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Google Has 5 Secret Hiring Principles. What Are Yours?

Hiring is very serious business at Google.

For a long time, the search giant was known for lobbing complicated brainteasers at applicants–puzzles such as how many golf balls fit into a school bus?–in the name of hiring the smartest people around. But last year, VP of people operations Laszlo Bock told The New York Times that Google had discovered those brainteasers “are a complete waste of time.” So the company instead began conducting “structured behavioral interviews” to learn more about candidates’ real-world experience.

More recently, Bock revealed another facet of Google’s meticulous hiring processes to Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Friedman wanted to know some interviewing advice to pass on to young people. The most important point Bock made was that Google has a set of five traits it looks for in hiring throughout the company:

  • The ability to learn and pull together disparate pieces of information on the fly
  • Emergent leadership skills, in which employees take leadership roles in a team when appropriate and then step back and let someone else lead
  • Ownership of work and projects
  • The humility to accept the better ideas of others and to take a strong position but then change in the face of new facts
  • Last, and least, is expertise, because the answers may be obvious to an intelligent person and habitual practice might skip useful new answers

The head-slapping why didn’t I think of this moment an entrepreneur might have at this point shouldn’t result in simply copying Google’s list. That’s nothing more than slavish imitation. The thing to learn is that any company will likely have a set of particular characteristics that help employees succeed, given the industry and its maturation, business model, strategic imperatives, and other characteristics.

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