Hiring needs to Google change, avoid stagnation

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In a recent article in The New York Times, Laszlo Bock — the senior vice president of people operations at Google — elaborated on his comments from an interview last June, in which he stated that GPA, college pedigree, test scores, and brainteasers were all worthless in making hiring decisions. What was effective, Bock said, were behavioral interviews with a consistent rubric to find applicants who showed leadership, intellectual flexibility, and responsibility.

These words would seem like good news for anyone who just failed their midterms. If you meet the above qualifications, simply quit Carnegie Mellon, and apply for a job at Google!

In all seriousness though, there have been a number of negative reactions surrounding Bock’s comments. Many of those who posted comments on the article have criticized Mr. Bock’s comments as disingenuous.

The second-highest-ranked comment is from one MetroJournalist, who states “… this is the sort of babble that all executives like to spew. It doesn’t really mean anything. How do you get a job at Google, AT&T, or anywhere else? It’s about illusion. People do not hire you for your actual abilities, but what they think you can do, based on how well you present yourself.”

As someone who has been applying for internships these past few months, I understand the MetroJournalist’s cynicism about the job market. Nonetheless, Bock’s statements represent a positive step forward that may lead to improvements in the job-searching process.

First of all, Google’s assertions are based on more than conjecture. These results have been derived from Google’s own internal study on hiring and work performance. While it’s ambiguous how Google measures work performance, it is a positive step in itself that Google is questioning whether its hiring processes are working in the first place. Too often, companies are overconfident in their own abilities; if the company makes a bad hire, it is that employee who failed to live up to company expectations, rather than flaws within the recruitment process.

Bock’s comments also serve as acknowledgment that many of the current metrics on which companies base their hiring decisions on are flawed. According to a study in the Teachers College Record, grade inflation has become so bad that “A” is now the most common grade across college campuses. As such, it is questionable whether GPA is still a good predictor of future work performance. Even worse, some companies still ask applicants for SAT scores, which is baffling since SAT scores are not even good predictors of first year college performance, as ABC News reports.

Some may argue that Bock’s comments cannot be applied to companies in general, since job candidates for Google are top talent, and at that tier, metrics like GPA matter less.

However, this factor should not change the fact that companies should be testing their recruitment processes to make sure that they are effective, and that companies should continually work to find more accurate ways to determine a candidate’s ability. Hopefully, more companies will follow Google’s footsteps in this regard. Companies should be just as intelligent and innovative as the candidates they seek to hire.