Google Standardises Interview Questions

Google recently revealed why they now favour uniformity over quirkiness in the interview process.

Google Standardises Interview Questions

Google recently revealed why they now favour uniformity over quirkiness in the interview process.

The underrepresentation of women and minorities in the tech industry is nothing new, but when Google was made aware of its diversity problem perfectly reflected in their Google Doodles, according to Scientific American, the company decided to take action.

Even Google isn’t Immune

Data Google released in May revealed that only 30% of Google employees are women, while only 5% are black or Hispanic, as Business Insider reports. Before the search engine giant made an effort to increase minority representation, Google’s Doodles, honouring the birthdays of specific people, displayed 62% white men between 2010 and 2013.

More Colourful Google Doodles!

With this data in mind, Google has recently decided to improve the representation of women and minorities in certain fields, specifically in S.T.E.M. jobs. In June, Google launched Made with Code, a program that supports marketing campaigns and other initiatives that give girls access to computer science education.

It also created a professional developer organisation called Women Techmakers to increase the visibility of women and minorities already working in the industry.

Hoping to inspire future characters, Google even invited the writing team of the HBO show Silicon Valley to speak with women in tech. This company seeks to go beyond just righting a wrong by becoming more aware of imbalance and awareness to inherited biases.

Change Inside Out

Looking at their own employee demographic data, Google knew that improvements needed to be made inside the company itself. They accordingly altered their interview structure to avoid bias, using information from a Psychological Science study, 'Constructed Criteria: Redefining Merit to Justify Discrimination', back in 2005 that demonstrated that using a set criteria and standardised questions in the interview process does not allow room for bias when hiring.

Google used to ask famously silly questions during interviews, like “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” These hypothetical questions with no real answer have been swapped for structured, behavioural interview questions, like “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

The Truth Revealed

When first presenting the change, Laszlo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations, said that behavioural questions provided a better insight into the candidate’s relevant capabilities. A video the company released in September discussed how this new line of questioning prevented hiring managers’ implicit biases pertaining to gender and race from influencing their decisions.

The Study

The 2005 study had participants choose between CVs with names of men and women for a police chief position. As you’ve probably guessed, the participants first chose the resumes of men for the position. The two primary reasons they gave were that the female candidates lacked either real-world experience or a proper educational background.

But when the participants were made to identify their criteria, street smarts or school smarts, the gender bias was trounced.

Relevant Questions Combat Bias

Similarly, Google has created interview questions that correspond to qualities it wants in candidates for specific positions.

“Every question in our interview protocol is tied to a competence that we know you need to have to excel, and then we make sure that if I interviewed five people for that one role, all five people have answered the exact same questions,” said Dr. Brian Welle, Google director of people analytics.

Without previously defined criteria, after an interview a hiring manager can “defin[e] their notion of ‘what it takes’ to do the job well in a manner tailored to the idiosyncratic credentials of the person they wanted to hire,” according to the study. What they want is, of course, deeply influenced by inherited cultural bias.

In sacrificing the eccentricity of their interviews, Google took a step towards increasing the diversity of their workforce. This change comes as no surprise, considering Google’s reputation as a company of doers. Will other companies follow their lead? Perhaps before asking this question, one should ponder how many companies were asking interview questions like, “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?”

LaunchPad Recruits' video interview system is an asset to any firm that wants to increase diversity. By having candidates respond to pre-recorded interview questions, managers can eliminate the possibility of bias towards a given person.