Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has always done things their own way, and it turns out this is true in terms of hiring employees as well. A fascinating interview in The New York Times of Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice-President of People Operations for Google, sheds some light on Google’s unorthodox and still-evolving hiring practices.

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It’s not about GPA

Although not directly criticizing the value of a college education, Mr. Bock did not mince words in describing Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s hiring philosophy. “GPAs (grade point averages) are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless…We found that they don’t predict anything”.

Bock continued to point out that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” and is now as high as 14 per cent on a few teams.

Google’s five attributes

General cognitive ability — According to Bock, general cognitive ability is about more than IQ. “For every job, though, the No 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. “It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”

Emergent leadership — Bock defines emergent leadership as the ability to lead when needed, but step back and let others lead when appropriate. This willingness to “relinquish power” is relatively rare, he says.

Intellectual humility — This attribute is related to emergent leadership, in that those with intellectual humility will admit they are wrong when faced with new facts, rather than stubbornly hold onto their old position.

Ownership — Ownership is also related to emergent leadership, and is basically feeling the responsibility to step up and make contributions to a project in any way you can.

Expertise — Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly given we’re talking about Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) here), Bock calls expertise the “least important” of the five attributes the company is looking for in employees. He argues that while expertise is certainly valuable in specific contexts, bringing in somebody with strong cognitive abilities and emergent leadership skills but little content-area knowledge can result in innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.