Google Research Validates Behavioral Interviewing
INTERVIEW EDGE • JUN 2013
In a wide-ranging interview that appeared in The New York Times last week, Lazlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, praised behavioral interviewing, panned brainteaser questions, noted that academic accomplishments don't translate to on-the-job-success and confessed that Google's own hiring process is "a complete, random mess." With the exception of the commentary on Google's hiring process, we've been telling clients the same things for the last 30 years.
Take brainteaser questions, for instance. One particularly infamous example, which was mocked in the recent film, 'The Internship,' goes like this: "You are reduced to the size of a nickel and your mass is reduced accordingly and you are thrown into a blender – what do you do?"
Bock's answer? "We have found that brain teasers are a complete waste of time. They don't predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart."
We couldn't agree more and said so, two years ago in our article, "Oddball Interview Questions: All Risk, No Reward?"
Bock also debunks — we hope once and for all — the entrenched notion that academic and test-taking ability correlate with professional ability, saying, "One of the things we've seen from all our data crunching is that GPAs are worthless criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless. Google famously used to ask everyone for transcripts and GPAs and test scores, but we don't anymore. We found they don't predict anything."
We are not surprised at his findings and encourage clients to move “beyond credentials” in their interviews and overall assessments. We believe that interviewers who rely on credentials do so to prevent being blamed for recommending someone who doesn’t work out. The excuse becomes, “Don’t blame me for hiring him. Who would think a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School wouldn’t do well here?”
On the plus side, Bock is a strong proponent of structured behavioral interviews and behavioral interviewing. He notes, "The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable "meta" information you get about the candidate is what they consider difficult."
Bock also makes the point that there is no correlation between interviewer ratings of a candidate and later performance. We think this points to flaws in the candidate rating processes and overlooks the question of whether the interviewers in question had any training in this skill.
As we have always said, the right behavioral interviewing approach allows you to objectively hire for long-term potential and cultural fit within the organization. And as Google found out, these data points can’t be assessed with brainteaser questions or an analysis of a candidate's GPA.