7 Recruitment Ideas That We Can Nick From Google

How do Google manage to find and track down such wonderful (and googl-y) people to work for them? Let's examine their recruitment ideas and find out.

June 20, 2023

If there is one thing Google do well, it's finding answers.

They use serious maths to give answers to life’s most important (and most dumb) questions.

So, when it comes to recruitment, you better believe there’s a formula at work.

And it’s a formula that costed millions of pounds and thousands of man hours to perfect.

But today, I’m going to give it to you (or some of it at least) for free!

Because, although we can’t know everything, Laszlo Block, Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations revealed an awful lot of Google’s hiring secrets in his 2015 book entitled:

“Insights From Inside Google. Work Rules That Will Transform How You Live And Lead.”

So, let’s take a look at seven of the key takeaways from the book (Number one may shock you a little bit).

Google use structured interviews...

...And ordinary questions.

In the past, Google have been glorified (and vilified) for using ridiculous questions and weird and wonderful strategies to interview their job candidates.

But they have since realised, it just doesn’t stack up. Structure is the way forward.

In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter finished looking at 85 years of data surrounding 19 different types of assessment. They concluded that unstructured interviews are pretty much useless and give a 14% indication of future performance.

Structured interviews, though, give a 26% accuracy rate.

Google play it by numbers.

They opt for a combination of situational and behavioural interview questions.

Behavioural questions tackle how people have previously acted and reacted to different situations (in and out of the workplace). So these might be:

So, the questions will generally sound like this:
  1. Tell me about a time you [had an issue with a client.]
  2. Tell me when you [solved a difficult problem.]

Click here to see more examples.

Situational questions present hypothetical circumstances that could arise. They could include:
  1. What would you do if [the server went down five minutes before a big presentation?]
  2. [A client is angry and is blaming you.] How do you deal with it?

Google stick with the philosophy that ordinary questions give candidates the chance to produce extraordinary answers. That’s why the questions are simple and straightforward. It happens by design.

That way, the only variable is the person applying for the job.

Google set a task for their candidates.

The 1998 study revealed that a sample work project is easily the best way to gauge potential performance. It still isn’t perfect, but it provides a 29% insight.

Google challenge their candidates, set a time limit and throw them straight in at the deep end.

Laszlo was keen to stress that the challenge should not be one of those abstract questions that were fashionable for too long, like:
  1. How many golf balls can you fit inside a 747?
  2. How many petrol stations are there in New York?

These questions are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard and are like torture to most candidates.

Don’t be that person. Come up with a relevant exercise that relates to the job instead.

Google test general cognitive ability.

A simple intelligence test with right and wrong answers is surprisingly effective.

All the education in the world can’t make up for a lack of basic smarts. You want naturally quick-witted people to join your team.

There are problems with such tests, though.

Smarts aren’t everything and there are plenty of examples out there of people who did extremely well in IQ tests but failed miserably in business.

So, an IQ test of this kind is an essential part of the Google process, but a small part.

And if you’re going to use testing, make sure you do your research first.

Google test for conscientiousness...

...And leadership qualities.

Candidates that score well on the conscientiousness test and make good leaders are the ones that will get the job done. They will find ways around obstacles and look for solutions rather than wallow in problems.

This kind of person will drive any company forward.

Google has a playlist of questions that include the following: 1. Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team.
  • What was your primary goal and why?
  • How did your team-mates respond?
2. Tell me about a time you managed your team to achieve a goal?
  • What did your approach look like?
  • How did you adapt your leadership approach with different individuals?

Again, the questions are straightforward, to give the candidate a chance to shine.

Click here to take a look at some great interview questions that’ll help you assess true leadership.

Google score every part of the interview.

Gut feelings just don’t fly at Google.

Detailed notes are turned into definitive scores and then fed into the computer.

It’s up to you how far you take this and a lot will depend on the resources you’ve got on offer.

But, if you can find a way to quantify everything, then your hiring process will improve.

Recruiter Pro Tip To a certain extent, I think it’s a bit dangerous to ignore gut feeling altogether. Sometimes, we can tell that something is just not right, often because of body language. Just use these feelings to probe deeper and find out whether they really do have something to hide!

Data is everything these days. Make sure you measure everything throughout your recruitment process.

Google invite random people into the interview.

A lot of companies have moved beyond a single interviewer and now invite a few managers into the interview (a “panel interview”).

Google go a step further and invite a variety of people, from a variety of different functions into the interview – these people might one day work directly with (or for) the successful candidate - or they might not.

This offers recruiters a more rounded opinion of whether the candidate would be a good fit or not and helps reduce ‘thin slice error’, where the interviewer gets so wrapped up in job functions that they ignore gaping holes in the candidate’s wider skillset.

For example, if they’re interviewing a software engineer, Google might bring in someone from the legal or advertising department.

This is something that a company of any size can do. Why not have a go?

Google treat the interview like a sales pitch.

More or less everybody wants to work for the company (their employer brand is brilliant), but Google still treat the interview process as a chance to sell the job to the candidate.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really is.

Too many recruiters treat their job as a prize that candidates should fight over.

But this can seriously put candidates off and we know that the top ones actually often do reject an offer because they got a bad vibe in the interview.

Truly outstanding candidates with a unique skillset and a healthy dose of confidence are the ones you want. They also tend to be the ones with choices.

So, take a leaf out of Google’s book and actually treat the interview as a two-way process.

Sell the company to the candidate, even if you don’t give them the position; you never know when you might want to hire them in the future – plus you don’t want them to write a negative review about you anywhere!

If a company of Google’s stature feels the need to take this approach, maybe we all should.


Google have spent vast sums to perfect their hiring process and they have come up with some interesting conclusions:

  • Use structured interviews.
  • Use standard interview questions (ditch the silly brainteasers).
  • Score everything!
  • Test for intelligence, but don’t totally rely on it.

If it’s good enough for Google, maybe it’s good enough for you!

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Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
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