In an interview last June, Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations for Google, stated that “Test scores are worthless… We found that they don’t predict anything.” So if a place like Google is starting to place much less importance on degrees and grades, what are they looking for?

General cognitive ability, not IQ

Google are looking for your ability to learn quickly, and process information on the fly. To assess this, Google use a structural behavior interview, with questions like “Why did you choose the last 5 articles you read?” The idea is that you can quickly evaluate the situation and articulate information.

Leadership, but not in the traditional sense.

Google are looking for emergent leadership; leadership that requires you to step in as leader at an appropriate time. Just as important as your ability to step back and let someone else lead when you’re not the right person for the job.

Humility and ownership

If asked ‘Do you have an IQ higher than 130?’ at a Google interview, the worst possible answer is ‘Yes.’ Google are looking for a sense of responsibility to step in when required, but enough humility to embrace the ideas of others. “Without humility,” said Bock, “we are unable to learn.”

Expertise is not a necessity

If an expert encounters a problem within their field of expertise, they will say “I’ve encountered this problem before, I know how to get it fixed.” A clever novice on the other hand will still get the problem sorted, but it may not be in a traditional way – and new solutions to old problems is exactly what Google are looking for.