Former HR Exec of the Year Bock Downplays Big Data

It’s alwaBock-Coverys a treat to see a familiar face in the New York Times, and this piece featuring Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock, is certainly no exception. (I wrote the cover story in which he was named the magazine’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year.)

In the NYT interview which posted yesterday afternoon, Bock speaks in frank tones about Google’s abilities (and inabilities) when it comes to the world of finding and hiring top talent:



Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.

Bock also reveals the Internet giant’s new thinking on the use of “brainteasers” during interviews:

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.

The full interview is definitely worth checking out, as it shows how Google continues to be the 800-lb. gorilla in the hiring room because it is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating its hiring processes.

And that’s a good HR lesson no matter how much your organization weighs.