Small companies face an uphill battle competing for talent against large corporations that can offer recruits better pay and benefits packages. But small businesses may be overlooking a great opportunity: They can scoop up the highly qualified candidates often overlooked by recruiters.
Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google, recently spoke with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about Google’s unconventional, yet highly esteemed hiring process. Bock says says that many large companies focus on the wrong qualities and metrics when hiring, and many of Google’s best recruits are people who would likely be turned down elsewhere. Why?
1. Education and grades are overvalued. Recruiters and their resume-screeners often toss out applicants simply because they didn’t graduate from college or earned a lackluster GPA. But an MBA and straight As don’t necessarily reflect a candidate’s true capacity. Instead Google uses interview techniques and testing to gauge job candidates’ ability to learn new information and adapt to it. They want to know, for example, if a candidate can process information on the fly and show the ability to reason. Those are traits a college degree and good grades won’t show. Many colleges, he said, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt. You don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence."
2. The meaning of leadership is changing. Traditionally when companies seek leaders, they screen resumes for titles like “president” or “manager.” Google approaches it differently: The company wants to hire people who willingly step up to the plate when their team needs their expertise. On the same token, they want people who also easily step back and also let other people lead. “Your end goal is, ‘What can we do together to problem-solve?” Bock says. “I’ve contributed my piece, now I step back.”
3. Emotional IQ should trump other factors. Qualities like humility and “ownership” of work are fundamental to an employee’s success, and they aren’t readily apparent on the resume. Instead Google’s hiring managers talk extensively with candidates to find out how they handle and react in various situations. They care less about skills and experience and more about character.
The ultimate takeaway from Google’s hiring practice: Don’t assume a computer program or a quick resume scan will show you who’s the best fit for a job. It’s the interview that will lead you to the best hires.
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