GPA, Experience & Test Scores are Worthless Hiring Criteria

I was interested to read a quote from Google’s Sr. V. P. of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, in which he stated that, ““G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless . . . We found that they don’t predict anything.”  That’s exactly what I have found over the years when we were helping to improve failing hiring processes.  Companies get stuck in urban myths about what predicts success but seldom stop to assess those criteria.

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s CEO, Monty Moran, also made headlines when he stated that, ““We don’t care about experience very much.  In fact, I think experience at another fast food restaurant is as likely to be a negative as it is to be a positive. We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.”

So what do these innovative, high-growth, much-admired companies use as the criteria to select talent for critical roles?  As you read deeper into the articles, you find that they both focus on the ability to learn and competencies that are related more to future potential versus short term performance.  Googles Bock indicated that, “the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”   Mr. Moran acknowledged that new hires with little QSR experience may make more mistakes initially but learning agile people quickly learn form the mistakes, don’t repeat them and eventually come up with better ideas.

Assessing learning ability does not require a capability akin to conducting a Vulcan Mind Meld.  When I visited Google headquarters last year, our People Operations host described how they have chucked everything in favor of behavior-based interviews.  They typically use five validated, structured interviews with the fifth being solely an opportunity to train new interviewers – the results are not considered.  Beyond learning ability, Google’s interviews also look for behavioral examples of competencies such as Emergent Leadership (the ability to take the lead when needed in a team situation not whether you were the captain of the cheerleading squad), Ownership and Humility (being willing to step up and help solve a problem but also step back and consider the ideas of others) and Collaboration.

Google is one the worlds most admired companies.  Analysts have attributed some of Chipotle’s success to its unique culture that is created and reinforced through its hiring and promotion process.  But try to convince an engineering-based company that GPA’s are worthless!  That’s a urban myth that’s hard to crack.  I’m glad the issue is getting some popular press.

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