Google's Senior VP of People: No Connection Between School and Success at Company

June 28, 2013

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The following might put a scare in June grads and their parents, but one of the world's most well-known corporations says grade point averages (GPA) and test scores are useless when it comes to hiring people.

The observation is from Laszlo Bock, senior vice president for people operations at Google. Bock explained in a June 19 interview with the New York Times that, except for new graduates (where there is "a slight correlation"), GPAs have no relation to how well someone does at Google. In fact, the number of people working at the tech giant without a college education is rising.

What determines success is the ability to “solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock said. It is a skill one doesn’t necessarily acquire in college, where students are “conditioned to succeed” in a particular environment.

Google has been crunching data to learn how effective it is in such areas as hiring and management. Data from tens of thousands of employment interviews showed that no one except one person looking for a very specialized hire was good at finding people for jobs. The hiring process was a “complete random mess,” Bock said.

What works, he remarked, “are structured behavioral interviews,” where interviewers have candidates discuss their experiences in resolving work-related problems. The behavioral interview reveals how candidates think and act, and what situations they consider challenging.

These insights are relevant to any operation. Managers should develop — on their own or with human resources — guidelines for interviews that encourage candidates to discuss how they would assess, act upon, and resolve issues critical to a company’s operation.

As anyone who has ever interviewed job candidates knows, hiring can be a crap shoot. What works, though, is making sure the odds of finding good people stay in your favor.

The Times' interview with Bock is here.

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