Google’s Wacky Interview Questions Didn’t Aid Hiring?

Susan Hall

So now Google’s hiring guru says that its infamous brain-teaser interview questions served no purpose?

Slide Show

Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2013

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told The New York Times:

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.


Behavioral interviews provide better insight into a job candidate’s thinking process, he said. Through a question such as “give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem,” the interviewer learns not only about that person’s experience, but also gains some insight into what that candidate considers difficult, Bock said.

Though Google does really value really smart people, it no longer requires candidates to submit a college transcript and their GPA, finding that except for those just out of school, that information doesn’t predict success. And – gasp! – the number of folks who never even went to college is growing at Google.

In the interview, Bock talks about all the number-crunching Google has done to determine what makes a good manager and who’s good at hiring. We’ve been hearing a lot about the use of Big Data in hiring lately, though Bock says that hasn’t necessarily shown a way out of the weeds at Google:

Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.

I found it interesting, though, that consistency proves to be a basic trait of a good leader:

If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.

That “freedom within limits” lies at the heart of Montessori education, which Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin have credited as being key to their success.



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