If you give people freedom, they will amaze you

How do you get a job at Google? Is it true there are multiple interviews and you get asked questions like “describe pink to me” and “what would happen if you put a nickel in a blender?”

Google Atmosphere 14Well the short answers are you need to be “Googley”, there are four interviews maximum and no, you won’t get asked those questions.

This information was shared by Jamie Hinton, Senior Recruiter at Google and Barbara Matthews, HR Business Partner, during #Atmosphere14 held at Google’s London campus in Central Saint Giles, on 1 April.

Jamie (centre) and Barbara are pictured with compere Steve Hargrave on stage during the event, which I had the pleasure of being asked to speak at about employee social networking.

Jamie joined the Google staffing team in 2010 when EMEA Enterprise sales was a little over 100 employees. Since then he’s been busy… nearly tripling the number of sales employees and personally hiring over 120 Enterprise “Nooglers.”

Barbara started in Google Dublin in 2004 when there were only 95 people. Now that office has grown to over 2,500 Googlers and Google itself has expanded across many more countries. Barbara started off in Recruiting but in true Google style, has worked across several of the People Ops/HR functions and across several countries. She is currently settled in London working as a HR Business Partner supporting the Enterprise business.

What is the secret sauce behind Google?

I was fascinated to hear insights into how Google communicates and how they recruit.

Their sense of who they are as a company is incredibly evident through the essence of their culture and the enthusiasm of their people – Googlers – when talking with them.

For me, the standout quotes and information from Tuesday included:

“If you give people freedom, they will amaze you”

“How do we work? For us, open is better than closed in everything that our employees do”

“We have internal awards for failure, we not only celebrate success, but what we can learn from failure”

“We believe that by helping employees work the way they live, businesses can move fast and innovate”

“Trends that affect HR at Google: generation gaps, workplace flexibility, global workforce and social networking”

“Employ the same rigour and analytics to your people as you do your products”

“You have to have the culture, and you have to get it right. The story of innovation has not changed. It’s always been a small team of people who have a new idea, typically not understood by people around them and their executives”

“We have culture champions internally. They keep an eye on our culture and ensure employees are engaged – and remember why they chose to come and work here”

“Our employee survey, Googlegeist, got a 93% response rate. We incentivised it, including managers promising to dye their hair Google colours if their teams completed it”

“Technology means that regardless of their locations, our employees feel part of one company” (we had a tour of the Madrid and Tel Aviv offices via Hangout- including seeing a slide connecting office floors).

I  could fill this whole article with the info I heard and saw, but instead I’ve created a Storify featuring Tweets, pics and Vines from myself and others in the room, so you can see what was discussed.

The sessions were filmed and I believe they will be made available, so as and when I find them, I’ll share them or update this article.

How does Google recruit its employees?

Jamie was asked “what makes someone Googley” and he shared how their recruitment process works. For example, during careers fairs, they may have a conversation with someone who they instinctively think will “fit” into the organisation, based on their skills and personality. This means it’s not unknown for the whole recruitment process to start and finish within 24 hours!

How does Google recruit?They get sent “millions of CVs a year” and they are uploaded into an internal cloud-based system, then keyword searches are applied to look through them.

Job descriptions can be created by multiple people working at the same time on a document in Google Docs.

During interviews, employees communicate and collaborate using Google Docs to simultaneously comment on the conversation and make notes for any future conversations/interviews. This means the whole process is collaborative and decisions can be made collectively.

When offering a role, it is usually done via Hangout so they can see the person’s face and their reaction. Jamie said:

“It’s not unknown for other members of the team they are joining, or their boss to suddenly join the Hangout too to welcome the Noogler (new Googler).”

Could you define what makes an employee the right fit for your organisation? Do you do this? I’d love to know your thoughts on the info I’ve shared.

I’ve never written this on my blog before, but I was interviewed via phone twice by Google in 2010 about an internal communication role based at their head office in Mountain View, California (known as the Googleplex), after one of their American recruiters sought me out.

I won’t reveal the minutiae of what the role would have been, but I had to make the really difficult decision to accept the timing was not right for me personally to make that move, and remove myself from the process.

I have often wondered what would have happened if I was able to continue the recruitment process and if it would in fact have led to me being offered the role and moving to the US.

So it’s been a real pleasure to work alongside the Google team in recent months to talk through the exciting work they’re doing, particularly using Google+ for internal communication, and planning my talk at Atmosphere14. (And to discover there’s not a black mark against my name!).

What I spoke about

rachel millerI gave a 20 minute presentation and spoke about employee social networking and specifically, how the world of work is changing, what expectations employees have of their workplaces and how this impacts organisational communication.

I highlighted some of the potential benefits that can be realised when you introduce collaborative tools and technologies inside an organisation, and the importance of culture and behavioural change. I spoke about the role trust plays – in trusting your employees to use social media responsibly internally and externally, and underlined how critical peer-to-peer communication is.

I had a little green Android robot sharing the stage with me – which was unveiled as an April fool’s joke earlier in the day – and thoroughly enjoyed meeting lots of smart HR and IC pros on the day and giving my perspective on employee social networking.

My thanks to Lyndon Fraser in the Google Enterprise team (who showed the scariest slide ever of a huge spider, when talking about how Rentokil use Google internally!) and all the Googlers who made me feel so welcome.

You can watch my talk below:

If you want to read about using Google+ for internal communication, I’ve written about it a number of times including:

How to use Google+ for internal communication – includes case studies
How Google+ is benefitting a disabled staff network in Leeds
Coming full circle using Google+ (published in 2011)

If you’re using it and would like to share your story, do please let me know.

Thank you as ever for stopping by, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC with any views you have on this article or any others I’ve written. I’m nearly at 500 articles on my blog, so there’s lots of content on here for you to rummage through.


Picture credits: Tony at Tony Pick Photography.

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