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Google Respins Its Hiring Process For World Class Employees 305

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-many-turduckens-does-it-take-to-fill-a-submarine? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Maybe you've been intrigued about working at Google (video), but unfortunately you slept through some of those economics classes way back in college. And you wouldn't know how to begin figuring out how many fish there are in the Great Lakes. Relax; Google has decided that GPAs and test scores are pretty much useless for evaluating candidates, except (as a weak indicator) for fresh college graduates. And they've apparently retired brain teasers as an interview screening device (though that's up for debate). SVP Laszlo Beck admitted to the New York Times that an internal evaluation of the effectiveness of its interview process produced sobering results: '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.' This sounds similar to criticism of Google's hiring process occasionally levied by outsiders. Beck says Google also isn't convinced of the efficacy of big data in judging the merits of employees either for individual contributor or leadership roles, although they haven't given up on it either." This has led TechCrunch to declare that the technical interview will soon be dead.
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Google Respins Its Hiring Process For World Class Employees

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  • In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @11:50AM (#44079037)

    It was and has been a PR move for all along, with people praising all that HR innovation and crap, in the end? It's all bullshit and no one has the slightest idea of what they are doing, would like to rub this one on the face of some writers who can only spit google this, google that, look it's so much innovation science!

    • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @11:55AM (#44079061)

      Innovation sometimes leads to a dead end. Doesn't mean it's not worth trying.

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        Innovation sometimes leads to a dead end. Doesn't mean it's not worth trying.

        You can innovate. Or that new competitor can innovate as you leave an opportunity, a void to be filled. Its a classic business problem. "Old" successful companies tend to focus too much on their existing customer and products, providing only incremental improvements.

      • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by umghhh (965931) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:33PM (#44079287)
        Correct. I am not a great fan of Google but I must admit they have guts to admit inefficiency of their solution and move on and possibly even learn from mistakes as some of us do.
    • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ranton (36917) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:25PM (#44079227)

      So I guess the real conclusion is to hire as many candidates as you can as contract to hire or other temporary positions so you can rate their performance for a few months and easily drop them if they aren't cutting it.

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        It's called a trial period.
      • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mysidia (191772) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @01:04PM (#44079499)

        So I guess the real conclusion is to hire as many candidates as you can as contract to hire or other temporary positions so you can rate their performance for a few months and easily drop them if they aren't cutting it.

        Uh oh... you've stumbled upon the other farce and total pool of snake oil.... besides the technical interview.

        "Code Metrics"

        Every project is unique, and developer performance is entirely subjective... any attempts to measure it, so far, have been inherently flawwed.

        Of course they may also be using such flawwed data to decide that the technical interview has no value

    • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:49PM (#44079391)

      Because (while no HR department or team manager will ever admit it in a public forum) we as a civilisation have precisely zero idea how to hire decent staff.

      Oh, we'd love to pretend we do. We come up with all sorts of wonderful ideas like technical interviews (what the hell is a technical interview and how should it be structured anyway? I've never yet been given any training on that, yet I've had to devise them on a few occasions - I usually went for questions that demonstrate the candidate is trying to think through the problem in a methodical way rather than just guessing or reciting answers they've memorised), brainteasers, psychological evaluations - yet I'm quite sure we'd get just as good results on average just pulling names out of a hat.

      • Re:In conclusion (Score:4, Interesting)

        by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @01:12PM (#44079549) Homepage Journal

        In my experience its not the questions or the answers (unless complete wrong). I look at their demeanor. Are they noticeably flustered or do they take a breathe and start working it out. I'm looking to see if they can speak to subject matter they list on the resume. How do they speak about it... concisely or scattered. This tells me their real experience level and I can then decide if they are a good fit for my needs. Then I just ask them what they are passionate about, what makes them stay up at night thinking or experimenting. This gives me a feel for how they will grow in their skills. Is it aligned with the job or headed in a different direction.

        This doesn't always work but I've been right more than wrong with an 80% success rate. I had one guy who got divorced weeks after I contracted him and just lost all ability to focus. Unfortunate circumstances but life happens and you've got to roll with it. Had to let him go. Wasn't pulling his weight.

        I've brought on two so far who've been promoted to managers themselves and several others who are leads on other teams now.

        • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @01:51PM (#44079745)

          In my experience its not the questions or the answers (unless complete wrong). I look at their demeanor.

          I've done exactly this and while I think it's probably a better way to hire good staff, I've been told that it's a bad idea from an HR perspective.

          Apparently they like a nice simple list of questions with model answers, and a hiring decision based purely on how close the answers given are to the model. This is nothing to do with ensuring you get good staff; it's so the people you reject can't claim they've somehow been discriminated against.

          Oddly, those same HR people are remarkably bad at answering the simple question "Okay. So how exactly do I write your list of questions and answers in order to ensure that your method is as good as mine for filtering out bad hires?"

        • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LMariachi (86077) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @02:15PM (#44079901) Journal

          I had one guy who got divorced weeks after I contracted him and just lost all ability to focus. Unfortunate circumstances but life happens and you've got to roll with it. Had to let him go. Wasn't pulling his weight.

          I'm sure getting fired right after a divorce helped him learn the lesson of “just rolling with it.” How come you didn't “just roll with” the guy’s temporary difficulty? Oh right, because you didn’t have to. Your livelihood didn’t depend on it so that made it okay to shit on other people. Compassion and accomodation are only for people who have no other choice.

          • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

            by gibbsjoh (186795) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @02:59PM (#44080179)

            Yeah, this. Maybe I'm lucky to work somewhere that management is sympathetic to personal crises. But sacking a guy who just got divorced? Not cool. How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Would you "roll with it?"

            JG

          • I'm sure getting fired right after a divorce helped him learn the lesson of “just rolling with it.” How come you didn't “just roll with” the guy’s temporary difficulty? Oh right, because you didn’t have to. Your livelihood didn’t depend on it so that made it okay to shit on other people

            Why do you assert that the GPs livelihood didn't depend on it? Because he was an employer? Do you think handing out a salary to someone not doing the job might not have an effect on his livelihood? Why should he be forced to bankrupt himself to save someone else's job?

        • Re:In conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by The Cat (19816) * on Saturday June 22, 2013 @04:31PM (#44080751)

          I had one guy who got divorced weeks after I contracted him and just lost all ability to focus. Unfortunate circumstances but life happens and you've got to roll with it. Had to let him go. Wasn't pulling his weight.

          You're an American manager alright. You took a gigantic shit on someone who was already hurting.

          People like you are the reason I left the job market for good. And I'm better qualified than everyone you have ever hired or will ever hire for any job.

  • Like useing water tanks to get the weight of a airplane? or other over the top ideas?

    Also some the questions are dumb or can just lead to a long line of followup questions to get more info.

    Also some of the questions can have more then one way to answer or be open to ideas that can be very differnt from each other.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Supposedly brain teasers are used to figure out how you think about problems. Of course, when some candidates know the answers coming in -- or are familiar with that type of brain teaser, despite having no application to the job they do -- they tend to think about the problem better than people who don't.

      • as long as the problems are realist or at least in the field asking IT / software people about medical questions is bad. or even out of field tick questions.

        Stuff like "If you could be any superhero" seems to boarder on non professional questions or turning into a pop culture quiz.

        also if asked by some who needs a answer and you have a lot of follow up questions it can get lost in the paper work.

  • GPAs and test scores in schools should be changed.

    Maybe have a split GPA one GPA for core classes one for gen EDUS's and one for the filler / non core classes or make them pass / fail.

    also get rid of testes the people who are good at test cramming can master.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:00PM (#44079089) Homepage

      also get rid of testes the people who are good at test cramming can master.

      I truly hope you did not mean what you wrote.

    • I think before you start giving interviewing advice to corporations, you might want to:
      * learn how to spell
      * learn grammar rules
      * learn capitalization rules
      * learn how to organize your thoughts

      You have two posts, and I'm unsure what either one is getting at, beyond "test scores are bad" and "interview questions are bad".

    • by perpenso (1613749)
      GPAs are sometimes ignored by corporations. They often waive their official GPA requirements if you worked in the field while earning your degree. 25-30 hours a week as a programmer while going to college full time and most corps won't care whether your GPA was 2.5 or 3.5 when applying for a development job.
      • by cashman73 (855518) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:35PM (#44079297) Journal
        Most corporations don't care about GPA, especially once you've got a few years of experience under your belt. Although I did send a CV for a research programmer position at a scientific research company on the east coast. They're first contact with me was to send me a form asking for everything going back to my high school GPA, SAT scores, activities, and college transcripts (undergrad and graduate). This happened about 4-5 years AFTER I received my PHD, with several years of post-graduate research experience. Of course, the initial job ad said they were looking for, "outstanding scientists with world class credentials", so I should've interpreted the use of that language to mean that they were a tad pretentious.
      • They often waive their official GPA requirements if you worked in the field while earning your degree. 25-30 hours a week as a programmer while going to college full time and most corps won't care whether your GPA was 2.5 or 3.5 when applying for a development job.

        Not a bad approach. Several years into my BS I switched from full-time student to full-time employment and part-time student. My grades went down, but I actually learned more in my classes because I saw the applications. It also cured me of the suspicion that classes only taught ivory tower nonsense.

  • Universities (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Google has decided that GPAs and test scores are pretty much useless for evaluating candidates...

    Doesn't this lead one to believe in grade inflation at universities? If everyone scores from 3.7 to 3.98, how do you tease apart who really did well.

