Smarts Are No Longer Enough

At Google, GPA’s are no longer the gold standard for hiring. Laszo Bock (Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, went on record in a New York Times interview, “GPA’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless…we found that they don’t predict anything.”

This is a hiring paradigm shift that is true in many organizations today. Soft skills are at the the top of Google’s hiring attributes which include: leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn. My coaching experience with many hiring managers across a wide variety of business, confirms these are important to most companies.

Most tech professionals face a big challenge when it comes to career success. Excelling in math, problem solving, computing and analytics are no longer enough, they must also demonstrate they have “soft skills”, team and leadership abilities and emotional intelligence. Consider this quote from Google Executive Eric Schmidt “The smartest people in the room sometimes can’t really communicate very well,” adding, “We select not just for intelligence but for the ability to communication with each other and as teams, nobody is a solo actor at Google any more.”

My coaching guidance around Google’s 5 Top Hiring Criteria:

1. Leadership. Google defines emergent leadership as the ability to step in and lead when faced with a problem, while also being able to step back and relinquish power as a team player. This is the dance of leadership–sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. What matters is your assessment of which approach is the right solution for the team (and business) and your ability to influence, persuade and help others engage.
2. Humility. This is a big challenge for superstars. Hanging on to “ownership” and promoting ones work, idea, process and/or product is often a slippery slope —it can be tough to let go. Many tech professionals wrap their identities up with their ideas and view any debate or challenge to their work or credit as threatening. Most tech companies prefer open minds to creatively explore (with their team) the best way forward or the next “new thing.” They need smart people to do it but when their corresponding egos prove problematic to team and collaboration they can decide the smarts they are getting aren’t worth the pain. High achievers can fight too zealously when their skin is in the game (aka, “My idea, I’m the genius”) My tip: identify solutions without attachment. Granted, confidence and being able to persuade others to get on board is critical to influence. But its a fine line between communicating a point of view and allowing your ego run and bite you because others perceive you as arrogant or not a team player.
3. Collaboration. You know it already–there is no “I” in team but do you behave that way? You simply can’t succeed in business today without the ability to work effectively with peers–all kinds and styles of peers. Every 360 review I conduct validates this. Collaboration is a give and take equation—sharing information while demonstrating respect for the opinions and expertise of others. Creative exploration of best solutions to complex problems requires collaboration. If this is your challenge area, invest in my coaching to develop your skills or risk your advancement potential.
4. Adaptability. In our today’s business reality of continual and constant change, its no surprise that adaptability is at the top of the list. Hiring managers want to hire (and promote) people who are flexible –not rigid. Creatively problem solving requires intellectual flexibility. Bulldozing change won’t earn you a reputation for adaptability. During stressful times, demonstrate emotional adaptability (embracing change vs. fighting it).
5. Loving to learn. Demonstrating you are a continual learner is a HUGE career advantage. A wise university leader once told me, “Our objective is to teach our students to learn, to develop a life long love of learning.” This turns out to be smart hiring prep, Bock affirms Google wants people able to “process on the fly” to draw smart conclusions from independent information. Being curious with a passion for learning is essential to career success.

It’s no longer good enough to have technical skills or academic smarts to get hired or promoted. You need more, as it turns out, much more, to succeed. On the plus side, these 5 attributes can be developed. But I never said it would be easy – having a coach for this kind of work is the best investment you can make in your future success.