In the hot war for talent being fought in Silicon Valley, no company has an arsenal quite like Google’s. Named Fortune‘s Best Company to Work For in 2012, the search giant made a record 8,067 hires last year — boosting total headcount by a third. The thirteen-year-old firm’s recruiting has an almost mythical quality about it, particularly for the two million candidates applying to work there each year. In terms of elite American institutions, getting a job at Google ranks with being admitted to Stanford Graduate School of Business or becoming a Navy Seal. Behind the glitz there are a few Googley basics at work: data, money (lots of it), sophisticated programming, and an army of young, eager recruiters.
In the last year, Google has changed a few of the distinctive features of its hiring process. It scaled back the focus on GPA and standardized testing scores. “We no longer ask candidates for the GPAs if they’ve been out of school for three years,” Carlisle says. Standardized test scores are no longer required for any candidate. The company also got rid of most of its riddle-like questions such as, How many golf balls fit in a school bus? They have been replaced with questions more closely related to the job. “We used to look more at school selectivity,” Carlisle says. “Now it’s not really a factor as long as we can prove that the person is smart.”
Perhaps most importantly, Google has drastically cut the time it takes a candidate to wend his way through the process. Where it once toke as long as six months from application to hire, Carlisle says, it now takes about a month and a half. The previous average time was about 100 days. And where it was once commonplace to sit for 10 interviews, Carlisle crunched the numbers and found that every interview after the fourth one increased useful knowledge about an applicant only by about 1%. The company now caps the number of interviews at five.
Google is famous for hiring talent for talent’s sake, even when there aren’t any openings. The philosophy is cut-throat. The company is thinking, “not only do I have the best, but you don’t,” Sullivan says. As in basketball, “if you have all the 7-foot centers, you’re going to win a lot of games.” And they have the math to back it up, nowhere near a universal feature in HR departments. Studying the company, Sullivan says, has been humbling. Seeing it, “[You think] oh my God, this machine is going to take over the world.”
Clarification: Many Google recruiters are on a six month contract, but stay longer. Google disputes Mr. Nadler’s view.
The thing that stands out to me is that Google used to conduct 10 interviews per hire (much like Goldman Sachs), but it crunched the numbers and found that after four interviews, each additional one increases candidate knowledge by only 1%, and presumably it cost a lot of staff time (and therefore money) to interview the potential hires. It is refreshing to see a company rethink their recruitment process through and feel confident to ditch 60% of the process – my only thought is that so many other companies could learn a lot from this decision.