Google envy

I ran across a good one this week: Hire people who aren’t proven.

This article showed up on HN this week (comments) and I think it’s a great example of a general trend. The author argues that the expectations we set for potential applicants to programming jobs are artificially high:

“We’re looking for a candidate who is: at least a one time World Cup Champion, two times FIFA World Cup awards winner, best scorer of the season, proven ability to work well in a team, exceptional references from previous teams”. How many people are really a good fit for this position? Two, maybe three on Earth.

The general trend I see is for tech companies to copy parts of the FAANG playbook. With regard to open offices in particular, I think those massive companies are succeeding in spite of their office design choice. Most tech workers I know don’t like the open office they work in (I’ve met one guy who doesn’t say that). The top-end set of tech companies have two things that will counteract bad cultural & environmental decisions they make: resume-building names and deep pockets. If you have an environment people don’t like to work in, you can pay them more and they’ll work there anyways. Barring that, if just having Google on your resume helps your career (and it does), that will push more people to work there and counteract bad decisions.

The economics of hiring are different in the FAANG world than they are in the startup world. The incentives affecting employees are different. Google can say “we need someone who lives & breathes Go and is willing to share a desk located in a storm drain” and they’ll get ten applicants for the position; not so for anyone else. Due to the resources they already have, Google will succeed in spite of a few bad process decisions.

This is probably most obvious in Google’s hiring process. Their interviews are built to err on the side of caution - they reject well-qualified applicants all the time. This works well for them because they have such a massive pool of applicants (and now that I say it, it wouldn’t work any other way). If you’ve got a similar process, or even similar job descriptions, you should probably re-evaluate your hiring strategy.