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Google: Let's Use Our Hiring Process For Our Firing Process

Google B&W There’s a screed on Medium about how Google’s doing layoffs.  It’s an interesting, if a bit screechy read.

I’m guessing the author is young because she seems shocked at the extensive hiring process Google goes through.  I was not.

For a previous employer, I went through perhaps the best-designed hiring process I’ve seen in the industry.  This is how it worked.  Since I was hired, I can report both sides:

  • I had two technical interviews with peers (other team members).  A thumb’s down from either was likely the kiss of death except in very extraordinary circumstances.
  • I was flown to Chicago for a weekend hanging out with the team.
  • When I arrived on Friday, someone casually mentioned folks might get together in the hotel bar.  This was obviously a test (do you stay in your room?!?) and sure enough, there were 100+ team members milling around.  We talked to midnight.
  • Next morning was presentations, face-to-face interviews, and then a long evening playing laser tag.
  • Next morning was a few more presentations and then we wrapped up.  Candidates went home, team members stayed and discussed them for hours in a large forum.

Here’s what I learned from this process:

  • It is easy to pretend to be someone else for an hour in a conference room.  It’s very hard to do so for an entire weekend meeting hundreds of people.  We flushed out so many bozos who were great on the phone, but would get drunk and hit on female team members.  If you’re at a job interview and everyone has a drink sure, have a drink, but don’t get sloshed.
  • The more people have eyes on a candidate, the better a view you get.  Different people pick up different cultural cues, have different interactions, etc.  And then when you weigh these by the hundred, people’s biases don’t survive and the truth swims to the top.
  • It’s amazing what people will casually tell you – things they would never say in an interview.  One guy was swapping war stories and got into a tale where he and a buddy got their boss’s credit card and used it to buy a bunch of gaming consoles.  Funny story…but we’re not hiring you.

So I didn’t find Google’s hiring process for a product manager that surprising:

  • Interviews
  • They give you a case study where you have to do some work
  • You present your work
  • The jury decides

This method is a little weird because you may actually be doing work for Google for free…hopefully the case studies used in interviews are purely for evaluative reasons.

According to the article, here’s the firing process at Google these days:

They are not just letting people go, like how other companies did, but instead, they are inviting them to a multi-step interview, and then analyzing which of them should be termed as ‘non-performers’.

According to MSN, “Google has told managers to identify 6 percent of the staff (roughly 10,000 people) as low performers in terms of their impact on the business as against 2 percent as per the previous review system, the report said.”  Apparently there is a “bottom 2%” rating tier, but now also a new rating tier above that.  Naturally, Google isn’t sharing the details so it’s all second hand.

So Google’s Managers Apparently Suck

When you’re hiring, you don’t know the other person, so spending a lot of time to drill into him or her makes sense.  After all, this is not only someone you’ll be paying but also someone who’ll have access to many critical servers and systems.

But when firing…?

Doesn’t Google have tons of data already on these people?  Their managers know them, and have presumably been writing performance reviews.  They also have the work product these individuals have produced.

So why interview them?  What more info will Google gain?

One of these two things is true:

  1. Google’s managers and HR people are awful because they have no idea who the poor performers are.
  2. Google’s managers know exactly who the poor performers are but are going through this theater because management is confused about how to do its job.

And we all know it’s #2.

Laying off people sucks.  It may suck less if you’re Elon Musk and you have fleets of people to do it for you, but it sucks a lot when you’re face-to-face across the table with someone.

People cry.  People get angry.  Sometimes people have to be escorted out, but even if everything is professional, emotions still surface.  People want to know why, and if you tell them, they argue about the decision.  Or they are in a tough spot financially and this pushes them into real problems and it all comes boiling out in tears, shouts, or just hung faces.

Managers hate that experience, and I have to wonder if Google is going through all this artifice to show that it’s somehow different or better than the other big tech companies that have had layoffs.

Which means management is confused about how to do their job.  Google is going to lay people off for economic reasons.  It sucks but that is business.  Why not just tell managers your plans, get their input, communicate it across the company, and do the deed?

If I was being laid off, that would be awful, but having to interview to save my job and then learning that I’d failed that interview would only make it worse.

Our sympathies for everyone who’s affected.




  1. I think it’s a pretty good idea actually—gives an opportunity to see if someone just has low performance temporarily, or maybe they only need to be moved to a different department, etc. vs just chucking them out without the interview process.

    December 6, 2022 @ 10:17 am | Reply
    • Jarry:

      I think this idea sucks hard. If someone is invited to this kind of “interview”, it is not about *if* you are going to be fired. The die is already cast…

      December 7, 2022 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

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