Google HR Boss on Recruitment: Brainteasers and GPA are irrelevant

New York Times published an interview with Laszlo Bock, SVP of People operations at Google. What he had to say about recruitment and the factors that influence the success of recruitment endeavours was quite interesting. In short: GPA and most interviews are lousy predictors for good employees.

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.

Brainteasers are a waste of time? Who would have thought! They are not really predictive of anything other than the fact that you have learned how to answer them. It might give an appreciation of general affinity for guesstimating numbers (assuming no preparation) but that has very little to do with real world problems. It is like exam that have you memorising a lot of simple facts, it serves little read world purpose to remember all the parts that make up the business model canvas, when you can easily look it 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.”

Behavioural interviews make sense why they work, as you have a situation where the interviewees have to talk about themselves, how they acted and why. People love to talk about themselves and the it enables the interviewer to judge the interviewee based on the actual actions, thus enabling them to judge if the interviewee would fit in with the organization. I have answered a few of these questions and while they are quite hard to answer as I am not the best story-teller, they are more interesting and tells more about yourself than “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane?”

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. […] After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school

That GPAs and test scores are irrelevant for future careers should be no surprise, university/school work is fundamentally different from the work in the real world and you the social aspect of the real world is much more important who can answer the questions in a way the teachers want or  who is best at cramming in raw information.  While relevant for judging how well the individual is at absorbing information, it does not really have much bearing on their ability to be productive employees.

All on all, interesting summary by Google, based on data they have found. I recommend reading the article and making up your own opinion on the matter. I do believe that some of the interview clichés are overrated but as Laszlo mentions,  recruitment is hard. We all know this and a failed recruitment can be VERY costly.


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