Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hiring and Interviewing at Google - Work Rules!

Notes from Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock. Highly applicable to the way that you run an organization and the kind of teams you intentionally build.
The presence of a huge training budget is not evidence that you’re investing in your people. It's evidence that you failed to hire the right people to begin with.

In other words, most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. "Tell me about yourself." "What is your greatest weakness?" "What is your greatest strength?" Worthless.

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent). This entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance at it. Even this can't predict performance perfectly, since actual performance also depends on other skills, such as how well you collaborate with others, adapt to uncertainty, and learn. And worse, many jobs don't have nice, neat pieces of work that you can hand to a candidate. You can (and should) offer a work sample test to someone applying to work in a call center or to do very task-oriented work, but for many jobs there are too many variables involved day-to-day to allow the construction of a representative work sample.

There is a better way. Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique. For example, a test of general cognitive ability (predicts 26 percent of performance), when combined with an assessment of conscientiousness (10 percent), is better able to predict who will be successful in a job (36 percent).

The neat trick here is that, while interviewers can certainly make up their own questions if they wish, by making it easier to rely on the prevalidated ones, we're giving a little nudge toward better, more reliable interviewing.

One early reader of this book, when it was still a rough draft, told me, "These questions are so generic it’s a little disappointing." He was right, and wrong. Yes, these questions are bland; it's the answers that are compelling. But the questions give you a consistent, reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great, because superb candidates will have much, much better examples and reasons for making the choices they did. You'll see a clear line between the great and the average.

Sure, it can be fun to ask "What song best describes your work ethic?" or "What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?" - both real interview questions from other companies - but the point is to identify the best person for the job, not to indulge yourself by asking questions that trigger your biases ("OMG! I think about the same things in the car!") and don’t have a proven link to getting the job done. We then score the interview with a consistent rubric. Our own version of the scoring for general cognitive ability has five constituent components, starting with how well the candidate understands the problem.

A concise hiring rubric addresses all these issues because it distills messy, vague, and complicated work situations down to measurable, comparable results. For example, imagine you're interviewing someone for a tech-support job. A solid answer for "identifies solutions" would be, "I fixed the laptop battery like my customer asked." An outstanding answer would be, "I figured that since he had complained about battery life in the past and was about to go on a trip, I'd also get a spare battery in case he needed it." Applying a boring-seeming rubric is the key to quantifying and taming the mess.

Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you. Really. You want them to have a great experience, have their concerns addressed, and come away feeling like they just had the best day of their lives. Interviews are awkward because you’re having an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position. It's always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience - and because it's the right way to treat people.

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