Google's former HR boss shared the company's 4 rules for hiring the best employees

Neilson Barnard/Getty ImagesLaszlo Bock, the CEO of Humu, left Google in 2016 but his management principles remain strong at Google and its parent company Alphabet.
  • Former Google HR boss Laszlo Bock outlined Google’s foundational approach to management in his 2015 book “Work Rules!”
  • Google’s, and later Alphabet’s, detail-oriented approach to hiring is a primary reason how it became one of the world’s most successful companies.
  • Bock’s approach to hiring prioritises setting uncompromising high standards and making the process inclusive of each candidate’s potential colleagues.

Each year, Google receives more than two million job applications from around the world and hires several thousand of those candidates.

It takes an average of six weeks to secure a hire, and every candidate needs to be screened by their potential boss, potential colleagues, and a hiring committee.

“If you wondered if this takes a lot of Googler time, it does,” Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock wrote in his 2015 book, “Work Rules!.” Bock left Google at the end of 2016, but his principles remain at Google and its parent company Alphabet.

Bock wrote that in the early days of Google, hiring would take four to 10 hours of a manager’s time each week, with top executives spending a full day on it. By 2013, the company had grown to 40,000 employees but had slashed that time to one and a half hours a week. (Today, the company has more than 60,000 employees.)

He explained that years of research and experimentation helped Google get hiring exceptional people down to a near science. “There are four simple principles that can help even the smallest team do much, much better at hiring,” he wrote.

We’ve explained them below.

1. Set an uncompromising high standard

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai.

You will be able to quickly determine if someone is worth even an initial interview by setting the bar high and not budging it.

“Before you start recruiting, decide what attributes you want and define as a group what great looks like,” Bock wrote. “A good rule of thumb is to hire only people who are better than you.”

This applies to all positions, he explained. If you’re hiring an administrative assistant, don’t simply look for someone who can answer a phone and schedule your meetings – find someone who will make your job easier by organising your time and priorities better than you ever could.

And if an employee search is taking longer than you would like, be patient and concentrate more of your effort on the task.

“Do not compromise,” Bock wrote. “Ever.”

2. Find candidates on your own


Google works with some recruitment firms, but only in specific situations in which outside expertise is a requirement, such as building a new team in another country.

The company has used third-party job boards like Monster in the past, but pulled back from them after its reputation grew sufficiently, mostly because it found that too many of those sites’ users send out generic mass job applications.

Google now relies on its own careers portal and the referrals it solicits from Googlers. And when your company begins growing, Bock said, “ask your best-networked people to spend even more time sourcing great hires.”

He also recommended that managers make use of LinkedIn, Google+, alumni databases, and professional associations to discover talent.

3. Put checks in place to assess candidates objectively

Spencer Platt/Getty

An organisation the size of Google can afford to have a large group of people spend time with each candidate, but even smaller companies need to avoid placing the burden of hiring someone onto one individual.

“Include subordinates and peers in the interviews, make sure interviewers write good notes, and have an unbiased group of people make the actual hiring decision,” Bock wrote.

“Periodically return to those notes and compare them to how the new employee is doing, to refine your assessment capability.”

4. Provide candidates with a reason to join

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesGoogle’s Mountain View headquarters.

Jonathan Rosenberg, advisor to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, used to keep 200 Google employees’ résumés in his office.

“If a candidate was on the fence about joining Google, Jonathan would simply give them the stack and say: ‘You get to work with these people,'” Bock wrote.

According to Bock, the candidate would look through the impressive collection, including everyone from the inventor of JavaScript to Olympic athletes, and ask Rosenberg if he had cherry-picked them – to which he would honestly reply no. The technique worked every time.

“Make clear why the work you are doing matters, and let the candidate experience the astounding people they will get to work with,” Bock wrote.

This is an updated version of a story that ran on February 18, 2016.

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