Google says their creative interview questions didn’t predict good workers…so why ask them?

Google announced yesterday that their creative and odd interview questions didn’t help them understand who was going to be a good worker. So, why did they ask them?

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times. “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

A list of Google questions compiled by Seattle job coach Lewis Lin, and then read by approximately everyone on the entire Internet in one form or another, included these humdingers:

  • How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
  • Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
  • How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
  • A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
  • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

Bock says Google now relies on more quotidian means of interviewing prospective employees, such as standardizing interviews so that candidates can be assessed consistently, and “behavioral interviewing,” such as asking people to describe a time they solved a difficult problem. It’s also giving much less weight to college grade point averages and SAT scores.

The suggestion here is that these were more about the interviewer than the interviewee. Interesting. This is just speculation but here are other potential reasons for asking such questions.

1. They really thought these questions would be a good filter – but they learned better later. Was this initial idea based on research? Experience? Anecdotes? Or did this just sort of happen one time and it seemed to work so it continued? For a company that is all about data and algorithms, it would be interesting to know whether this interviewing practice was based on data.

2. Perhaps Google is trying to project a certain image to potential employees: “We are a place that values this kind of thinking.” The interview at Google isn’t just a typical interview; it is an experience.

3. They wanted to be to the wider public as a place that asked these kind of intimidating/interesting (depending on your point of view) questions. And this image is tied to social status: “Google does something in their interviews that others don’t! They must know something.” Were these questions all part of a larger branding strategy? It would be interesting to know how long they have thought the questions didn’t predict good workers. What does it say about the company now if they are moving on to other methods and more “quotidian”/pedestrian/boring interviewing approaches?

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