If you want to get hired and stay hired you need to know how hiring managers think. Since Google is setting the standard for attracting, hiring (and paying) top talent, examining and understanding their hiring standards and practices could help you even if you have no interest in working there.
Let’s start with GPA’s and test scores since most of us have always worried about how we “stack up”. Laszlo Bock, The SVP of People Operations at Google said in a recent interview with New York Times’ Adam Bryant that GPA’s and test scores don’t predict anything about who is going to be a successful employee. Bock said that a better predictor of success is seeing how a person can analyze and solve difficult problems. The number of awards you’ve won or the leadership roles you’ve assumed are only relevant to hiring managers if they showcase certain sought after attributes; Management is looking for your ability to solve difficult problems, work well under pressure, inspire others to take action and think on the fly.
“There are five hiring attributes we have across the company,” explained Bock. “If it’s a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, 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. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.”
The savvy candidate will recognize that all businesses are challenged by rapid changes both industry specific and in the general economy. The ideal employee can help their firm in adapting to market disruption. About 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, “the only constant in life is change.”
“Top talent” tends to embrace change and enjoys the challenge of working in a dynamic environment where everything isn’t predictable. They tend to be more innovative and flexible in their approach to solving problems and have an entrepreneurial spirit.
Management across industries has a difficult task discerning whether a candidate has these traits. Why not make management’s job easy by finding examples of how you possess these traits. If these qualities are expected from the leaders of the company, it’s logical they would also be favorable for the firm’s employees. Once you know what hiring managers’ are looking for in perspective new hires, you can tailor your responses in an interview accordingly. Your answers should focus on sharing experiences and accomplishments that best demonstrate how you possess those particular attributes. I’ve summarized Bock’s insights and added some of my own to give more breadth and depth to answer what it takes to become “top talent.”
“Top talent” can adjust to new rules, new demands, new people and new environments. They cope well with the unexpected and have a positive attitude. They’re willing to try and learn new ways to achieve targets and they keep an open mind.
Employers are looking for top talent who are:
- Rapid Learners
- Quickly change priorities to respond to changing goals
- Try to improve process by rapidly acquiring and integrating new information
- Foster an environment of process improvement rather than blame
- Remain calm and composed under stress
- Can manage completing assignments with competing deadlines
“Top talent” recognizes when he is the best person for the task and when it’s critical to join others and work as a part of a team.
- Follow through on commitments
- Strong communication skills
- Don’t take negative feedback personally
- Don’t take credit for good results
- Get along well with others
- Not fearful of incorporating team members with superior expertise for a superior outcome
Adept problem solver
“Top talent” doesn’t hesitate to fix a problem.
- First to offer to help
- Come through fast and over deliver
- Offer creative, innovative solutions
- Inspire others to take action
- Provide a new approach to solving problems
“Top talent” knows her talents and doesn’t need to broadcast them to fellow employees or to their superior. This personality exudes confidence but not in a way that intimidates others. Their calm tone and mild manner draws people to them and makes it easy for others to come to them for help and to open up to them about challenges they face.
- Embrace others’ better ideas
- Learn from failure
- Step back to see if someone has a better point
When faced with a problem as a team member, “top talent” intuitively knows the appropriate time to step in or step back; s/he focuses on the project’s success, not on a rigid leadership structure.
Great leaders tend to be inclusive, humble, self-directed and mission focused and inspire others to action. An employee who exhibits leadership ability is generally well respected by co-workers. They have demonstrated competence and are often known to seek feedback (both positive and negative). Top talent shows genuine concern for the well being of the group.
“Top talent” NEVER Says:
“It’s not my job”!
Companies are ALWAYS ready to hire and retain top talent. Though the hard skills may vary from one firm to the next, the soft skills, which define traits for top talent, are universal.
The primary goal for all new hires should be to learn everything necessary to excel at your new job and to exceed your supervisors’ expectations. In order to do this well, you need to understand what’s expected of you AND your boss. Becoming top talent requires more than using your expertise to do an adequate job at work. It necessitates using your talents, creativity and expertise to advance the success of your team and of your company.