What does Google look for in new hires? Cognitive ability, emergent leadership, cultural fit and expertise - and no arrogance

Jessica Morris
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Google looks for cognitive ability, emergent leadership, cultural fit and expertise (Source: Getty)

Tech giant Google has given an insight into its notoriously selective hiring process and revealed four characteristics prospective candidates should exhibit if they want to make the cut.

Four attributes

Lazlo Bock, senior vice president of Google’s people operation, told an audience at the London School of Economics yesterday four attributes that the company looks for in new hires are "cognitive ability, emergent leadership ... cultural fit and expertise". But "if you have the first three we figure out the last one".

Google receives over two million unique job applications every year with people attracted by its unique company culture - as well the snazzy offices, bean bags and free food - and not to mention the high salaries. And one employee has even claimed it's easier to get into Harvard than to get a job at the tech giant.

No arrogance

Bock singled out arrogance as the one attribute which is most likely to result in candidates getting rejected, saying this is something which stops people working well together in teams.

If somebody comes across as too arrogant … we’re more likely to reject someone for that than almost any other reason

Any applicants hoping to impress Google with their academic credentials will be left disappointed because the company says it pays no attention the university an applicant went to or the grades they obtained.

At Google we used to care a lot about where you went to school and what your grades were ... we don't care at all anymore ... it actually doesn't predict performance.

Hiring committees

But if they do manage to progress to interview stage at Google will be faced with a hiring committee rather than the traditional interview process as this is seen to produce more balanced, less biased decisions.

Prospective employees must meet a series of hiring managers who write everything up before passing this on to a separate committee charged with making the final decision according to Bock:

It’s important to take hiring authority away from the manager because [they] have all these incentives to compromise on quality.

Unfair pay policy

He also lifted the lid on the logic behind Google's "pay unfair" policy which can see two employees who do the same role take home dramatically different salaries.

He argues that across all fields the very best performers are a lot better than you'd be able to predict statistically - to the extent that they can actually be dragging the average up. And he said the best metaphor for this is what Le Bron James is to American basketball or Lionel Messi to international football.

So while most firms give the very best employees a salary that's 20 to 30 per cent higher than the average, Bock says that the top performers can be worth 500 per cent more than that and should be paid accordingly.

And when asked about the future of the workplace Bock said "I hope people start hiring like we do".

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