The presence of a huge training budget is not evidence that you’re investing in your peopleIt’s evidence that you failed to hire the right people to begin with.” – Laszlo Bock, SVP, People Operations at Google*

One of the most interesting books I’ve read in the last few months is “Work Rules” by Laszlo Bock. It’s about how Google hires and develops amazing talent.

As you know, it’s extremely hard to get into Harvard University. Statistically, it’s even harder to work at Google. They scrutinize new hires unbelievably because in order to create the best products, they have to hire the best people. In the book, Bock walks through everything Google does to find the best talent, based on data about what works, rather than theories of how to get the best out of people.

Many companies put a moderate amount of time, energy and cost into hiring – and then a lot of money into training to get the best out of them.

While that sounds logical, Google flips the model: they over-invest in hiring, and under-invest in training. When you hire the best of the best, they don’t need a lot of training! A+ players can define ways to grow themselves, and don’t need company programs to make that happen.

It makes a lot of sense.

You’d think talented people are easy to spot, but they are not. Hiring is one of the biggest challenges in business, and many are tricked into hiring those who are not that great. We don’t get to know the person well. We don’t scrutinize enough – and are often fooled and disappointed. If you have typical hiring practices you’ll hire typical people.

But if your hiring practices are phenomenal, you’ll hire phenomenal people.

The root of hiring good people is to really understand their character, and their ability to deliver outstanding results. You can’t tell that from how someone looks, talks, or from reading their resume.

A good way to get to know someone is to talk over lunch (which is what most people do).

A better way is to spend 3-4 hours together – drive somewhere, do an activity, sit on a plane.

The best way? Spend 24 hours together for 7 days. Get in a small car, share meals and spend every waking hour in each other’s company.

Now, this is not a recommended hiring practice: it’s about the need to understand a person more than you normally do.

The impression you get after a 7-day adventure is dramatically different than the one over lunch. Remember, you’ll be spending more than 7 days with them if you hire them – and would want you do that after learning about their soul? About their quirks? Their strengths?

Would you want to do it again?

Now you’re not going to spend 24 hours/7 days a week together, but if you want to understand a person, here are some suggestions I’ve seen work:

  • Use a method like Top Grading – it’s like the 7-day approach to understand character and patterns
  • Get perspective by speaking to all managers in the candidate’s work history – even if this means reaching back 20 years or talking to their professors
  • Give candidates a real project – a real, on-the-job assignment to see how they produce the kind of work they will be doing if they’re hired
  • Do personality profiles. A favourite is DISC, which gives you a sense of a person’s natural communications styles and insights.

PS – If you want to learn more about how to get better at hiring the best talent let me know…we have experts who can help you.

*The author of “WORK RULES! Insights from Inside Google to Transform How You Live and Lead”, Laszlo Bock leads Google’s people function, responsible for attracting, developing, retaining, and delighting “Googlers.” During Bock’s tenure, Google has been named the Best Company to Work For more than 30 times around the world, and received over 100 awards as an employer of choice.