    • Mass spectrometry. It's what the petroleum industry uses!
      • It is a simple 3 stage process

        1) Eliminate the candidates with bad luck: shuffle the CVs and cut the deck on two, and discard one half (they were unluck, by definition)

        2) Fire all the candidates from a cannon applying a powerful side draft, so candidates fall in a two-dimensional array.

        3) Select the candidate(s) closest to the centre of the fallout.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @11:57AM (#44079067)
    and that's: "I don't know, but I can do some research and find out".

    Almost none of the questions I've seen have provided enough information to get past the "it depends" stage. That they make candidates make wild-assed-guesses and then try to justify them is possibly a good way to test for poor managerial qualities, but the answers never have the level of explanation that the real life answers have. The days when a back-of-the envelope calculation is enough are long gone (and probably never existed int he real world anyway). So it's good to see a major employer rejecting them. Shame it didn't happen 20 years ago/

    • And my follow-up question would be: how would you go about finding out? Oh, here's my laptop. Knock yourself out.

      Brainteasers for me were never about someone getting the answer right, it's how they work through a problem where they don't know the answer. Yours is a perfectly good answer, and leaves plenty of space to explore how you go about your research. To me, that's far more valuable than someone who has memorized the answer to a brain teaser.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Araes (1177047)

      The days when a back-of-the envelope calculation is enough are long gone (and probably never existed int he real world anyway).

      Very much disagree on the lack of back-of-the-envelope calculations. von Braun and co. solved some of the hardest problems of Satern V development with paper napkins. I use quick calculations and engineering judgement all the time, and hire folks who are good at them too. In fact, we often spend far too much effort doing excessive studies when a few minutes of napkin math would give you the 80% answer. However, being able to figure out brain teasers and being able to quickly perform sound engineering ju

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:32PM (#44079273)
      Actually dismissing a question as stupid can work too. I was once asked a bunch of questions regarding the performance of a half dozen sorting algorithms, I recalled the details of only a couple. My answer: "Sorry, its been years since my data structures and algorithms exam. I bought the Knuth books so I can look up this stuff rather than have to memorize it."

      I view interviews as two way. I'm evaluating the company. For example if the "senior engineer" giving me the above test doesn't know who Knuth is I probably don't want to work there. He did, but he pointed out my unconventional answer to the manager of the team. A person with a business background not a technical background. This manager asked what "Knuth" was and I explained. He then got a big smile, he loved my answer. A few days later I got a job offer. I worked there for four years, he was a suit, but he was a good one. He shielded us from as much BS as he could and he trusted and generally accepted our technical recommendation even when he personally had doubts.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:02PM (#44079095)
    "Have you ever built something that worked, show me, explain it." IMHO that is key to successfully hiring developers.

    Equally important, and admittedly a little strange to some, it to ask about their personal programming projects. Nothing work related, nothing school related, just things that they sat down and programmed motivated by their own personal needs or curiosity. If a person can not offer "something" a warning bell is going off. I don't care how small, trivial, silly, etc the personal project is. I mostly want to see that personal projects exist. To me they are an indicator that the interviewee is someone who has a genuine interest in programming, that they are not merely someone who got a degree because a parent or guidance counselor told them it was a good career path.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's a load of crap. People have lives outside of work. Most of the brilliant programmers I've know do nothing outside of work related to coding. I've known great programmers whose passion outside of work is music...

      • by ranton (36917) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:35PM (#44079291)

        That's a load of crap. People have lives outside of work. Most of the brilliant programmers I've know do nothing outside of work related to coding. I've known great programmers whose passion outside of work is music...

        I think that the technique of asking for personal programming projects works much better for recent college grads than it does for seasoned programmers. If a 22 year old never had the ambition or desire to work on something outside of their classes then I really do think that is a red flag. Unless they can instead show a very impressive research project for school, which they would have spent a good deal of their free time on, I would then assume they just went into computer science because someone told them it was a good career path.

        But for someone in the field for a decade or more, they very likely only do programming at work. They probably have a family that takes a good amount of their time and other hobbies to keep ties with their social network. And personally most of my side projects are still ones that will make my job easier, such as something that scripts a complicated build process. For seasoned developers that don't have any side projects to show, I would ask what technical books / journals / blogs they read in their free time to keep up to date on the industry. If they can't answer that either, then I would start to think that they probably aren't too passionate about their career. But that alone wouldn't be a complete deal breaker if other indicators show they would perform well at the job I am hiring them for.

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        That's a load of crap. People have lives outside of work. Most of the brilliant programmers I've know do nothing outside of work related to coding. I've known great programmers whose passion outside of work is music...

        Check with those brilliant programmers you know and tell me that they *never* wrote something outside of work or school assignments.

        I do not expect such personal projects to be current, nor do I expect them to be big. If a person did such projects during college days (or even high school) but life's recent circumstances now prevent such indulgences that is fine. I am merely hoping to see that the person had a genuine interest and curiosity regarding programming. That is something that is there or it is n

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:24PM (#44079225)

      Best not to rely on any one criterion. Personal projects are a positive indicator, but lack of them shouldn't be a show stopper. I've known some very good people, who are very interested in their work, who wouldn't have anything to do with the work when they're not on the job. Some of them even have lives (or so I've heard).

