Why Not Google-Hire Cops?

google signTom Friedman is one of my favorite writers at The New York Times. In an editorial he wrote last week, he hit another home run with me when he interviewed the HR folks at Google and asked them what they were looking for in a new employee.

Let’s look at Google’s thinking. More and more, companies are learning that GPA’s don’t predict anything. They are not a good criterion for hiring. Now I am not backing off my position about college for cops. The college experience is vital, but not necessarily a person’s GPA. Looking back, I tended not to be absolute about demanding those I hired had a college degree, but they needed to be smart, have a college experience, and a significant post-high school learning experience which may or may not have led to a degree.

So what is a creative, forward-thinking, innovative company like Google looking for?

1. Learning Ability. Can the person learn? If it’s a technical job, that person’s technical ability needs to be assessed. The most important thing they look for is a person’s general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. — it’s the ability to learn… to be able to process information on the fly… to pull together disparate bits.

2. Leadership. Does the person know when to step up and when to follow? We are talking about “emergent leadership” as opposed to traditional leadership. When faced with a problem and the person is a member of a team, do they, at the appropriate time, step in and lead — (most importantly) can they step back and stop leading and are able to let someone else? — the ability to relinquish power when necessary.

4. Ownership. Does the person feel a sense of responsibility, a sense of organizational ownership. Are they willing to step in to try and solve problems without being asked?

5. Humility. Can the person step back and embrace the better ideas of others? Can they push forward with the goal of finding out what can be done together to solve problems? This is humility. Without such humility, a person is unable to learn.  (Google ahs found that successful, bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure and are, therefore, not always the best candidates.)

4. Ferocity. Can the person take a fierce position and then be open to new facts and able to change? What Google found is that successful people hold fierce positions. “They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’” This is having a big ego and small ego at the same time.

5.  Expertise. Expertise is the least important attribute at Google. “If a candidate has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, but he or she has no content knowledge, and they are compared with a world expert, the expert will say, ‘I’ve seen this before, here’s what you do,’ most of the time the nonexpert will come up with the same answer because most of the time the decision is not that hard. Once in a while they will mess it up, but once in a while they’ll also come up with an answer that is totally new — and there is huge value in that.”

6. Talent. It must be remembered that talent today comes in so many different forms and can be built in so many non-traditional ways. When you look at people who don’t go to school and are able to make their way in the world, they are exceptional human beings. We should do everything we can to find them.

7. Soft Skills. In an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also depends on knowledge workers today who have a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where a person works.

After seeing this, I thought why don’t we hire cops according to the Google method? Why don’t we “Google-hire?”

What keeps us today from hiring police according to the same criteria Google does?

So how about it police leaders, is it time to applying what Google is learning? Time to Google-hire?

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

4 Responses to “Why Not Google-Hire Cops?”

  1. It seems that people have been losing their soft skills such as humiliy, collaboration, and help each other out. Besides, many people won’t admit that they need to learn or re-learn somthing since supposely they should have that in their work experience. If you ask to learn or re-learn something, there will be people who don’t want to teach you because they think that you are incapable of learning, you are to old to learn, or the people don’t teach you because it is their advantage over you and others.

    When it comes to leadership, it is still an American cultural, social problem where the boss is the boss, he/she rules by fear and intimidation who hates unions and if you don’t like it, tough. They think that they know everything which is why they are the boss and you have nothing to offer. The leaders also get lazy and think that they don’t have to learn or re-learn anything.

    Peopl are too fierce when it comes to protecting their turf and they have too big of an ego to admit that they were wrong and that someone else is right even if you give the facts to prove that they are wrong. To admit being wrong is consider being weak and/or failure.

    There is an America cultural, social problem of learning from failure. If you failed, you are considered a loser not a winner plus we are not condition in American society to learn from failure. We treat failure as if it was the black plague. We only want success and we have the latest culture saying that “Failure is not an option.”

    Ross Perot in his book The Principle of Success stated that when you look for people, don’t always go to the more famous/Ivy league colleges because he stated that the people at those places are there to learn how to play and adapt to the system. Instead, Perot state that you should look at getting people from less known and unknown colleges and unversities because the people at those places will tried to prove to you and others that they are just as good and capable as the people at the more famous/Ivy League colleges.

  2. Wow….surprisingly these are some good points. Another proof that GPA doesn’t matter that much.


  1. The Greatest Factor in Improving Police | improving police - March 6, 2014

    […] to wear one of their badges. My last blog addressed the importance of what I called “Google-hiring.” And it strongly applies […]

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