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Would your children make it into the Kingdom of Google?

Thinking about Thinking

Thoughts on thinking about thinking from the Raising Thinkers Series


Would your children make it into the Kingdom of Google?

Tremaine du Preez

Getting into Google; it’s not what you know, it’s how you think.


It’s easier to get into Harvard than Google. Your or your child’s odds of getting to work at one of the world’s most desirable employers with the all-you-can-eat-for-free organic deli at the Googleplex and its many miniplexes around the world, are 1 in 130. The odds of getting into one of the most hallowed academic institutions known to our generation, Harvard, are a mere 1 in 14. Google gets over 1 million job applicants a year and employes 0.4% to 0.5% of them. Their internship is 2600% oversubscribed.  It must be the free lunches! But if you thought that the gatekeepers to the Kingdom screen CV's for the next genius among us. Think again. 


Academic success is not what it used to be

In a company that produces the purest, most valuable data that money can buy, it’s no surprise that their recruitment processes have benefitted from their lead in analytics. Lazlo Block, their SVP of people ops and principle architect of their interview process made headline’s recently when he revealed what most Googlers already know. That academic success at college or one’s GPA (grade point average) is the least important metric in their interview process, in fact, he went on to say that it is discounted in the final selection stage. Their 16 years worth of data on recruitment have revealed that there is no link between formal academic success or technical ability and potential to add real value to a company that transacts in new technology.  What they hire for is the ability to learn, mental agility and someone who is not held hostage by years of deep specialisation in a particular area. Google is all grown up now. No longer a group of smart Stanford kids with a dream but little idea of how to monetise it. And they have designed a recruitment process to help them identifying candidates who will create the future (without being evil). 


An A for Failure will be required

So when Lazlo Block says they are looking for incredible curiosity, intellectual humility and resilience he isn’t saying so because it sounds all googley but because he knows this is what has brought them to where they are and will take them forward. Plus they have found a way of testing for this through their behavioural based interview process. Resilience is highlighted several times because “someone who has known academic success most of their life has probably never gotten down and dirty with failure.” Internally, Google fails a lot, that’s the nature of exploring unchartered territory. Without resilience no new app or technology would be shuttled into the future. In their own bout of intellectual humility Block admitted that their previous, infamous, interviewing idiosyncrasies that included asking bizarre questions like “how many cows are there in Canada” were one of theses failures. “A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything and serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.” Well that’s good news, especially if your child wanted to work at Google and the only way he could find this answer was to Google it (even then, there’s no real answer for a number that changes by the minute). But what if he wanted to work somewhere else? 


But a CV no longer is

Is this discounting of GPA’s and 15 years of expensive education etched into a professionally composed resumé just a Google thing? Nope, it seems to be a growing trend. A trend that is sucking the life out of an old faithful of corporate recruiting; the formal curriculum vitae.  A relic of the pre-electronic age, it seems to be going the way of big hair and platform shoes as it retreats into digital shadows. LinkedIn explains how employers are now using tracking and analytical tools to look for evidence of intangible qualities; adaptability, social and emotional intelligence, resilience and learning agility. Even using specially designed games to test candidates for many of these qualities regardless of age. Shell, IBM, Cisco and many others are now using human analytics to gain insights into a potential employee’s innate abilities. Apart from behavioural interviews and games, where are they getting this information? 


If your child has a fantastic LikedIn profile that you have carefully constructed with them, you may be very surprised to know that this is only one data source that is seen and considered by employers today. It’s just a start. Every public piece of information, Facebook tag (made public by your child or someone else),  digital group they’ve joined, tweet, comment on forums, the friends they keep and pages they like, races they’ve won, protests they’ve lost etc all contribute to a pretty holistic picture of your child’s life to date when they enter the workforce. There have been reports that some workforce entrants are having to change their name legally to get away from online photos of drunken escapades, careless WhatsApp, snapchat, insert the rest here broadcasts and other ‘fun and innocent childhood stuff’ that will turn employers right off. This has such a long shadow over a young person’s life that lawmakers in the state of California have passed an ‘eraser’ law. This will force online companies, from 2015, to remove any information about a minor, should that minor request it. But only till they reach 18 years old. Thereafter it will haunt them indefinitely. 


Given that employability today and tomorrow is less about math scores and more about adaptability, resilience, social, emotional and raw intelligence what are our schools doing about fostering these talents? What can we reasonably expect from the hardworking dedicated folk who are educating the day after tomorrow’s global leaders? We’ll find out next week as we take a tour through the land of PISA.