By Jim Wong, CPA | March 21, 2014

Hiring managers know only too well that searching for that superstar employee is a difficult task. Managers know that building a crack team who can turn on a dime, and quickly adapt and adjust to sudden change is even harder.

We all can learn a lot from studying what other successful people or organizations do to achieve greatness and consistently hit goals, and hiring is no different.

Google is a behemoth of a corporation. It regularly makes Fortune Magazines list of top companies to work for, and has just under 50,000 employees. Google makes a point of only hiring the best, and was known to make applicants solve ridiculous brainteasers during interviews, including this dazzler, “How many golfballs fit into a school bus.”

They shifted gears recently, however, even going so far as to admit that the brainteasers were a waste of time. A recent article reports that “…the company instead began conducting “structured behavioral interviews” to learn more about candidates’ real–world experience.”

The article then outlines the five traits Google hiring managers look for when they are adding to their organization.

  • The ability to learn and pull together disparate pieces of information on the fly.
  • Emergent leadership skills, in which employees take leadership roles in a team when appropriate and then step back and let someone else lead.
  • Ownership of work and projects.
  • The humility to accept the better ideas of others and to take a strong position but then change in the face of new facts.
  • Last, and least, is expertise, because the answers may be obvious to an intelligent person and habitual practice might skip useful new answers.

The point here isn’t to mimic exactly what Google does. Remember, out of their 50,000’ish employees, more than 10,000 are software developers, and, one would assume, a great many more are coders and the like. And a software developer’s mind definitely doesn’t work the same way as, say, an accountant’s!

But, the key personality traits Google looks for can be adapted to fit any corporation, large or small.

  • Adaptability and flexibility.
  • People who can move in and out of leadership roles when necessary.
  • Pride in the work they do, and drive and determination to finish assignments.
  • Humility – that’s an important one – being able to respect other’s ideas and opinions, and accept their own limitations without losing face.
  • And, of course, overall expertise in a particular field.

Ask yourself – What Would Google Do? – the next time you’re preparing interview questions for candidates. Then adapt Google’s approach to your industry, and you’ll have landed a super star employee in now time.

What would you add? Do you agree with Google’s thinking and approach when it comes to the hiring process?

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