One Google Hiring Policy Startups Should Avoid

Don’t imitate Google: there are many criteria to consider in a hiring policy for a sales person, but college GPA has to be one of the least useful indicators of future success.

I am on the Cisco Alumni Yahoo Group (link requires registration) which had this message from a recruiter forwarded to it today.

I am looking for a Sales Manager for the Central USA for Google

Compensation – $150K / $300K, with options

Locations – Dallas, Houston, or Atlanta

Requirements – These are the ONLY 3 musts…

  1. MUST have a high GPA of 3.4 or above from college.
  2. MUST be with or have come from a TOP Tier software company: (Oracle, Siebel, SAS, PeopleSoft, Microsoft, or our search competitor Autonomy)
  3. Managed teams for the last 7 years.

There are many criteria you might consider for hiring a sales person, but their college GPA has to be one of the least useful indicators of future success. I think there is a temptation to mimic the hiring policy of a successful company, but not everything they do actually contributes to success.

You are better served to ask them about real situations they have faced in the past, especially as a way of uncovering both interpersonal and problem solving skills.

Update June 2013

Excerpts from a June 2013 interview with Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google (bold added)

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.


One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.


After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.

Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.

2 thoughts on “One Google Hiring Policy Startups Should Avoid”

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