Self analysis through exhaustive data gathering

When tech companies were torturing their interviewees with questions like ‘why are manholes round?’ there was much fawning over the way they got people to think on their feet. Now Google’s HR boss says that those questions were all a waste of time:

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.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Legions of HR professionals will probably roll their eyes and nod with smug satisfaction as Google figures out what they knew already. But what I find really impressive about this interview is the way it emphasises Google’s quest to improve itself. It tried numerous interviewing techniques, tracked the successful candidates, and then analysed the data to figure out what worked. Most of all, it isn’t afraid to acknowledge that the techniques for which it became notorious were wrong!

3 replies
  1. Eric Crampton
    Eric Crampton says:

    I wonder whether they didn’t serve a useful purpose anyway: getting everyone to think of Google as a great place for smart and creative people. Draws better applicant pool…

    • Luc Hansen
      Luc Hansen says:

      On the other hand, if you think you are smart and creative, are you really?

      • Matt Nolan
        Matt Nolan says:

        Is smart and creative a set of objective qualities, or are they determined by social views – if it is the later, thinking you are smart and creative may help convince other people. If it is the former, then we are asking how well you can honestly appraise your characteristics.

        I know where you are coming from though, hipsters can be annoying 😉

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