    • by ljw1004 (764174) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:27PM (#44079241)

      Equally important, and admittedly a little strange to some, it to ask about their personal programming projects. Nothing work related, nothing school related, just things that they sat down and programmed motivated by their own personal needs or curiosity.

      Would you hire a doctor based on how many "hobby appendectomies" the candidate has performed in their garage? No.

      I think your suggestion biases you towards "developer as tinkerer/craftsperson", rather than "developer as professional". I think there's room and need for both.

      • Hobby projects demonstrate: 1) They are in the software field because they love it, they are fascinated by, and it's a large part of who they are or want to be 2) A self-motivated desire to continuously learn and continuously perfect their craft 3) Inherent creativity and inventiveness - a tendency to perceive problems or gaps in what exists and to want to solve the problems and fill the gaps Doesn't sound like someone who's going to be a terrible software engineer. And yes, if doctors could safely do hob
      • by perpenso (1613749)

        Equally important, and admittedly a little strange to some, it to ask about their personal programming projects. Nothing work related, nothing school related, just things that they sat down and programmed motivated by their own personal needs or curiosity.

        Would you hire a doctor based on how many "hobby appendectomies" the candidate has performed in their garage? No.

        I think your suggestion biases you towards "developer as tinkerer/craftsperson", rather than "developer as professional". I think there's room and need for both.

        Admittedly the question regarding personal projects is more relevant to someone without a track record, say a recent college grad. However even with experienced professionals it is a valuable line of inquiry. There are experienced professionals who have a genuine interest in programming, and there are those who do not, who consider it just another job. Even in college I knew some of the later who wanted to have a couple of quick jobs as developers and then get into management. While professional, their code

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, speaking as a doctor in the UK (general surgery), on paper a lot of doctors look very similar from a training/logbook point of view. Prestigious jobs are very competitive and traditionally the most important way of discriminating between them is their publishing of academic papers, attendance at relevant conferences, hospital audits, completion of extra courses - usually done (at least in the UK) in their spare time. This shows interest in their field and is analogous to computer programmers havin

  • Not THAT surprising. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:05PM (#44079111)

    But not because Google went about it wrong and screwed up its hiring process.

    I've been now through a few hiring processes, have sat on Interviews, decision committees. And while I like to think that my Interviews and candidate ratings were spot-on (I correctly predicted one failure and one early resignation), I'm pretty sure that's just skewed by the small sample size. What I do know is that I went through all kinds of approaches, both as an interviewer and an interviewee. I've done brainteasers, role-playing, decision explanations, code walkthroughs, resume deep-dives, online candidate research, just shooting the breeze, and more. And I haven't found a single thing that strongly correlates with acing the interview or hiring a good worker. Resumes can lie (sometimes subtly), and you'll never find out without hiring a private investigator. Role-playing can confuse people, especially if they're trying to figure out what you're looking for. Brain teasers can be memorized, shooting the breeze can lead to unreasonable judgments (positive or negative), interviewers and interviewees can have a bad day, the other person doesn't like your first name, and a million other things.

    Especially when you start talking 10s of thousands of interviews, you're actually looking at so much data, so many influencing variables that I doubt you can find one common variable that stands out from the rest. What I'm concerned about (and that comes partially from being married to someone in HR) is that there is still a drive to find the one process that will automate the hiring process. As far as I can tell, it doesn't exist. Well, let me walk that back a tiny bit: there's one thing that will work better than anything else: have the interview done by the best people you have, have them take it seriously, and spend some time on it. But it takes time, is fuzzy, and is entirely reliant on managers knowing who their best people are.

    I'm glad to see that Google doesn't think Big Data is the answer to everything. I just hope that this percolates through to the rest of the HR universe. There's much too much of a drive to automate hiring, like performance reviews and firing has been.

  • by SnapperHead (178050) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:05PM (#44079113) Homepage Journal

    I have walked out of job interviews where they asked nothing but puzzles. I solve technical challenges and write code. If you really have trouble determining how many toasters you can use to cook 50 pancakes, guess what. I am not the right person for you. If you are looking for someone who can code their ass off, I am the right person.

    I have interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years. I have been the hiring manager a few times and never once pulled the puzzle bullshit. I have found the best indicator in the world is to just casually bullshit about technology. You can very quickly find someones strengths, weaknesses and if they are full of it. In a casual chat, people let their guard down and you get a look in.

    • I have found the best indicator in the world is to just casually bullshit about technology. You can very quickly find someones strengths, weaknesses and if they are full of it. In a casual chat, people let their guard down and you get a look in.

