Recruiting and Staffing, Talent Management

If Google Doesn’t Care About Hiring Top Graduates, Should You?

From the HR blog at TLNT.

By all other accounts, you probably aim to hire the best people for your organization.

This includes targeting those who went to elite universities, were top of their class, and come with a bevy of recommendations from professors and advisors. But, do top grads always equate to the best workers? Not according to Google.

In a recent  conversation with the The New York Times, Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, outlined what Google really cares about when it comes to hiring — and it has nothing to do with going to a top-tier school or earning a perfect SAT score. In fact, Bock asserted that students who traditionally have an “easier” time earning top grades are taught to rely on their talent, which makes it hard to fail gracefully.

What to look for when hiring top grads?

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved…” Bock says.

Without the right sort of humility, top graduates aren’t able to learn correctly. Instead, Google has seen success with employees who may not have always been the top of their classes, but who have a fierce position and are zealots about their points of view. These people sometimes didn’t even go to college, yet still wound up finding success in one of those most successful tech companies in recent history.

So, if Google doesn’t care about hiring top graduates, should you?

Well, yes and no. Let’s look at some things you should look for when recruiting young professionals.

Focus on learning ability

Because many top graduates haven’t necessarily failed much in their lives, they may not be able to learn properly when they are actually faced with defeat. As Bock noted, top grads are more concerned about blaming others for mishaps, instead of looking internally and fixing mistakes themselves.

This is not to say that all top graduates don’t know how to learn from errors. Instead, check out the learning abilities of young professionals, such as how they overcame a challenge or specific action steps they took to combat lack of success. This shows how they learn in a challenging situation, as opposed to how they learn in an easy one.

Cue yourself in on emotional intelligence

By now, you’ve probably heard of the term “emotional intelligence.” First brought to the masses by Daniel Goleman in 1995, emotional intelligence links to those that have self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and enough social skills to succeed in a position.

Clearly, intellectual abilities and technical skills are important for any job. However, emotional intelligence can be the winning factor in a truly great young professional.

Different situations call for alternative ways of looking at things. If someone is only good at scoring “A’s” and wins, they may not be able to see other perspectives, work with varying learning styles, or be able to perform with different types of employees. However, when someone is emotionally intelligent, in addition to being analytical and technical in skill, you get the whole package.

Find talent in different places

It’s not enough to just find talent at the Harvard’s and Yale’s of the world. While you shouldn’t discount how brilliant these students are, Bock believes that talent exists in so many places that hiring managers who rely on a few schools are using it as a crutch and missing out.

Most companies would prefer to hire those who have some sort of advanced education. However, the minds at Google believe that people who make it without a college degree are often the most exceptional because they’ve had to work harder.

Instead, focus on finding talent in places in addition to university career fairs or career centers, such as hackathons, conferences, social recruiting, and even though members of your network. By finding talent in different places, you open yourself to an array of employees, heightening your diversity level and creating great teams.

While Google may have a renegade hiring strategy, it’s important to look at their success and how non-traditional employees have played into it. By focusing more on raw talent, as opposed to what school a person went to, you’ll be on the road to emulating the achievements of many great companies.

What do you think? Do you care about hiring top graduates?

Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.
  • Max Schauss

    Great article. Google also conducts regular internal surveys and uses the data to improve efficacy of their recruiting strategy. They found a zero correlation between GPA and successful performance in the company. They instead found a great correlation to humility. This is why they check for these kind of characteristics now.
    Anyways, this still is a pretty young concept.
    I am right now conducting a research on the effects of expressed humble leadership on employee voice behavior. Similar surveys have been done by Google. More information can be found here:
    maxschauss.wix(.)com/masterthesis
    Data collection is done on a large scale through a short survey. Anyone who is interested, please check out the website! I will keep you posted about the results of the research.

  • Ted Longley

    Speaks to the need to elevate the focus on behavioural attributes (and, more specifically, the behavioural attributes that are specific to a given role and organizational culture) as opposed to the traditional focus of technical competency. Behavioural attributes are socialized and can be very difficult to alter or create new ones. Seeing as most companies aren’t in the business of parenting, I applaud companies — such as Google — that recognize this is a critical focus point for effective recruiting.