“Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

More specifically he said, behavioral interviewing works where you’re starting with a question based on a candidate’s real life work experiences, such as, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

“The interesting thing about the behavioral interview,” says Bock, “is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Bock also detailed a time several years ago when Google did a study to determine whether anyone at the company was particularly good at hiring.

He says they looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and then how that person ultimately performed in their job.

“We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess.”

That sentiment was echoed by Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research, and former head of the Computational Sciences division at the NASA Ames research center.

Here’s what Norvig tells Peter Seibel in a Q&A in the book Coders At Work.

“One of the best indicators of success within the company was getting the worst possible score on one of your interviews.”

“One of the interesting things we’ve found, when trying to predict how well somebody we’ve hired is going to perform when we evaluate them a year or two later, is one of the best indicators of success within the company was getting the worst possible score on one of your interviews. We rank people from one to four, and if you got a one on one of your interviews, that was a really good indicator of success.”

Google said they do better when they add more real life components to the candidate assessment process and fewer deliberately confounding brainteasers.

While it’s not likely that your employment applications include such classic questions as, “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” and “Why are manhole covers round?” are there some lessons to be taken from Google?

Have you had success using behavioral interviews? Are you more concerned with a few failures to hire great people or hiring people you shouldn’t have? Have you ever tracked the correlation between how successful applicants scored on their job interviews, and their subsequent performance on the job?
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