Sometimes it looks as if the true mission at Google is not to help us find things, or even to make money, but to create a master-race of employees. At the Googleplex, if you can demonstrate the right kind of sparky coolness and get hired, the perks are legendary. There are free meals, free haircuts, free bikes, free cars and even free beer and wine on Fridays. (Which sounds suspiciously like a breeding programme.) Currently, and as usual, Google is considered the best company in the US to work for by Fortune magazine.
Want in? It isn’t easy. The stringency of Google’s job interviews is legendary as well. Luckily, its personnel chief Laszlo Bock has now listed the five qualities they look for, in an interview with the New York Times. Before applying for a job at Google, therefore, ask yourself these five questions.
Do you have an IQ higher than 130?
The worst possible answer here is “Yes.” Bock specifically wants “intellectual humility”, without which he claims people can’t learn. Those who have been clever all their lives often commit, Bock says, “the fundamental attribution error, which is: if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot.” Taking IQ tests and remembering the score suggests exactly the wrong combination of self-aggrandisement and insecurity.
What shall we have for dinner this evening?
Don’t say “I don’t mind” or “I’m easy, really” or “What would you like?” or any of that rubbish. If we’re going to solve the dinner problem your opinion is required, so stand up and give it. This is the kind of “emergent leadership” that Google want: the willingness to take charge when required, and not take charge when not.
Why did you choose the last five articles you read?
What do you mean you don’t know? Bock’s first criterion was a type of intelligence that he calls “learning ability”, which is defined as being able “to process on the fly … to pull together disparate bits of information.” It doesn’t bode well for Google’s “structured behavioural interviews” if you go to pieces when a simple question like this is fired at your face.
Are you incompetent and lazy?
You are? Excellent. Bock wants to hire people who feel “ownership” of the company’s projects but also enough “humility” to do only what they usefully can. If you’re incompetent, therefore, you’re only going to ruin anything you get involved with, so never volunteering is the right call. Clever and active is another successful combination.
Do you have a track record of doing something really well?
If so, that’s a disaster. When faced with a problem, Bock explains that: “The expert will go: ‘I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do.'” A clever novice will usually also solve the problem, and while sometimes they fail this is more than compensated for by the valuable occasions when they solve it in new ways. People are better at things, in short, if they don’t know what they’re doing. If you do get in, you might find that a useful line on Friday nights.