      That's the technique that works best for me when I interview people. Typically I'll ask them to pick something on their resume to chat about. I expect the interviewee not to be happy about discussing everything on their resume, because they all contain some some exaggerations (hell, you should add some because everybody does). However, if you can't come up with anything that was interesting and challenging, and that you're comfortable talking about, you're probably a fake. Some people are even shy about wha

      • Without a doubt there is no one magic formula. In the end you have to be able to read people. I have had people come in and clam up almost instantly because they were intimidated by me or nervous about the interview. Those are the times I take a short breather to chat about some random shit. Once they relax I get back into the thick of things. I have seen many people interview people and fail at this. They might know the answer but are overwhelmed. But this is also a good indicated of how well they w

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @01:13PM (#44079555) Homepage Journal

      Casual chats are okay, but they miss a lot, and favor those who are good at chatting over those who aren't.

      For years my approach was to give a couple of simple programming problems to weed out those who'd waste my time, followed by a chat like you describe. It was okay. But the interview training given to me by Google showed me a much better way. It's not about "puzzles", those are pointless and Google has never used them. What works much better is to give people problems to solve and watch how they go about it. You want problems that are fairly realistic, but sufficiently self-contained they can be solved and coded in 30 minutes, and sufficiently open-ended that when you get a really good candidate who just blasts through it there's plenty of room to explore variations. You should also not be afraid to give hints if the candidate is clearly getting hung up on some bit. Obviously if you end up having to walk the person through the whole solution they're not a good hire, but even sharp people sometimes need something pointed out when they're under time pressure and being watched.

      Above all, you want to identify the people who really engage with the problem, who forget about the interview and dive into it, and who show good problem-solving ability and agility.

      This approach provides the interviewer with a lot more insight than casual chats, including helping you to find those people who are really capable but aren't good conversationalists.

      • This approach provides the interviewer with a lot more insight than casual chats, including helping you to find those people who are really capable but aren't good conversationalists.

        That sounds like a good approach, but how do you know that it produces good results? Gut feeling or even the fact that some people you hired worked out well is not sufficient, because you really have to compare your hiring decisions to the counterfactuals. What would have happened if you hired person A instead of person B? In the real world experiments are impractical, but you can correlate how well someone does at the company with how well they did with various interview approaches. To their credit, it see

  • by undeadbill (2490070) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:06PM (#44079121)

    As in, you had to go through a day long gauntlet of interviews asking irrelevant questions to get the gig. Surprise, they didn't get the best candidates that way!

    I like TechCrunch's suggestions, as they closely mirror what the Google HR guy is implying, except for one thing:

    "Finally, if they’ve gotten this far, give them an audition project. Something relatively bite-sized, self-contained, and off-critical-path, but a real project, one that will actually ship if successful."

    It isn't as if I couldn't be fired on the spot in the first 3 to 6 months at any permanent job- there is this thing called being a new hire. If I had someone tell me they were going to provisionally hire me and rate my progress based on a project, fine. If they told me I would be a temp until the work is completed, I would then inform them that they will need to pay me at my contract rate until I am perm- otherwise, they are just getting me at a lower rate for contract work, and that is sketchy behavior at best.

  • Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy (13680) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:07PM (#44079125) Journal

    I've just gone through interviews at Google and Apple.

    At Google, I was asked mainly theoretical questions - big-O, maths/stats, etc. And one "real" architecture/design question at the end. There were 5 interviewers and maybe 7 questions, sometimes 2 per interviewer but usually just 1 that lasted the whole hour. According to my recruiter before the decision, it was maybe 50/50 that I'd get an offer, and I did very well on the real-system design question (by inference, not so well on the others :). I didn't get the job.

    At Apple, I had a seven-hour interview with seven interviewers. There were many many questions, far too many to easily remember categories, but they were all focussed on things I might end up doing, or problems that I might end up encountering. I got the job. I guess I do better with "real world" issues than the "consider two sets of numbers, one is ... the other is ...) type.

    I have the self-confidence^W^W arrogance to believe I'm an asset to pretty much any company out there, but interview processes are nothing more than a gamble. Sure you can weed out the obvious under-qualified applicants, but frankly (unless the candidate is lying, and in the US that's a real no-no, in the UK padding your CV seems to be sort of expected...) that sort of candidate ought to have been pre-vetoed by the recruiter before getting to the interview.

    I've yet to see the interview that guarantees a good candidate will do well. It's all about preparation: can you implement quicksort or mergesort right now, without looking it up ? The algorithm takes about 20 lines of code... Some interviews will require you to have knowledge like that; others are more concerned with how you collaborate with other candidates; still others are concerned with your code quality (I've seen a co-interviewer downmark a candidate for missing a ; at the end of a coding line. I wasn't impressed ... by the co-interviewer. But that's another story); still others are ... you get my point. Whether you do well or not can depend more on the cross-intersectional area of the interviewers style and your own credo than any knowledge you may or may not have.

