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TypingWe are all beneficiaries of Google’s innovation. Aside from making the Internet user-friendly, and the devices they have created to make information ever-present, Google has taught us the importance of setting big goals, and the importance of culture in achieving them. Earlier this year, Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate spoke with Nina Temple, Global Staffing Lead at Google, to gain insights into recruiting and retaining top talent from the company that has made those endeavors both an art and a science.

Jennifer Marchetti, Chief Marketing Officer, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate: How did Google grow from two brilliant men in a garage to a 50,000-person global organization?
Nina Temple:
Adaptability to change, a commitment to innovation, and applying the same analytical rigor to people decisions as we do to our engineering. We have analyzed the ideal time and energy mix of getting hiring decisions right versus the cost of hiring the wrong people, or the opportunity costs of not investing in retention. We continued to refine our approach by paring down the number of interviews per candidate and having a broader review structure to ensure that every hiring decision is agreed by consensus so that no single person owns a hiring decision.

JM: What are the key attributes you look for in a candidate?
People we hire for a job today will very likely be doing a yet-to-be-invented job in five years. Google has identified four core attributes that can help predict a person’s success at Google as scientifically as possible, and reflect the fundamental DNA of Google:

1. Role-related knowledge: do they have the right skills and experience?
2. General cognitive ability: do they have strong problem-solving skills and a bias to action and innovation?
3. Leadership: do they take initiative as a leader? This is not tied to being a manager; anyone can demonstrate leadership in the way they operate.
4. Googleyness: are they a culture fit? For example, ‘Googleyness’ is synonymous with strong ethical and collaborative styles.

JM: How does Google approach the interview?
We use a mix of behavioral and hypothetical questions. Behavioral questions focus on past experience; they give candidates the opportunity to illustrate what they have achieved in the past and how they have tackled challenging situations. We look for concrete examples rather than “My strengths are…”, “my areas of weakness are…”, which can be rehearsed answers. Hypothetical questions are future focused and illustrate thought process. These are the best indicators of future behavior, and help to tease out how a candidate approaches a topic, their mental agility, industry knowledge and culture fit.

JM: What are the keys to retention?
It’s not all about the free food! We have a very wide range of industry-leading benefits that are constantly evolving to better suit and serve Googlers. We have also created a culture of support, transparency and opportunities to give feedback. We have weekly TGIF meetings where Larry and Sergey speak to the company, and new initiatives are launched confidentially first. We have annual surveys giving Googlers the opportunity to share their feedback on the company, and on their managers. We also developed a performance tool that has the function where you can request or give real-time feedback anytime. Most of all, we act on that feedback. The key to retention is to deliver on what you promise and to give people a voice. This needs to be a focus 365 days a year.

JM: What’s one last piece of advice you’d offer real estate company leaders?
Building the right team—whether employees or independent contractors—is the most important thing you’ll do. Over-invest in this with effort and a commitment to continuous improvement. You will build an organization with a strong, committed company culture, and a team who will be with you for the long term.

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