Google’s Secret Hiring Formula

October 28, 2014

This week, members of the OpenView Talent Team attended the LinkedIn Talent Connect Conference in San Francisco. On Tuesday morning we were lucky enough to attend a rare presentation from Google. Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations, shared the secrets behind the company’s hiring and retention success.

Google’s Secret Formula for Hiring Top Talent

1) Set a high bar for quality and never compromise
At Google, hiring managers do not make final hiring decisions; instead they have a committee of people who are unrelated to the job make the final decision. Not only does that result in more objective hiring, it also results in better hiring by avoiding situations like a pressured hiring manager lowering the bar to fill a seat quickly.
Google makes it a priority to never compromise. They will always hold candidates to their standards, regardless of role or relationship.
2) Assess candidates objectively with formalized criteria
There are two things that many interviewers and hiring managers tend to struggle with: bias (even inadvertent) and lack of clarity or consistency. To help reduce subjectivity and increase consistency, Google has formalized the interviewing process and stressed giving interviewers a clear understanding of what they are looking for.
There are four key criteria candidates are assessed on in every Google interview:

  • General cognitive ability: How well can the candidate solve problems? How curious are they?
  • Leadership: Google doesn’t asses leadership in the general sense (you were VP of your chess club, etc.). Instead, they look for what they call emergent leadership. When the candidate sees a problem will they step in and help solve it? Once the problem is resolved will they step back out? Employees at Google need to be able to give up power just as much as they can accept power.
  • Googleyness: This means the candidate is a cultural fit. Are they comfortable with ambiguity? Do they have intellectual humility? Do they bring something new to the mix?
  • Role-related knowledge: Surprisingly, this is the least important of the four. Does the candidate have the skills and knowledge to do the job? The way Google approaches this is if the candidate nails the first three criteria, they can probably figure it out.

To assess against those criteria, Google has developed structured interviews with defined, consistent questions. While they may not be exactly the same for every single interview, there are typically two types of questions every candidate is asked:

  • Situational: Hypothetical job related questions such as, “What would you do if…?” and, “Why would you do that?”
  • Behavioral: For example, asking to describe a prior achievement related to the job in detail. For more on behavioral interviewing, see our quick guide.

Bock also underscores the importance of discussing what types of responses you’re looking for, and having a clear definition of what a good, mediocre, and bad interview looks like.
3) Give the candidate a reason to join
Everyone wants their work to mean something, and Google makes sure interviewers and hiring managers explain to candidates the impact they can have in the role. By developing a clear line of sight between the opportunity and the company’s larger business goals and mission not only is Google better able to sell the candidate, it can also assess whether that bigger picture is something the candidate truly cares about. As Bock puts it, every single job at Google should be seen to the employee as a calling.

How to Hire Like Google: Build an Effective and Repeatable Process

The key to Google’s success not only ensuring they are hiring the right people, but that they are also doing so in an objective, repeatable way. The result is a successful hiring process they have been able to scale and iterate on, making it more and more effective. While these “secrets” may not seem overly complex and groundbreaking, they are important basic building blocks you can instill and continuously improve upon.
Looking for more actionable tips? Download our free guide “Get More Talent”
Inside you’ll find a road map for transforming your hiring from ad hoc to fine-tuned machine, plus plenty of tools and templates to get you started.

Senior Talent Manager, Engineering

<strong>Meghan Maher</strong> is Senior Talent Manager, Engineering, actively recruiting top talent for OpenView and its Portfolio Companies. Her tech background has helped OpenView hire for nearly 20 IT and engineering positions. Meghan began her career at AVID Technical Resources, where she was a Technical Recruiter for two years.