closeup of large tag sale sign at a local church saleGoogle has an outstanding reputation as a place to work and, supposedly, has a reputation for hiring the best and the brightest. But, it may surprise you to discover that when Google searches for new help, it’s not always looking for the cream of the crop – at least when it comes to educational background.

Google used to rely on seemingly impossible questions (perhaps only solved by using Google) such as “How much would you charge to wash all the windows in San Francisco?” as part of the interview process. As reported at the website Quartz, “’We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,’ Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times. ‘They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.’”

A different Quartz article reports, “In a conversation with The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, detailed what the company looks for. And increasingly, it’s not about credentials.”

So, how does Google go about hiring people now? A different Quartz article explains it no longer has to do with grade point averages and SAT scores. Google doesn’t seek out those top-scoring candidates because they lack something called “intellectual humility.” The article recounts, “Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. ‘It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,’ Bock says. ‘Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.’” (That also explains why physicians can be difficult to deal with but that’s a topic for another day.)

Google also says people who succeed without college degrees are usually exceptional because they overcome that burden. A high IQ is less important to Google than the ability to learn on the job. “Bock says, ‘When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.’”

What does Google say when it comes to its hiring practices? The Google Careers page offers this advice, “Things move quickly around here. At Internet speed. That means we have to be nimble, both in how we work and how we hire. We look for people who are great at lots of things, love big challenges and welcome big changes. We can’t have too many specialists in just one particular area. We’re looking for people who are good for Google—and not just for right now, but for the long term.

“This is the core of how we hire. Our process is pretty basic; the path to getting hired usually involves a first conversation with a recruiter, a phone interview and an onsite interview at one of our offices.”

It says to expect to be interviewed by “four to five Googlers” and they are going to look for four things:

  • Leadership – We’ll want to know how you’ve flexed different muscles in different situations in order to mobilize a team.
  • Role-Related Knowledge – We’re looking for people who have a variety of strengths and passions, not just isolated skill sets.
  • How You Think – We’re likely to ask you some role-related questions that provide insight into how you solve problems. Show us how you would tackle the problem presented—don’t get hung up on nailing the “right” answer.
  • Googleyness – We also want to make sure this is a place you’ll thrive, so we’ll be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action and your collaborative nature.

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