How It Works

Google-style recruiting — even in government

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Google is famous for its culture of work as play. Employees enjoy free meals, access to laundry facilities, bike repair and on-site doctors at the Googleplex. Not to mention the bouncy balls, Lego sets and bean bag chairs.

But hiring at Google is serious business. More than 2 million people apply each year, and the company selects about 7,000.

And in bad news for government, the battle for talent extends far beyond Google. In CareerBuilder’s 2015 job forecast, 54 percent of employers surveyed plan to hire full-time IT employees in 2015. That’s up from 29 percent in 2014.

The forecast found especially high demand for workers skilled in cloud, mobile or search technology, cybersecurity, and managing and interpreting big data. So agencies are going to have to fight for every candidate and cannot afford to make the wrong hire.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, can’t help with federal hiring regulations. But in his book, “Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead,” Bock shares advice that any agency manager could use to find and hire better tech employees.

1. Only hire people who are better than you. Bock says every person he has hired is better than him in some meaningful way, whether it’s analytics, counseling or finding cost-effective ways to do things.

2. Hire smart, curious people. Choose smart people who can learn and adapt to new situations, and don’t weed people out based on their GPAs. Bock said good hiring isn’t just about the biggest name or most clever software engineers. It’s about finding people who will be successful in your organization.

Google has shifted from hiring exclusively from elite colleges to accepting top graduates from state schools. “Curious people who are open to learning will figure out the right answers in almost all cases,” Bock said.

3. Give up power when it comes to hiring. In other words, hire by committee. In a typical interview, a Google candidate meets his or her perspective manager, a peer, and one or two people who would be working under the candidate. Google looks for qualities such as humility and conscientiousness.

4. Accept that hiring is an imperfect science. Bock said most interviews are a waste of time because interviewers make their hiring assessments in the first three to five minutes of an interview or faster. Then they tend to convince themselves that the candidate they’ve selected is above average.

More from FCW

FCW Magazine (June 30, 2015)

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So what can be done about it? Google has found that behavioral interviews work best. That involves having the interviewer ask all candidates the same set of questions about how he or she has handled specific situations.

5. Find your own candidates. Social media is your friend! Thanks to LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking sites, it’s easy to find people. Many of the top IT performers are not actively looking for work because they are already employed, so reaching out through social media is an effective way to keep the lines of communication open.

6. Bag the brain teasers. Puzzlers such as “How many golf balls fit in a school bus?” or “Why are manhole covers round?” might make the interviewer feel smart, but they don’t necessarily predict anything about the potential employee. Instead, ask questions that deal with problem-solving and leadership.

About the Author

Bianca Spinosa is an Editorial Fellow at FCW.

Spinosa covers a variety of federal technology news for FCW including workforce development, women in tech, and the intersection of start-ups and agencies. Prior to joining FCW, she was a TV journalist for more than six years, reporting local news in Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Spinosa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Writing at George Mason University, where she also teaches composition. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Click here for previous articles by Spinosa, or connect with her on Twitter: @BSpinosa.


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