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Google: Ability to Learn on the Fly is our #1 Hiring Criteria

Too good not to share about hiring at Google (via Tom Friedman in the NYT):

"LAST June, in an interview with Adam Bryant of The Times, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies — noted that Google had determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” — now as high as 14 percent on some teams. At a time when many people are asking, “How’s my kid gonna get a job?” I thought it would be useful to visit Google and hear how Bock would answer.

Friedman's interview with Bock indicated Ability to Learn on the fly was the #1 hiring criteria at Google:

“There are five hiring attributes we have across the company,” explained Bock. “If it’s a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.”

Cognitive, but not IQ.  A fast processor that allows you to process on the fly and make quick, accurate decisions.  

What was the last thing on Google's list?  Deep subject matter expertise:

"The least important attribute they look for is “expertise.” Said Bock: “If you take somebody who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, and you hire them as an H.R. person or finance person, and they have no content knowledge, and you compare them with someone who’s been doing just one thing and is a world expert, the expert will go: ‘I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do.’ ” Most of the time the nonexpert will come up with the same answer, added Bock, “because most of the time it’s not that hard.” Sure, once in a while they will mess it up, he said, but once in a while they’ll also come up with an answer that is totally new. And there is huge value in that."

Curious. Learn on the fly.  Sounds about right.

Hat tip to Jack Grayson who gave me the article.  Thanks Jack!

Comments

Brian

Give me someone with the desire to experiment, to fail, to learn, to succeed... and I'll give you someone who can move mountains. #DontFenceMeIn

Jace

Interesting point...is this lack of emphasis on traditional "expertise" evidence of a new direction that hiring managers are taking to recruit new talent, or has it always been like this? Having just gone through a fairly extensive job searching process myself, I would have to agree with this blog's point that an eagerness to learn is valued higher than traditional "experience" in employers' eyes.

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