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Why Google Wants New Hires Who Are Humble And Argue

If you're going to make it at Google, you clearly need smarts. But you also need humility. Google's Human Resource VP explains.

Google used to be known for having an idiosyncratically intense hiring process: solve a Rubik's cube while doing a headstand, guess the total number of pubs in England, that sort of thing. Those rigors would yield an interview score, one that would be tagged to candidates and follow the successful ones into the Googleplex.

The correlation between the interview score and on-the-job performance?

"Zero relationship," says Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of "people operations" (aka human resources) at the search giant.

Instead of the brainteasers, Google now opts for a refreshingly human hiring process. As we've written about before, they want you to have done awesome things and be able to explain how you got them done.

They're looking for a multifaceted qualities. As Tom Freidman writes at the New York Times, these include: learning ability, appropriate leadership, humility, ownership, and expertise. The most surprising is humility—because it's not exactly the quality you'd expect from a company made up of the smartest folks in the room. Here's why Google values being humble:

Humility enables growth

Sounding at least at little bit like a Jedi master, Bock says that if you don't have humility—intellectual humility, to be specific—then you'll never be able to learn. But the problem with people attracted to the Googles of the world is that they're probably insanely successful; Friedman says that "many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau." Since they rarely get the experience of failure, they don't know what to do with it. For all the ballyhoo about failing fast from tech elites, the uber-educated often don't know how to fail and learn.

Bock explains Google's view:

Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure ...They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.

Then who does the best at Google? According to Bock, it's the people who "argue like hell" and be "zealots about their point of view," but when a new fact emerges, they'll be able to admit that the situation has changed—and they're not right.

"You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time," Friedman says.

Hat tip: The New York Times

[Image: Flickr user jfleischmann]

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