Hiring – Insights From Google

How much time do you spend on hiring? How important is it for you to get the right person? Google managers believe that hiring is the most important thing a manager or senior executive does.

I highly recommend Google: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. It is a fascinating and well-written insight into the workings of the playful giant. It is also a valuable and exciting challenge to the traditional way of doing business. The Google mantra is ‘Focus on the user and all else will flow from there’. More about that another time.

Schmidt and Rosenberg write from their own experience as senior executives of Google (Schmidt was CEO and is now executive chairman). However, the book is not merely anecdotal. It arose out of training the pair gave to new Google managers, and their work is meticulously researched – these are engineers, after all. Their ideas, however wild they may seem, are implemented because they make sense, fit in with the Google culture and have the backing of solid research.

I enjoy engaging people on hiring – I ran two workshops on the subject last month. Hiring is a critical part of every manager’s work, yet so undervalued – we refuse to spend the time. The chapter in Google on hiring is called ‘Talent—Hiring Is the Most Important Thing You Do.’ In it the writers tell us that after joining Google they discovered that, irrespective of whether an applicant was an entry-level engineer or a senior executive, ‘Googlers made it a priority to invest the time and energy to ensure they got the best possible people.’

They tell us the obvious: ‘The not-so-nice-thing is that hiring well takes a lot of work and time.’ Then what isn’t as obvious as it should be: ‘But it is the best investment you can make.’ The latter is a constant refrain throughout the chapter. In fact, for several years, when Google was employing thousands of people, Larry Page reviewed every offer of employment. It wasn’t very efficient, but it ensured quality, and it ‘made it clear to everyone involved in hiring just how high a priority it was to the company’.

What sort of talent do you need to get the job done, to round off your team, to grow your company? Are you looking for a great person for the team or just someone good enough to do the job you need doing now? How will you test for what you want? What questions will you ask in the interviews to unearth the talent that lies beneath the nervous bluster of an interviewee? 

These are questions that should be in our minds long before anyone hands in a resignation letter.

We get back to our opening questions. How important is it to get the right person? That will determine how much time we are willing to invest in the process.

We may be tempted to believe that, in South Africa at least, given our vast pool of unemployed and inexperienced people, using these elitist hiring processes to find top talent borders on the obscene. The unemployed will remain unemployed while we simply stir the elitist pot and play an endless game of musical talent.

The answer is twofold. People who are creative and passionate are far more likely to grow the company and create jobs for the unemployed than ten others who can simply do the job that is in front of them. And the creative and passionate people we need may be found just as much in the inexperienced mass of the unemployed as among our business-school graduates. We just need to know what we are looking for and how to unearth the talent. And that, you guessed it, takes lot of work and time, but (have you been listening?) ‘it is the best investment you can make.’

First published On Simply Communicate (www.simplycommunicate.co.za) – see here

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About Ian Webster

I have been running my own consultancy (Simply Communicate) for five years – training and consulting in all things people management and development. Prior to that I was 16 years in corporate HR in a unionised environment becoming Training Manager and Human Resources Manager. I have a Degree in Theology and a post-graduate diploma in Human Resources Management.

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