Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

since 2001, has served as his online home.

How Google Hires Is Changing

The New York Times has an interesting article today about Google’s hiring practices. In a nutshell, Google is beginning to account for applicant traits beyond raw academic performance: unique experiences and accomplishments, personality quirks, working habits. Beyond that, Google is attempting to evaluate the success of potential hires algorithmically. It sounds like a sort of eHarmony for the workforce, and decidedly more granular than their renowned low-pass filter for grades and test scores.

Ever since it became every computer science graduate’s dream to work at Google, friends and family have asked me why I wasn’t interested in the search giant. My answer was that I didn’t think I was what Google was looking for. I did not perform well across the board academically in high school and college; my grades in math, particularly, were quite poor for someone with a facility in programming. Beyond that, I don’t test well (outside of humanities subjects, anyway). I don’t enjoy the sort of brain teasers and obscure trivia challenges that Google’s interview process is infamous for. My brain seems to be wired to function optimally only when solving real-world problems; contrived scenarios leave me slack-jawed. So I’d shake my head when people asked why I wasn’t hustling to work there: “I’m not their type of geek.”

Imagine my surprise, then, when a Google recruiter contacted me last month. It wasn’t for a job that matched my skills, and it wasn’t for a location that I was particularly enthused about, and it hasn’t really gone anywhere. But the recruiter found me through the Rails community and thought, just looking at my weblog, that I might be a good fit. Either Google is casting a low and wide net, or, as the article says, “there is some resistance even at Google to the idea that a machine can pick talent better than a human.” It was the recruiter’s instinct that found me, not an algorithm.

I share this by way of spreading hope for those of you who thought you’d never be Google material because you weren’t a rocking a 4.0 from CalTech. I’m still not sure that Google would be the right place for me, but it’s nice to know that they’re getting over their “obsession with grades.” Some of us were too busy learning to do well in school.


Hope For The New Year