    So go in there expecting to be surprised, prepare what you can, be prepared to do wacky things to please "the man" interviewing you. For a good candidate, over a large number of interviews, you'll do well. The problem is that we often want a specific job, and we get depressed by the first dozen or so failed interviews. There's nothing more you can do than pick yourself up and try again. It's instructive to note that second-interviews at companies often go better than first-interviews, possibly because you're forewarned about the style a bit more, and therefore a bit better prepared...

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Maybe the two companies need different kind of employees. I can easily imagine hardware-related Apple requiring more practical skills and datacrunching Google requiring employees with some theoretical/math skills.

  • If only they could figure out how to hire HR people who aren't so f---ing stupid, maybe they could come up with a decent process. The zero relationship thing doesn't surprise me at all. I thought the brain teasers as an interview sounded like one of the dumbest ideas ever.

    Maybe they could test people on their problem solving abilities or even on skills related to their jobs?

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:09PM (#44079145)

    It's nice to see a large company try to objectively evaluate its hiring process and express some self doubt. All to often the hiring process at a company is assumed to be good because the company is successful, which is an obvious fallacy since many factors contribute to a company's success. In fact I wouldn't hire anyone who didn't immediately question such an assumption :)

    All too often the hiring process at a company, or the admissions process at a university, is treated as though it were created with some magical special sauce, when in fact it does little more than reinforce some (often unstated) prejudices. It's especially troubling coming from organizations that supposedly value rational and scientific analysis.

  • Q. What are some things that the managers are ranked on?
    A. Some of them are very straightforward â" the manager treats me with respect, the manager gives me clear goals, the manager shares information, the manager treats the entire team fairly. These are fundamental things that turn out to be really important in making people feel excited and happy and wanting to go the extra mile for you.

    Might also explain projects with no benefit. As long as their employees like the manager, everything's cool.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Q. What are some things that the managers are ranked on? A. Some of them are very straightforward â" the manager treats me with respect, the manager gives me clear goals, the manager shares information, the manager treats the entire team fairly. These are fundamental things that turn out to be really important in making people feel excited and happy and wanting to go the extra mile for you.

      Might also explain projects with no benefit. As long as their employees like the manager, everything's cool.

      The manager isn't really responsible for project success. That's on the engineers, especially the tech leads. Managers are responsible for keeping the employees happy and focused, and clearing distractions and obstacles. Product direction decisions are primarily the responsibility of the product managers (who aren't usually people managers) and VP-level management.

  • by g01d4 (888748) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:16PM (#44079183)

    '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.

    Do they have some objective job performance metrics that the rest of the world seems to have missed?

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:18PM (#44079195)

    I have colleagues and friends who've gone through Google hiring in the last 2 years. I've seen excellent personnel whom I've recommended not get the interview for 3 months, finally be interviewed because it turned out they were still looking to upgrade their position, and finally given job offers _over one month_ after the interview. Every single one of them found another role in the meantime, including promotions in their old company as new budgets were made to include a new position for them. The people who are still available after such a lengthy process are those who've effectively paid aa quite large Google hiring tax, of either weeks unemployed or of months at a lower salary.. While Google pays well, they don't pay well enough for people to pay such a task on the mere _hope_ of getting the Google role.

    I've also seen some excellent personnel rejected because they applied for a specific role, which had requirements not in the job description and for which they were not made an offer. They were then unable to apply their existing interview results for roles which better suited their skills and which were not published as available when they applied to Google. They had to start over from the beginning. Coupled with the long hiring time for Google, and these personnel were long gone by the time they were made an offer or even interviewed for the second role.

    • by swillden (191260)

      This is true. Google's hiring process is very slow. When I was hired it didn't really affect me because I was in a position to be picky and intentionally spent many months looking for a new job. But I'm sure it does mean a lot of people have taken something else by the time they get their Google offer. However... I know a couple of people who had taken another position, and still made the decision to go to Google instead, so having taken another job doesn't necessarily preclude accepting the offer.

      • If the first position is a "temp->perm" or other contract situation, then it's a much more understandable switch. But for a permanent position, it's awkward if it shows up on your resume. Like divorcing someone on your honeymoon, it can happen especially when a partner is abusive. But if the first employer invested the time, money, and resources to hire you, you've actually _wasted_ a lot of their resources pulling this kind of trick. And it will hurt your reputation, and anger that company against Goog

  • I completely agree and would take it further and say that a lot of what gets into great universities in the first place are just exemplars people who are just personally ambitious with a drive to succeed (as opposed to curious or broadminded or interested in contributing to society in a constructive way) and rather cut throat. Which explains the behavior of a lot of academic departments.

