For years, Google has made headlines regarding its infamous hiring process. In the early days the preeminent Silicon Valley enterprise was known for incredibly challenging and out of the box puzzles and questions like “How many gas stations are there in Manhattan” to “The probability of a car passing a certain intersection in a 20 minute windows is 0.9. What is the probability of a car passing the intersection in a 5 minute window?” (Answer 0.4377). In more recent years they have become renowned for their humongous and sophisticated, big-data fueled, talent acquisition operation with experts estimating an unheard of 64:1 recruiter to employee ratio. The typical ratio for large companies is 577:1.

In spite of the steady stream of publicity, Google’s hiring process has remained shrouded in secrecy. This week, however, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant pulled back the curtain to some degree in a revealing sit-down interview with the company’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock.

Bryant covered a range of topics with chief talent leader from the limitations of big data and ideal team sizes to the importance of college education and the correlation between GPAs and test scores in future performance, and much more. There were three leadership and recruitment tips that Bock shared in the interview that we believe ought to be highlighted:

  1. Behavioral based interview questions are key
    We touched on behavioral based interview questions in a post on our blog Connecting the Dots earlier this week, so it was great to see the head of talent for such a cutting edge organization echo our findings:[W]hat works well are structured behavioral interviews… 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.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview 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.

    As we mentioned in our blog post, the reason behavioral interview questions are so effective is due to the fact that job candidates who have demonstrated relevant abilities in the past are more inclined to be successful in the future. Additionally, behavioral based interviewing also puts in place a systematic process that is easily replicated by any interviewer. You can learn more about behavioral based interview questions here.

  2. Employees value consistency in leadership
    We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive. 

    Behavioral based interview questions are a great way to gain insight into how a manager approaches team leadership because they position the interviewer to dig in on how a candidate approaches any given task or issue. That being said, Bock goes on to explain one of the ways in which Google produces data to both arrive at such a conclusion and then continuously measure leadership consistency among other important management qualities.

  3. Upward feedback yields big data
    Twice a year, anybody who has a manager is surveyed on the manager’s qualities. We call it an upward feedback survey. We collect data for everyone in the company who’s a manager on how well they’re doing on anywhere from 12 and 18 different factors. We then share that with the manager, and we track improvements 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. 

    Bock goes on to say that simply providing such data to the managers, in and of itself produces better results. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our blog posts on 360 degree feedback and exit interview tips to learn about additional ways to protect and grow your company through talent management.

 

These three leadership and recruitment tips are good first steps in developing more robust talent management capabilities and you can read the entire interview here. To learn more about best practices in leadership risk management, download our free whitepaper “Understanding Risk Exposure.”