Brain-teaser interview questions are useless, Google’s HR guy says

google-logoThose much-discussed brain teaser questions that were supposed to be a hallmark of a Google interview are gone.

“They don’t predict anything,” Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, told the New York Times. “They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

OK, so, now you don’t have to try to figure out on the spot how many cows there are in Canada, which was one of the questions that Google apparently asked candidates.

According to Bock, Google’s investigation of its own HR outcomes has produced some key insights regarding what predicts success at the company. As it happens, many of the things traditionally thought to be effective indicators of success during the application process didn’t accurately predict an outcome.

Gone are the requests for college transcripts and test scores (unless an applicant is a recent grad). There also isn’t one group of people with the secret knowledge of who will work well at Google, either.

Google’s data analysis doesn’t stop at the front door, either. The company looked at how well people are doing once they get inside, and found that there’s one key to predicting a good leader: according to Bock, the quality that’s most likely to indicate someone will be effective when in charge is consistency, not charisma. He tells The New York Times:

“We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”

One of the things that Bock stressed is that Google’s results aren’t necessarily indicative of a greater truth. After all, the data set they’re working with is restricted to success at Google. But the surprising nature of some of the revelations would seem to indicate that a better analysis of human resources outcomes is key to building a better company.