    This is far far bigger news than Cheney's "deficits don't matter' . For one, it's true. For another, someone credible wi

  • It really isn't that hard. You're looking for someone who takes pride in the quality of their work and ideally actually enjoys doing it. You may also be looking for someone who will work well on your team, or who can be fantastic as a lone gunman with relatively little micro-management. The brain teasers work pretty well because it's pretty easy to spot someone who will just give up without thinking about the problem. They also do a good job of finding the people who aren't really paying attention to you du
  • I can't believe Google can miss the obvious confounding, lurking variable "WAS S/HE HIRED" which is obviously not controlled for.

    They found that candidates who scored lowest (zero) on one factor (YET GOT HIRED), actually did good. Does that mean that scores are meaningless?

    That conclusion you may draw about scores is incorrect because it ignores the YET GOT HIRED variable. If you got hired in spite of a really, really bad score (zero), you must have an outstanding redeeming quality to have gotten hired.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Google didn't miss that variable. The study was an analysis of how interview scores correlated with job performance, not how well interview scores correlated with whether or not the candidate was a good hire. An employee who does a decent job, getting acceptable but not outstanding performance reviews is still a good hire, whether interview scores were marginal or outstanding. Some small fraction of hires turn out to have been mistakes, of course, but at Google that percentage is quite small, which indicate

      • by deego (587575)

        >> The study was an analysis of how interview scores correlated with job performance, not how well interview scores correlated with whether or not the candidate was a good hire

        The whole article is about revamping the hiring process. The unsaid inference is that interview scores are not a good indication of whether the candidate is a good hire or not.
         

  • Do you want me to mansplain or do you want me to actually solve real problems? Your choice google.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Do you want me to mansplain or do you want me to actually solve real problems? Your choice google.

      The latter. In fact, mainsplaining to your interviewers at Google will get you dinged for "poor culture fit", even if your answers are correct and your code is good.

  • I was all prepared to snark with, "Great, without technical questions, now hiring will be based on personal acquaintances only, resulting in unintended disadvantages to minorities and groups not typically represented in the technical work force." Sadly, though, I read the techcrunch.com [techcrunch.com] piece linked in the Slashdot summary, and they not only outline a great alternative hiring process, they specifically caution against homogeneity.

    Techcrunch.com's "discuss their past projects" reminds me of the best intervi

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:44PM (#44079347) Homepage Journal

    I suppose it's news that the internal study found no correlation between interview scores and job performance, but everyone at Google recognizes that getting hired is a crapshoot. Not totally random, of course; there are plenty of candidates who simply aren't going to get hired, ever, because they don't have what it takes. But (I'm speaking of engineers here, dunno about other areas), everyone knows that candidates who are of the caliber Google seeks may or may not pass the interview process, and whether or not they do is pretty much a toss of the dice. I've heard rumors of a an internal study that took successful Google engineers and put them through the interview and hiring process, obscuring their employee status... and about half of them were "re-hired".

    Also, as McDowell's blog post says, Google has always instructed interviewers not to use "brainteaser" questions. It probably does still happen once in a while -- indeed one of my interviewers asked me a "bonus" question, after I'd already demolished his design/coding problem, which arguably falls into that category (I failed to answer it) -- but they're doing it wrong and the hiring committee will let them know it.

    Anyway, so if Google's process has such random results, why do they continue to use it? Simple: because nobody has found a better way. And the study results mentioned are a little misleading if you don't understand them in context: The study was of tens of thousands of interviews and their correlation with the performance of people who were hired. And nearly all of the people who are hired by Google go on to have successful careers at Google. What the study shows is that the degree of success is not correlated with the strength of the hiring recommendations.

    On the other hand, as someone who came to Google with 20+ years of industry experience already behind him as a basis for comparison, I'll tell you one thing about the Google hiring process: It hires good people. It also fails to hire a lot of good people, but there are vanishingly few plodders or obstructionists around. In the 2.5 years I've worked for Google I have worked with well over 100 engineers (my work tends to touch lots of teams), and I've met one, maybe two, who weren't bright, highly competent and very effective, and even those one or two would be good-performers most places. That is very different from my prior experience, and I worked with a lot of high-profile companies.

    As another data point, at every one of my prior employers I was something of a star, commonly called a "genius" and similar in performance reviews. At Google... I'm merely competent, perhaps a bit below average. Many of my colleagues are much smarter than me, and the superstars at Google are absolutely brilliant. One woman in particular who I've worked with quite a bit is always at least four steps ahead of me. She constantly says things that I think are stupid... until I have time to catch up with her thought process. She also talks faster than anyone I've ever met, in an attempt to try to keep up with her brain, I think. Talking to her is exhausting, but exhilarating. I've taken to structuring my conversations with her so they are always interrupted after no more than five minutes because that's about all I can take before I need to go process for a while. My consolation is that I notice many other people interact with her in the same way. Overall, my experience of Google employees that they're all smart, energetic and talented, with a strong leavening of the truly brilliant, and that perception extends even outside of engineering. Hell, our building facilities manager is really sharp.

