2 Google books

Taejun
5 min readMar 5, 2019

Read two books about Google. How Google Works and Work Rules. Both books say that the reason of the juggernaut’s success lies in (1) hiring great people and (2) let them unleash their talent fully.

Hire the best people only

The famous “Letters of the Founders” of Google’s IPO documents says as follows

“Our employees, who have named themselves Googlers, are everything. Google is organized around the ability to attract and leverage the talent of exceptional technologists and business people. We have been lucky to recruit many creative, principled and hard-working stars. We hope to recruit many more in the future. We will reward and treat them well. We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are careful to consider the long-term advantages to the company of these benefits. “

Some key takeaways:

  • Google founders’ plan for creating that great search engine was equally simple: Hire as many talented software engineers as possible, and give them freedom. They felt that attracting and leading the very best engineers was the only way for Google to thrive and achieve its lofty ambitions.
  • The single most important thing managers do at work is hiring. Googlers made it a priority to invest the time and energy to ensure they got the best possible people. It makes much more sense to spend money to hire great talents rather than spending to train them. Great people learn by themselves.
  • After 16 years since the establishment, about one-third of the original hundred hires are still at Google. One example of Google’s hiring success.
  • Hiring begins with acquaintances’ of members. Most of the people know at least one great person. Then we shouldn’t let only recruiters handle recruiting, if everyone knows someone great.
  • Be excruciatingly specific in JD to get the best referrals.
  • Don’t be afraid to try crazy things to get the attention of the best people (like the quiz Ad that Google made before)
  • For mass recruiting, schedule interviews for thirty minutes
  • The accuracy of a hiring decision improves considerably until the number of interviewers gets five. So at least 5 interviewers for one candidate until hiring.
  • Friends don’t let friends hire/promote friends
  • Urgency of the role isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring
  • One of the core principles of Google has always been “Don’t politick. Use data.”

Dos and Don’ts in hiring

  1. Hire people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you are, only. Don’t hire people you can’t learn from or be challenged by. Ever. Urgency isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring.
  2. Hire people who will add value to the product and our culture. Don’t hire people who won’t contribute well to both.
  3. Hire people who will get things done. Don’t hire people who just think about problems.
  4. Hire people who are enthusiastic, self-motivated, and passionate. Don’t hire people who just want a job.
  5. Hire people who inspire and work well with others. Don’t hire people who prefer to work alone.
  6. Hire people who will grow wtih your team and with the company. Don’t hire people with narrow skill sets or interests.
  7. Hire people who are well rounded, with unique interests and talents. Don’t hire people who only live to work.
  8. Hire people who are ethical and who communicate openly. Don’t hire people who are political or manipulative.
  9. Hire only when you’ve found a great candidate. Don’t settle for anything less.

Key factors for successful applicants at Google

  • Generally known performance predictors: 29% is a work sample test, 26% is tests of general cognitive ability, 26% is results of structured interviews (consistent set of questions and criteria to assess the quality of responses)
  • Google found that the most successful applicants were good at: General cognitive ability, Leadership (regardless of the position), Match to corporate culture (Googleyness) and Role-related knowledge

The template of the structured interview questions

Granted, the questions are generic, but outstanding people will come back to us with outstanding answers.

  • “Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team.”
    → follow-up: What was your primary goal and why? How did your teammates respond? Moving forward, what’s your plan?
  • “Tell me about a time when you effectively managed your team to achieve a goal.”
    → follow-up: What did your approach look like? What were your targets and how did you meet them as an individual and as a team? How did you adapt your leadership approach to different individuals? What was the key takeaway from this specific situation?
  • “Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone. What made this person difficult to work with for you?”
    →follow-up: What steps did you take to resolve the problem? What was the outcome? What could you have done differently?

Application process at Google

  1. Resume screened by someone who is familiar with all jobs, not just the one for which the candidate applied
  2. Phone/video interview. Interview assesses general cognitive ability
  3. In-person interview with hiring manager, peers, subordinates and cross-functional teammates
  4. Formal and structured feedback compiled (wisdom of crowds applied) and integrated. Obtain “backdoor references”
  5. Hiring committee reviews, then a senior leader, then finally, the CEO
  6. Offer extended to candidates

Organization

“Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you are not nervous, you haven’t given them enough”

“Work Rules” says as above. Also Google spends energy to make life at the workplace easier for their employees.

  • If we hire great people only and provide them with a great working environment, great people will feel that this place is the best and they will let their friends join the company.
  • Default to open. Your default mode should be to share everything. Case in point: the Google board report.
  • Rule of seven — Managers have a minimum of seven direct reports to avoid hierarchy
  • Make life easier for employees (most of them are for free actually)

Google is famous for its generosity to its employees (flexibility, physical environment, etc.), and it works only because they hired the greatest people (skilled and self-motivated) from around the world. I felt it won’t be the case if the hiring can’t be done in that way.

Evaluation

  • Use Objectives and Key Results (OKR). The results must be specific, measurable, and verifiable.
  • Larry sets OKRs for Google first, letting everyone else to make sure their own personal OKRs roughly sync with Google’s. Once people see the company’s goals, it’s easy enough to compare the goals to their own.
  • Collect feedback from the peers for the OKR.
  • Split rewards conversations from the feedback conversations. If the two are done together, then people’s motivation may wrongly linked to the financial incentives
  • At Google, everyone is eligible for stock awards, at every level of the company and in every country. The biggest determinant of what people get is their performance. Exceptional people deserve exceptional pay.
  • Fairness is when pay is commensurate with contribution.

New Business

“We have no idea what your venture is or even your industry, so we won’t presume to tell you how to create a business plan. But we can tell you with 100 percent certainty that if you have one, it is wrong. “

  • Google’s innovation principle is to “think big, to make things ten times better and not just 10% better”.
  • Google X has a simple Venn diagram that it uses to determine if it will pursue an idea. First, the idea has to be something that addresses a big challenge or opportunity, something that affects hundreds of millions or billions of people. Second, they have to have an idea for a solution that is radically different from anything currently in the market. (auto-driving car) It is new, surprising and radically useful.
  • 70/20/10 became the rule for resource allocation: 70% resources dedicated to the core business, 20% on emerging and 10% on new.

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