Friday, June 21, 2013

What Google has learned about hiring

A few days ago, the New York Times published an interview by Adam Bryant entitled “In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal”. Bryant interviewed Lazslo Bock, a Google executive, about what Google has learned about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hiring new employees.

Google has the resources to crunch numbers on employee performance or success and match that to hiring criteria. Most of the rest of us don’t, so this is worth reading. Here are a few things that stood out for me, as someone who participates on hiring committees and tends to wonder how good I am at judging applicants.

“Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship.”

“On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time...What works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up...[also] where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

“Twice a year, anybody who has a manager is surveyed on the manager’s qualities...We then share that with the manager, and we track improvement across the whole company. Over the last three years, we’ve significantly improved the quality of people management at Google, measured by how happy people are with their managers...for most [managers], just knowing that information causes them to change their conduct.”

Lastly, this is my favorite bit from the article:

“...G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless...We found that they don’t predict anything...the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time...academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are...conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer...You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

These insights have far-reaching implications for teachers, not just members of hiring committees.