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Google’s Hiring Secrets Revealed

Source | LinkedIn

One of the highlights of this year’s Talent Connect conference was a visit from Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google. Bock took the stage in a packed house of over 3,600 talent acquisition professionals to give a behind-the-scenes look at hiring at Google. 

Bock began by explaining that Google gets over three million applications a year but hires only 7,000 people annually. That means one in every 428 people gets a job at the company. To put that in perspective, that’s about 20x more selective than gaining admission to Harvard or Stanford.

So how does Google go about hiring this top talent? Bock boils it down to three key rules.

1. Set a high bar for quality and never compromise. 

Bock explained that as companies grow, there’s usually a regression to the mean, so they end up hiring average people over the long run. Hiring decisions inevitably move away from the founders, while hiring managers become pressured to hire faster and to hire people just because they are someone’s nephew or college roommate.

Then when employees see poor performers, it sends the message that it’s ok to compromise, so they stop working as hard, and the best ones leave.

Bock had the audience chant with him, “Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever compromise on quality.” It’s better to grow more slowly and have higher-quality people than to grow fast with mediocre players.

One way in which Google ensures it keeps a high bar is by taking the hiring decisions away from its managers. Instead, an independent committee reviews the interview results and makes the decision. And amazingly, Larry Page still reviews every offer that goes out the door.


2. Assess candidates objectively with structured interviews and established criteria.

Bock cited research on unconscious bias and how even interviewers with the best intentions make snap judgments and inferences that drive them to hire the wrong people.  “Without us realizing, our brains conspire to make bad hiring decisions.”

He noted a 2004 study in which researchers sent out two sets of identical resumes to companies, one with names that were traditionally white (e.g., Fred, Sally), and the other with names that were stereotypically African-American (e.g., Tameka, Jamal.) They found that they had to send out 50% more resumes if using an African-American sounding name than if using a white-sounding name, even though the backgrounds were identical. The thing is, explained Bock, that most people aren’t overtly racist – the screening differences were simply a result of unconscious bias.

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