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Google’s Laszlo Bock Featured Speaker at SIOP Conference’s Closing Plenary


by Clif Boutelle, SIOP Public Relations

Successful organizations place a great deal of emphasis upon hiring the right people; in fact, bringing the wrong people on board can be disastrous.

One company that has raised the bar when it comes to employee selection is Google, an organization widely known for its efficient hiring practices, which have become an HR model for many organizations.

SIOP members, many of whom are specialists in employee selection, will have the opportunity to hear how Google goes about finding the right people from Laszlo Bock, Google’s Vice President of People Operations, who will be the featured speaker at the April 16 closing plenary of the SIOP conference in Anaheim, California.

Bock is the author of “Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead,” a New York Times Best Seller, which “distills 15 years of intensive worker R&D into principles that are easy to put into action, whether you’re a team of one or a team of thousands.”

“He will be talking about his unique view of people and work and the strategies that have been successful at Google as well as ways that the science of I-O can impact, and have impacted, organizations,” said Eden B. King, chair of this year’s conference.

“I think SIOP members will find his talk to be both inspirational and informative,” she added.

Google consistently shows up on Best Places to Work lists and it’s the result of a culture the company works hard to develop and promote. Ultimately, an organization’s culture reflects the people who work there, and hiring those people is something in which Google excels.

Google emphasizes structured interviews where interviewees are asked the same basic questions. That will provide a statistically valid determination of whether the person can do the job based upon very clear definitions for what every position requires, Bock said in a HR Magazine interview last year.

Google also does not let managers make hiring decisions. Hiring committees choose the candidate without the manager’s input in order to remove bias, he explained.

“We relentlessly test and improve our processes using academic-quality rigor and science. We want to prove that what we are doing works,” he added.

It’s a process that has discarded much of the conventional wisdom of hiring practices. For example, the traditional way of attracting job seekers—posting a job, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews—is not followed to a great degree at Google. The use of job boards and search firms have been scaled back; rather Google relies on other methods such as in-house recruiters to look at passive job seekers and a candidate database that tracks top potential candidates.

In a Wall Street Journal review of “Work Rules!” Bock said a prime predictor of whether a person will succeed is how candidates perform on a sample work test. Whether recruiting for an entry-level job or a seasoned professional, it is important to see the person in action, he said.

In addition, Google asks it interviewers to assess cognitive ability, conscientiousness (will an applicant see an assignment through to completion?) and leadership traits.

Notably, Bock writes that Google today prefers “to take a bright, hardworking student who graduated in the top of his or her class at a state school over an average or even above average Ivy League grad.”

In his book, Bock noted it was harder to get a job at Google than it is to be admitted to Harvard. The company receives about two million applications a year for a few thousand positions.

Despite so many job seekers, Google recognizes that traditional filters of applicants, usually based upon a resume, screens out many of the potentially best candidates.

He urged companies to stop focusing on the resume and instead on potential. “Those millions of unconnected Americans are a great untapped market,” he said.

Google has shown great success in hiring those kinds of employees.