The Google way of finding and hiring the right people

Think an applicant’s first impression is the key to your hiring decision? Google’s HR nabob disagrees.  
In an excerpt from his bookWork Rules!, on Wired.com, Lazlo Bock cites a University of Toledo study which revealed that impressions of an applicant within the first 10 seconds of an interview often predict its outcome.
The problem: Snap judgments don’t lead to balanced assessments.
Why? Interviewers often spend the rest of the interview looking for indicators that confirm their initial judgments about the applicant instead of really assessing the candidate’s abilities, the study found.
So, essentially, interviewers have their minds made up about a candidate before an interview has barely begun, thanks to a series of pre-formed biases.
That confirmation process often results in lame questions. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless, Bock writes.

New faces

In addition to changing the interview process, Bock suggests bringing some different players into the game:
Subordinates: “In every interview I’ve ever had with another company, I’ve met my potential boss and several peers. But rarely have I met anyone who would be working for me,” Bock writes. Inviting one or two subordinates into the interview will help the company get added perspective on the applicant.
“Cross-functional” workers. These employees have nothing to do with the department you’re hiring for, but they’ll still be interested in hiring high-quality candidates. And the viewpoint of someone from a different department can be valuable.

The not-so-easy checklist

Bock offers a four-step plan for finding the best and the brightest:

  1. Set a high bar for quality. Before you start recruiting, decide what attributes you want and define as a group what great looks like. A good rule of thumb is to hire only people who are better than you. Do not compromise. Ever.
  2. Find your own candidates. LinkedIn, Google+, alumni databases, and professional associations make it easy.
  3. Assess candidates objectively. Include subordinates and peers in the interviews, make sure interviewers write good notes, and have an unbiased group of people make the actual hiring decision. Periodically return to those notes and compare them to how the new employee is doing, to refine your assessment capability.
  4. Give candidates a reason to join. Make clear why the work you are doing matters, and let the candidate experience the astounding people they will get to work with.

One quick note of caution: That four-phase plan “is easy to write, but I can tell you from experience that it’s very hard to do,” Bock says:

Managers hate the idea that they can’t hire their own people. Interviewers can’t stand being told that they have to follow a certain format for the interview or for their feedback. People will disagree with data if it runs counter to their intuition and argue that the quality bar doesn’t need to be so high for every job.
Do not give in to the pressure.
Fight for quality.