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Google Is Looking for 'Learning Ability' in Prospective Hires

If you want to work at Google, forget about impressing them with your fancy college degree, in-demand major, or sterling GPA. According to a recent article in The New York Times, what Google is really looking for is the ability to learn.

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(Photo Credit: cubmundo/Flickr)

Although senior vice president of people operations Lazlo Bock tells The New York Times that good grades "don't hurt," Google concentrates more on skills that are directly applicable to the jobs themselves -- and being able to pick up on new skills quickly.

"There are five hiring attributes we have across the company," says Bock. "If it's a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it's not I.Q. It's learning ability. It's the ability to process on the fly. It's the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they're predictive."

In a previous interview, Bock told NYT that "G.P.A.'s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything."

So what does that mean for you, if you want to work at Google? Don't worry about your test scores, even your IQ, or where you went to college. Understand that being able to figure out answers to problems on the fly will be more important than being an expert.

Finally, Bock says, be an "emergent leader," someone who is both willing to argue her point and able to relinquish their position when new information surfaces.

That delicate balance of curiosity and problem-solving skills, self-confidence and humility, will make you a better candidate than all the degrees in the world.

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