Google used to be known for having wacky hiring questions like “How many ping-pong balls can you fit in a space shuttle?” and “How would you evacuate a busy street during an earthquake?” To get a job there, you had to meet several criteria, all of which were nothing less than exceptional. However, Google has since realized that their hiring practices have led to some bad results, so the tech company has simplified the process to something less crazy.
For one, Google sets a high bar for hiring and never goes below it for any reason. Google’s former product head, Jonathan Rosenberg, explained in an interview with the Harvard Business Review:
“So what happens is people lose their focus on the absolute value of the talent, and they often get sidetracked with things like the urgency of a role. And as soon as you start allowing your teams to do that, then you start hiring people who are just below the current bar.
And then you create the negative dynamic of what we had called in the book ‘the herd effect,’ right? As soon as you let an A hire a B, that B’s going to hire a C, because B’s are threatened by A’s. So you’ve gotta start from the beginning and make sure that you just have A’s who hire A’s.”
But even if you are focusing on talent and value, no one manager can do the hiring themselves without suffering from some kind of hiring bias. Google hiring chief Laszlo Bock explained at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect:
“Larry and Sergei figured out early on that there’s a reversion to the mean when you don’t. Let’s say you hire a great person — they’ll hire someone almost as good, who hires someone almost as good, and over time you’re just hiring average people.
It’s why performance distributions look the way they do. You have to draw a line. Hiring managers are biased, they want to fill positions fast and feel pressure to hire people you probably shouldn’t. It’s nephews, cousins, college roommates, the daughter of client. You make one compromise, people say, ‘Oh that’s how it works — it’s politics.’ Then they try to get anyone a job instead of consistently maintaining a high bar.”
So if you are looking for some quick tips to hiring, don’t worry about who has the best looking résumé, the most sparkling references, or the highest GPA and test scores — always focus on talent and value as it relates to the company and run that candidate by several managers so that they can all develop an impression.
And if you find yourself as the job candidate on the other end of those hiring decisions, the process might be hell on your nerves, but there are simple strategies for that too.