This is What Google’s World Class Interview Strategy Looks Like

“…most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4% of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless.”

Laszlo Bock is Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations. You’ve heard of Google, right? Ok, just making sure. Well, this past week, Bock published a book called Work Rules! and in it, he makes some pretty decisive and contentious assertions about how job interviews should and should not be conducted.

And if we have any sense, we’ll all pay attention.

While there’s no shortage of perspective on how to best predict someone’s future performance in an organization, much like the employees being judged, some assessment perspectives are better than others. With solid reference to research and an unprecedented track record called, “Google”, Laszlo Bock sums up the key components of the most effective possible framework.
In a nutshell, Google uses structured interviews (candidates for the same role are all asked a consistent set of questions with a predefined method for evaluating response quality) in which they solicit a combination of behavioral and situational insights; behavioral expressed through “Tell me about a time when you…” type questions, and situational expressed through “What would you do if…” type questions.

If the job accommodates it – for instance, with task-oriented positions or roles heavily dependent on a well-defined base of technical knowledge (e.g., Engineers) – they will also offer a “work sample test” in which the candidate is asked to actually complete a task closely resembling something they might see during the regular course of business. Data points to this being the most effective single method for predicting future performance.

And all the while, they are assessing people on the axes of 3 major characteristics: cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and leadership.
If this all seems a little bespoke, that’s because it is. As Bock clearly states, “Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique.” And based on research, some of the classic techniques are abysmal; unstructured interviews generally reflect only 14% of employee performance, while references and years of experience reflect only 7% and 3% of performance respectively.

Bock also refers to three critical supporting tactics:

1. Ask generic questions; they “…give you a consistent reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great…”

2. Make the candidates fall in love with you; “Interviews are awkward…it’s always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience – and because it’s the right way to treat people.”

3. Don’t leave the interviewing to the bosses; “…more important is meeting one or two of the people who will work for you…after all, they’re going to have to live with you.”

Oh, and the infamous Google-esque brainteasers like, “How many golf balls can you fit in a 747?” or “How much money does the McDonald’s in Times Square make every day?” – ya, they happen sometimes, but Bock assures the reader that those questions are not condoned by senior management and the answers provided are not taken into consideration during assessment.

And there’s much, much more detail in the book.

So for you young professionals out there, whether you’re looking to hire for your own business or be hired by someone else’s, Work Rules! is probably a smart step to add to your interview prep.


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