In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal

In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal

Very interesting interview with Laszlo Block, senior vice president of people operations at Google.  Here are some of my favorite bits.

Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.

So, it’s not just the recruiting agency you work with.  It’s pretty much everyone.

We’re also observing people working together in different groups and have found that the average team size of any group at Google is about six people.

I find teams of five-six people to be the most efficient as well.

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Oops.  I’ve started to use brainteasers in the interviews years ago.  I think I actually learned about them while being interviewed by Google.   Contrary to Google findings, I think they are useful.  That might be because I’m in slightly different line of work usually.

Behavioral interviewing also works — 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.

No t always applicable, but yes, when it is, a very useful way to find out more about the candidate.

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.

That is good to know.  Especially when I suck so badly in consistency department.

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.

I can easily agree with the absence of correlation between grades in college and candidate’s talent.  But I prefer to see at least some education.  I don’t insist on it however, as I’ve worked with a few people who had no formal education in the field but were exceptionally good – learned from the experience.

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