- E04 - Leadership! Google, Guido van Rossum, PSF

Ilias Lazaridis ilias at lazaridis.com
Tue Jan 3 11:29:21 CET 2006

Alex Martelli wrote:
> Anton Vredegoor <anton.vredegoor at gmail.com> wrote:

>>No insider information is necessary, the job requirements make it
>>absolutely clear (at least to me) that Google is a company with an
>>elitist culture,
> Absolutely yes, in terms of who we want to work at Google:  we DO want
> GREAT people.  And we don't keep this a secret, either: right up there
> at <http://www.google.com/jobs/>, we say "our strategy is simple: we
> hire great people".  Rather than hiring a LOT of people, we prefer to be
> extremely, obsessively selective, and try to hire ONLY a few people,
> ones who we can convince ourselves do deserve that adjective, "great".
> This does mean that we definitely tend err on the side of caution, and
> FAIL to hire some people who are also great, just because we can't
> determine with sufficient certainty that they indeed are -- I've seen
> this happen more than once, and deeply regret it (for both Google and
> the person), but I have no idea how we could do better without relaxing
> our extremely elitist standards (we do debate these issues internally
> all of the time, trying to do better, but have found no magic wand yet).

> students), but I've met many people with advanced degrees from even the
> best/most elitist universities, such as Stanford or MIT, where it sure
> looked to me as if the university's attempts to only graduate the very
> best have definitely failed.

> Requiring a certain title for a job is mostly a desperate attempt to
> reduce the huge amount of work and effort it takes to hire great people,
> whittling down the number of resumes to be considered divided by the
> number of hires from the high thousands to the low hundreds.  If there
> were available infinite resources for the job of hiring/selection, we
> could easily interview, say, 6000 candidates for a post, giving each a
> week or so of concentrated attention to probe their abilities; alas,
> this would require about 120 person-years from our people for the
> selection process.  So, if nobody at Google did ANYTHING BUT interview
> candidates, given that we have a bit over 5000 employees now, we could
> hire in the course of 2006 another 40 or so, without doing anything
> else.  (The numbers are all off the top of my head, but I think they may
> be roughly the right orders of magnitude).
> This is just impractical: we need to hire many more than 40, AND cannot
> afford to have all existing employees do nothing but select new ones.
> So, we need to shrink the ratio drastically, on both factors: say 10
> instead of 40 hours of selection per candidate, and 50 rather than 6000
> candidates being considered per post.  So we perform selection in
> stages, and most candidates out of those many thousands-per-job are
> "weeded out" at the very first stage, e.g. by failing to meet specific
> qualifications.
> I wish that, as you say, "titles" were indeed strong indications of
> excellence.  Unfortunately, they aren't, but in some cases they're
> better than nothing.  Many of our job descriptions, as I pointed out in
> another post on this thread, say "BS or equivalent experience" or words
> to that effect; if you can show the "or equivalent", and can get past
> the first hurdle, then that title is the least of the issues.  For
> example, if we advertised a job requiring "PhD or equivalent", and among
> the candidates were Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin, none of
> whom has obtained a PhD to the best of my knowledge, they would surely
> be able to display the "or equivalent" based on their accomplishments
> and experience, and thus get past that first hurdle.





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