laszloAn interview with Laszlo Bock, Google’s Sr. VP of People Operations, recently appeared in The New York Times “Corner Office.” The purpose of the interview was to find out how Google is using Big Data in their hiring practices. There were a number of interesting points that are right in line with my recent blogs on how to find a CFO.

Laszlo Bock: “Part of the problem with evaluating [sic] leadership is that it’s very driven by gut instinct in most cases – and even worse, everyone thinks they’re really good at it. The reality is that very few people are.” He explained that they had done a study of Google’s hiring practices and found zero relationship between how people scored candidates in the interview process and how they later performed. This is at once amazing to me and not surprising at all; it is one thing to interview for an individual contributor, another for a manager, but at the top, interviewing for executive leadership is an entirely different art in which few are well trained.

Expanding on Mr. Bock’s thoughts about leadership, we have to once again talk about what executive leadership is, what are the key elements we look for in an executive, and how to evaluate leadership. The truth is, relying on your gut won’t cut it, and very few people are trained to conduct effective behavioral interviews to ferret out if someone’s exterior qualities match their true interior character.

Leadership According to Google

Mr. Bock talked about some of the elements of leaderships they look for. “Leadership is a more ambiguous and amorphous set of characteristics…We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair…In terms of leadership, success is very dependent on the context. What works at Google or G.E. or Goldman Sachs is not going to be the right answer for everyone. I don’t think you’ll ever replace human judgment and human inspiration and creativity [in the interview process], because at the end of the day, you need to ask questions like, ‘O.K., the system says this. Is this really what we want to do? Is that the right thing?’”

Don Draper: Gravitas or Groveler?

In my last blog about Gravitas, I chose the picture of John Hamm in the role of Don Draper from the hit TV show, Mad Men. Because if you met Don in a real live interview, you’d probably think, “Wow, has that guy got Gravitas.” While on the surface he appears to be a confident, capable ad guy, once we dig deeper, Mad Men fans know how messed up he really is!

Putting Big Data in the Big Picture

Certainly for a corporation like Google, which receives thousands of unsolicited resumes every day, Big Data may play a role in searching for engineering talent or even line managers. However, Big Data will never replace the human skill to deftly evaluate the “ambiguous and amorphous set of characteristics” you need in your CFO. This is where Arnold Partners comes in. In today’s connected world it’s not hard to find a CFO, it’s hard to find the right CFO. Let me show you how I can help ─ contact Dave Arnold at
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