Interview with Google’s senior HR guy
Published in the NY Times last week, interview with Laszlo Bock, “senior vice president of people operations” at Google.
Key quote #1:
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.
Key quote #2:
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.
Key quote #3:
One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.
So what have we learned?
Traditionally, Google was one of the rare companies that attempted to hire the smartest people by using things such as brain teasers and test scores. But apparently that’s not the case anymore because the top HR guy doesn’t believe in that stuff.
Commenters to this blog keep insisting that companies don’t use IQ tests because of Griggs v. Duke Power Company, but the reality is that companies don’t use IQ tests because senior HR people don’t believe in IQ tests. Their beliefs reflect the standard liberal ideology that IQ tests don’t measure anything except the ability to take IQ tests.
Personally, I don’t believe that IQ is unrelated to job performance. I believe that Google’s early success, as well as Microsoft’s early success, are due in large part due to the fact that they both hired the smartest people.
So how come Mr. Bock claims that objective research showed no correlation between job performance and measures of IQ like test scores, GPA and brainteasers?
One possibility is that Google uses some other method to screen out all but those with the highest IQs, such as only interviewing people with STEM degrees from top schools like Stanford and MIT, and that there is some floor at which once IQ rises above it there’s no additional benefit to having higher IQ. I don’t believe this to be the case, but I am putting it out there as a theory.
The other possibility, and the one I do believe, is that the measures of job performance are invalid, and that they are measuring how well liked a worker is, rather than their actual contribution to the company’s profits. I suspect that at the highest levels of IQ, there is a negative correlation between having a likeable personality and IQ, especially among STEM types. Thus the very highest IQ workers may be creating the most profits for the company, but their work isn’t valued by management because they are not well liked.
* * *
This explains why we see no correlation, or even a negative correlation, between IQ and income after educational credentials are accounted for. Because there’s an oversupply of labor, if you have the credentials necessary to gain entrance to a career track, your IQ is high enough to perform in that career track with enough competence such that your evaluation by managers and therefore your promotion opportunities are determined by factors other than IQ (such as your ability at intra-office politics, your ability for getting recognition, taking credit and tooting your own horn, and knowing the right people at other companies).