Is hiring primarily a process-driven function or an innovative one?

The topic is revisited by a recent article in Behavioral Scientist magazine by Laszlo Bock, former senior vice president of people operations at Google.

“Too many people see hiring as an instinct art form, honed by years of their own experience,” Bock, now co-founder and CEO of Humu, said in the article. “The truth is, the best way to hire … is incredibly structured and boring. And that’s why no one does it.”

Bock lists five steps to identifying and hiring the best candidates.

They are not revolutionary; they simply reflect the best hiring practices people often neglect.

1. Define job attributes.

Google identified attributes it considered important for successful employees based on analysis of past hires.

Those attributes are not directly relevant to other companies, but they do point to a mistake companies often make by surfing the web, grabbing several job descriptions with similar titles and cannibalizing them to create a job description. Instead, it is critical to analyze your work processes and current team and define specifically what you need this new hire to do to increase team performance.

2. Ask for a work sample, if that is possible.

Often a work sample was produced by a team or is proprietary information that is not to be shared.

3. Ask behavioral questions.

Bock said to probe by using a statement like “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” Bock maintains you should “ask candidates a consistent set of questions, in the same order, with clear criteria to assess the quality of responses. This ensures that any variation in responses is a result of the candidate’s performance, not because an interviewer has particularly high or low standards, or asked harder or easier questions.”

4. Average scores from the interview questions and other criteria and make a decision.

Bock promotes relying on “the wisdom of crowds,” averaging the feedback of all the candidates equally.

5. Constantly check that your hiring process actually works.

Most companies do not revisit past hires to check if their presumptions at the time of the hire turned out to be valid. But it is critical that both successful and failed hires be analyzed.

I would add the following questions: Was the job defined tightly? Did the organization create a job that lent itself to success, or a Frankenstein monster of various tasks that were not efficiently viable in the organization as currently constructed? Were the qualifications tightly aligned to the job’s success, or full of unnecessary items like college degrees, specific technologies or excess numbers of years of experience relative to the role?

In Bock’s words: “Following these five steps might not feel exciting or entertaining, and in fact that’s why most companies don’t bother. Sometimes doing something right means doing it in a staid, measured, repeatable way.”


Isaac Cheifetz is an executive recruiter and strategic résumé consultant based in the Twin Cities. His website is