Saul Hansell of the NYT reports on the hiring of an organizational psychologist at Google, who has put together a comprehensive survey of questions that are graded to find more well-rounded individuals that are able to deal with the competitive culture at the company.

“Google has always wanted to hire people with straight-A report cards and double 800s on their SATs. Now, like an Ivy League school, it is starting to look for more well-rounded candidates, like those who have published books or started their own clubs.

Desperate to hire more engineers and sales representatives to staff its rapidly growing search and advertising business, Google – in typical eccentric fashion – has created an automated way to search for talent among the more than 100,000 job applications it receives each month. It is starting to ask job applicants to fill out an elaborate online survey that explores their attitudes, behavior, personality and biographical details going back to high school.

The questions range from the age when applicants first got excited about computers to whether they have ever tutored or ever established a nonprofit organization.

The answers are fed into a series of formulas created by Google’s mathematicians that calculate a score – from zero to 100 – meant to predict how well a person will fit into its chaotic and competitive culture.”

While psychological profiling is nothing new to large organizations, and indeed we at ManyWorlds use a variety of tools for own hiring practices, one has to wonder if this kind of automated profiling will end up with a culture of ‘too many Chiefs and not enough Indians’ (apologies to any cultures I may offend by saying this).

Google’s astounding growth rate, they’re hiring 200 people a week, according to Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for people operations, means the sheer mechanics of attracting, interviewing and even on-boarding must be intense. And yes, most of the enlightened among us realize that people who don’t get the best grades at school are often extremely smart in other ways.

But I can’t help but think this approach will cause many more problems down the road. When rapid growth occurs, organizations are often faced with many choices, associated with well understood practices of organic (i.e. hiring), or non-organic (i.e. acquisitions). Google is doing both. Now even the best companies in the world, have a hard time to make acquisitions really work, and get real value from them. Add to that the complexity of managing an incredible number of competencies and market place offerings. There has to be major duplication of effort occurring and more worryingly, how do new ideas survive at Google? How do major decisions get made? If you keep adding resources (very smart ones at that), social structures such as mentoring, decision making, influence are all affected. And that can’t be good news in the long run for shareholders.

(Republished from Friday January 12 2007)