    What I experience of my colleagues is exactly what Google aims to achieve: since there's no known way to make accurate hiring decisions, the interview process aims primarily to filter out candidates who aren't fairly outstanding. In the process, it excludes a lot of really talented people, but it's very effective at excluding basically all of the poor to mediocre candidates.

    I'm just glad the dice went my way when I interviewed.

  • I work on the pre-hiring screening tool validations at Evolv (full disclosure: Lazslo sits on Evolv's board). I am not at all surprised that silly tech interview questions predict next to nothing. What I can tell you is that validated personality and work-style questions absolutely do predict success among entry-level workers (and if you do it right, professional individual contributors). Like they touch on in the interview, a combination of a structured behavioral interview plus some simple personality
  • Let us not forget that judging how well someone is doing at their job is not necessarily any easier than judging how well they would do from an interview.
    Who knows where the randomness comes from. Maybe they are pretty bad at both categories, but also are not horrible. Maybe their style of interview is as good or better than most, but they are just shitty at judging on the job performance.

    Lets just not pretend that they are 100% accurate at measuring everything except for interviewee skill.

  • The issue is that the reduced funding for schools (both K-12 and college) has resulted in corruption in the degree. The schools cannot properly evaluate much less teach the concepts to students. There is a large amount of "don't let anyone fail" that puts pressure to simply let those that can't get though school or don't try hard enough to pass anyways. Someone that is getting a degree in the department I work for (at a university) will most likely get a PhD despite not really even being qualified for a BS.

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:55PM (#44079441)

    ...started with a phone interview a couple of years back (2006 maybe?). I was asked some run-of-the-mill questions, then the bombshell: An obscure question about an obscure RFC that had to do with big integer number representations. I told the interviewer that I really didn't know, and would she like me to wing an answer or get back to her on it? She told me to wing an answer. So I did. Later, I looked up the RFC and saw that I was more wrong than right.

    Strangely, they offered to fly me to Mountain View for a second interview. Not so strangely, I declined. And I've never regretted the decision.

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @01:30PM (#44079651) Homepage Journal

      I'm not going to tell you that you should have regretted it, but I think you made a bad decision. It's likely she asked you about the RFC in order to see if this was something you already knew about. If you had indicated knowledge of it, she'd have moved to something else. Since you didn't already know it, it was exactly what she needed, an opportunity to watch you try to work your way through a problem. And the fact that your solution was more wrong than right apparently didn't dissuade her from thinking your approach indicated good ability.

      This is assuming that she was asking you to come up with a solution, not just to regurgitate facts. If it was the latter, well, she was a poor interviewer, sorry. Google tries to train people not to do that, but training can fail sometimes.

  • by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:59PM (#44079469) Homepage

    If GPAs are not an indicator but Google thought they where then their sample should show a negative correlation. i.e. people who were hired with low GPAs against the policy must have had something going for them?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @02:25PM (#44079985) Journal

    Maybe picking employees is like picking stocks. Sure that guy has been doing well the past 10 years. He's from a top school. Then his wife leaves him and he hits the crack pipe. You have no way of predicting that.

    Conversely, the next candidate is from Podunk U and slid by with a C average. He's got a passion for coding though and was going through a lot of teenage shit in school. A few years out, the open source projects he worked on in his free time taught him a lot and he's just entering what will turn out to be 15 years of solid coding performance that vault him into the top 1% of programmers. You can't see that coming either; because his resume looks like shit.

    Finally, between these two extremes you have a lot of average people. Even with all the right bullet-points, they still fit a bell curve and you can't predict where they fit. The coin isn't heads or tails until you... hire it and find Shroedinger's cat stinking up the cubicle or purring contently.

    • by The Cat (19816) *

      Or you could just pick good people and train them to be good employees.

      The word "passionate" is forbidden at my company. If you say it or write it in any official capacity, you're fired. Period.

  • For years... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Panaflex (13191) <convivialdingo.yahoo@com> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @03:20PM (#44080303)

    Having done a fair amount of interviewing and hiring, I knew the day that the big G called me that I had to say no.

    What baffles me is that Google "could" have looked at the history of hiring and found this out many years ago. I took classes with the HR director at Southwest Airlines, who themselves had recorded and performed the same evaluation of hiring practices since the 60's. They too found that technical skill was only a minor indicator of success. Southwest found that personal intent, ethics and attitude were bigger drivers of success than technical expertise.

    In fact, many companies have done these long-term studies before, and found similar results. There are volumes and volumes of studies... so why did the "big data" company ignore the data? It's just ridiculous!

    I can just imagine that Google has a big problem now...

  • by duckgod (2664193) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @03:30PM (#44080375)
    1)Will I and the coworkers get along with this person.
    2)Will they work hard.

    Soooooo many people in the tech industry fail at these 2 points. I would much rather have someone who has skills in the same ballpark that meet 1 and 2 then someone who is an expert in the area but is an ass.

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