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Former Google Recruiter: This Is How To Improve Your Interviews

You expect candidates to be prepared, but it’s a two-way street. Here are six ways companies can improve their interview process.

Former Google Recruiter: This Is How To Improve Your Interviews
[Photo: volkan.basar/iStock]

I worked in recruitment at Google for six years, and like all companies we wanted the best talent. We believed that we were only as good as our next hire. But we also realized that our next hire was only as good as our interview process. That’s something that most companies might understand, yet neglect to put a formal procedure in place to make sure it happens. Maybe they hope that they’ll just magically recruit top talent.

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But just like candidates have to do their homework if they want to land a great job, companies also need to make sure their recruitment processes are set up for success. Here are a few tips I’ve learned throughout my 10 years in recruiting.

Research The Person You’re Interviewing

You expect candidates to be well prepared, so the same should apply to your interview panel. After all, an interview isn’t just about you deciding if you want to hire a candidate, it’s also an opportunity for them to decide if they want to work for your company. And with unemployment rates at a 10-year low, the fight to hire the best candidates is fierce.

Of course, before you meet a candidate you should do the basic due diligence, like checking out their social media profiles. But try digging a little deeper. Hoping to hire an engineer? Research their open source contributions online. Looking for someone with great presentation skills? Have a search around the internet for videos of them giving professional talks. It might take a little longer, but you’ll have a better sense of who it is you’re interviewing before they’ve even walked through the door.


Related: I Hire Engineers At Google–Here’s What I Look For (And Why)


Recognize Your Unconscious Biases

A name on a resume, an address, a university: Any of these small things can trigger our unconscious biases. They may be hidden, but these biases have a powerful effect on the hiring process.

For example, in Europe, where candidates frequently include a photo on their application, researchers found that employers were less likely to hire a woman who was wearing a headscarf, even if her qualifications were identical to other applicants.

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A little closer to home, Canadian researchers found that applicants with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani-sounding names were 28% less likely to get invited to an interview than those with an English-sounding one.

You’re never going to eliminate your biases, but you should be aware of them when drawing conclusions about a candidate’s fit for the role and the company

Don’t Look For Your Doppelganger

We tend to hire people who remind us of ourselves.

As well as making for an unfair recruitment process, this approach poses a longer-term risk to companies. If we hire in our own image, we end up with no diversity. That’s important, because there’s extensive research that suggests diverse companies are more innovative, achieve above-average financial returns, and have an easier time recruiting talented people.


Related: 6 Ex-Googlers Share How They Landed The Job


We want to hire people we will enjoy working with, so it’s important you have a good feeling about a candidate. But make sure you’re not unfairly disadvantaging candidates who could be great for the job just because they haven’t followed the same cultural, educational, or professional journeys as yours.

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Be Present

Interviews are already nerve-racking affairs. Now imagine the interviewer typing on their laptop, checking their phone, or generally giving off a distracted vibe.

We’ve all got busy schedules, but if you’re in a room with a candidate, make sure you’re really there. (Here’s an added bonus: Learning to be more present could also make you a better leader.)

Show Some Consistency

Researchers have found that one way to make the recruitment process as fair and unbiased as possible is to use structured interviews. That means applying some consistency to the questions you’re putting to candidates and the order in which you’re asking them.

Of course, you don’t want your interview panel to feel like they’re on autopilot. Instead, pull together a repository of questions they can draw on, and suggest they use the same ones when interviewing different people for a particular role. Not only will this give each candidate an equal opportunity to shine, but it will be much easier for you to make a fair comparison between them all.

Avoid Groupthink

You’ve just wrapped up a great interview with a candidate who has everything you’re looking for. You’re sure your colleague who carried out the second interview is thinking exactly the same thing, and you’re desperate to talk to them about it.


Related: Google Wants To Help 10,000 People In Underserved Communities Get New IT Jobs

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This reflex makes sense. After all, as the saying goes, two minds are better than one, and research suggests there’s wisdom in crowds. But if you discuss your thoughts before someone else has had the time to process their own, the hive mind quickly becomes groupthink, and your biases (positive or negative) risk influencing theirs. Take the time to digest what just happened, write down your feedback, and only then, sit down and share your thoughts with others.


Kevin Grice is a former recruitment manager at Google. He is now head of talent at Trialspark, a New York-based biotechnology startup that is currently hiring.

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