Tom 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?