Why Google Wants New Hires Who Are Humble And Argue




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:


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.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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