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Summary:

While the world might never know exactly how Google makes its hiring decisions, former CEO Eric Schmidt gave a little more insight into the process during a recent McKinsey conference in Washington D.C. Schmidt expressed the company’s preference for employees that don’t need much managing.

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Since word of the company’s gourmet cafeterias and bring-your-puppy-to-work atmosphere first began circulating in the national media way back in 2006, becoming a Google employee has held a special place in the American imagination, somewhere between graduating from space explorer school and winning the Power Ball lottery. The result: a lot of speculation — and hyperbole — surrounding the company’s hiring process.

While we’ve all heard rumors of mandatory 3.7 GPAs and the ability to answer math questions over the phone with no calculator, the world might sadly never know just exactly how Google makes its hiring decisions. But perhaps former CEO Eric Schmidt has a little more insight into the process. Schmidt discussed the company’s personnel philosophy and corporate culture with McKinsey director James Manyika at a McKinsey conference in mid-March.

  • Be exceptional. Duh. We’ve all heard the company likes to stick interviewees with brain teasers to parse out their thought process and job candidates should always be prepared to explain how they’d stick an elephant in a refrigerator or figure out how many piano tuners work in New York. Says Schmidt: “We spent more time — and pretty ruthlessly — on academic qualifications, intelligence, intellectual creativity, passion and commitment. What bothers me about management books, they all say these things generically, but nobody does it.”
  • Do your own thing. Schmidt believes the best employees are those who don’t need much managing. “People are going to do what they are going to do, and you’re there to assist them. They don’t need me, they are going to do it anyway. They are going to do it for their whole lives. Maybe they could use a little help from me,” he says. “At Google, we give the impression of not managing the company because we don’t really. It sort of has its own borg-like quality if you will. it sort of just moves forward.”
  • Don’t necessarily have a winning personality. Schmidt emphasized the importance of getting the right people, but acknowledged the right people aren’t always the most personable. “You are going to have to deal with the odd people. Not every single one of these incredibly smart people is a team player… even if people don’t want them around, we still need them.”
  •  Really love job interviews. Interviewees will be relieved to hear the company is streamlining its interview process. Schmidt said Google has brought poor saps in as many as 16 times before ultimately releasing them back to the wild. Now, he says, Google has analyzed the process and determined a decision should be able to be made in five interviews. (Well, that’s practically nothing.)

Ranked no. 4 on Fortune’s best companies to work for list in 2011 (it spent 2007 in the #1 spot), Google has taken hits to both its reputation and its personnel in recent years. Meanwhile, Facebook is fast emerging as the most highly desirable company for America’s college graduates to work for. But joining the ranks of Google’s 24,400-plus employees still sends many a techie salivating. Case in point, the company received 75,000 resumes within one week in February after announcing it would hire 6,000 new employees for the year in 2011. Maybe they all heard about the to die for reduced-calorie strawberry yogurt in the cafeteria?

Image courtesy of Flickr user bgottsab.

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  1. Shallow Hal Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Google seems like the ideal place to work for many, but I see this is a story about the shift in focus by employers. Selective employers can gain insight during interviews about key competitors, Learn from references about alternative candidates, Wage details, and even technological inside information.

    Expanding the interview, competency and strength assessments, and background screening processes offers wise businesses the opportunity to gather market intelligence while finding the best of the best. If it is good for Google…

  2. Perry Grobe Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    compared to other companies, google hires people for either designated tech. related tasks or other domains, there’s no innovative hybrid domain to which people are hired thus the organization is tilted by techies with zero biz approach or marketeers with no tech background which combined drive it to be non innovative what so ever :-(

  3. “explain how they’d stick an elephant in a refrigerator or figure out how many piano tuners work in New York”
    ———-
    Questions that probably put a right-brainer to sleep.

  4. Google is on the usual ego trip. Their hiring process is just a reflection of this. Childish. Boring.

  5. I think Google’s interview practices are fundamentally wrong when it comes to hire someone who is strong in such hard things as math and algorithms. What is the ultimate goal of an interview: to test if a potential applicant can work under the real conditions before he or she is hired. But what do math quizzes test that one needs to answer within a minute or so? My answer is nothing but random ability to predict a correct answer. In real circumstances, a professional is given a certain amount of time to analyze a problem at hand. No matter how small this amount is, it is still bigger than few minutes. Thus, Google and all those companies that mimic Google’s interview practices are likely to hire in the end a sub-optimal candidate who by chance was lucky to guess correct answers. My advise to all of you who need to hire is to match the interview process and real work conditions.

  6. I want to work at Google in Boulder, Colorado which is less than a mile from my house. Especially if there is an indoor slide.

  7. Samantha Goldberg Thursday, May 5, 2011

    16 interviews… thats A LOT!

  8. Peggy Duncan Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    If I passed through 16 people and made the cut, the minute I saw a dog strutting through the office, I’m outta there.

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