Posted January 3, 2007 9:44 am by with 6 comments

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The New York Times takes a topic first covered by the Wall Street Journal back in October and asks us to suspend reality and believe it’s the first time it’s been discussed.

Ok, so that rant aside, if you did miss the WSJ version, you may wish to check out the NYT’s look at how Google is automating its hiring process using complex interview questions and algorithms.

The questions range from the age when applicants first got excited about computers to whether they have ever tutored or ever established a nonprofit organization. The answers are fed into a series of formulas created by Google’s mathematicians that calculate a score — from zero to 100 — meant to predict how well a person will fit into its chaotic and competitive culture.

I studied psychology for a few years and it strikes me that these types of questions can be gamed. If you’re presented with targeted questions like “have you ever started your own business?”, you’ll likely guess the answer Google is looking for is a “yes”. I wonder how long it will be before applicants are figuring out the job application algo, optimizing their answers and maybe even using a little blackhat. 😉

Still, Google must be doing something right with its hiring process as hardly anyone leaves.

The company boasts that only 4 percent of its work force leaves each year, less than other Silicon Valley companies. And it works hard to retain people, with copious free food, time to work on personal projects and other goodies. Stock options and grants certainly encourage employees to stay long enough to take advantage of the company’s surging share price.

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  • Can the test be “gamed?” If, by gamed you mean “applicants answering untruthfully,” then, sure! And I suppose, in an extreme situation, it could get them closer to a set of in-person interviews.

    But is that any different than lying on one’s resume? When it becomes crystal clear that you really *weren’t* the captain of the cricket team and never did start your own singing telegram business… well, I’d be pretty confident that you’d not get a job offer from Google (or any other self-respecting company). And, at least in the Silicon Valley area, word spreads fast. “Semi-successful liar,” isn’t the sort of personal quality most folks want to be known for 😉

  • Adam isn’t this how Google keeps SEOs in check with search? Lot’s of fire and brimstone and “we’ll catch you so don’t do it”, yet people get away with “gaming” Google every day. 🙂

    Besides, haven’t you heard of IP delivery? That’s Intellectual Person delivery. I simply send over a PHD grad to interview at Google, in my place, while every other employer gets the real me. 😉

  • Heh, Andy! Nah, I think we (and I personally) prefer carrots to sticks. I think I had just read a bit too much (concurrent with your article) about “gaming” the application process, and my good-mood coffee had worn off :o.

    Maybe I shoulda found myself an aspirin before posting!

  • No problem Adam…I have those days too. BTW, can you send me something else quirky so I can get back on Digg? 😛

  • Is this applicable to the on-site interview or the phone one ?

    I’ve just submitted my resume but its more than a week. I hope its bcause of the location cos I applied at the Singapore office, hopefully the time taken it just normal…

    Dennis Quek’s last blog post..How I manage my money for October 08