We all have a stack of books somewhere that are unread. Some of them are for pleasure reading and some hold possibilities for enhancing our work. Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google that will transform how you Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock falls mostly into the second category. But, for those who concern themselves with human behavior in the work place, it is also a pleasure read. And, for those who are responsible for recruiting and retaining talent, it is an essential read. Consider moving it into the stack of books you’ve read.

It is fair to wonder if insights from inside Google translate to your work place. Don’t they have financial resources that few work places can match? While there are of course instances where this is an important consideration, Bock – the SVP of People Operations at Google –explains how most of the ideas can be adapted by other companies within the constraints of their budget.

The book is fBock_WorkRulesHCilled with a wealth of insights regarding leadership and creating and sustaining a culture of transparency. As might be expected coming from Google, the ideas are innovative and often shake your foundational understanding of concepts, while also feeling actionable and approachable.

Most companies espouse the value of having top talent, but few really execute on that value in an uncompromising way. Google does. That ability and approach to focus on talent is inspiring and we wanted to highlight three of the insights related to recruiting top talent that made us pause and think.


  1. Have an uncompromising approach to securing top talent.

The first challenge to having remarkable talent is sourcing remarkable talent. Bock points out that the talented people they are looking for are not out pounding the pavement looking for work. These people are employed. They are not looking. And, most often, they are happy in their current positions.  So, how do the recruiters at Google even learn their names?

They tried a lot of methods. The use of websites like Monster and Linked in generate a huge number of applications but few hires. Outside recruiters can be effective but they are not a good fit with Google’s demanding interview process. And that’s just the tip of their tried-and-failed efforts. They really gained traction when they brought the recruiting process inside, developed a tool gHire and built a data base.

Basically, they shifted from relying on outside sources and brought the recruiting process under their control.

  1. The hiring decision is, counter-intuitively, a committee decision.

Who makes the decision to hire an individual after all the interviews have been completed? The hiring manager, of course. Not at Google.

In many companies, perhaps most, a candidate is screened, vetted, and interviewed. A professional assessment may be included to provide an objective perspective. Typically, all that information is funneled to the hiring manager who makes the call. At Google the decision to hire is made by a committee because they have learned that leaving the decision in the hands of one person is unsound.

  1. Give candidates a really good reason to join.

One might think that most candidates jump at the chance to join Google. Keep in mind, though, that the candidates Google most wants are often with companies that value them, pay them well and offer the possibility of doing important work. Why leave a place like that?

When you set a high bar and recruit uncompromisingly, the pool of candidates will be composed of individuals who have high expectations of the work itself. Consequently, Google knows that they have to provide opportunities to work with amazing people doing important work. In the course of recruiting people this is made clear to the candidate. The recruiting process often includes meeting with senior members of the organization, being given a notion of what projects are open to them and shown examples of how even new Google employees are entrusted with responsibility. The message: you are not an apprentice and you will not have to wait for opportunity.

A Google employee of just five days was asked to address a problem using Google Hangout which facilitated a meeting between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Not bad for a new employee aka a “Noogler”.


Google is still a very young company. One advantage from that is that they are not encumbered by past practices which have outlived their usefulness. They are free to experiment and try new things and thanks to their culture they do so in a disciplined, data-based manner.

Here are two questions to ask yourself about how your company goes about recruiting talent:

  1. What current practices in your company regarding sourcing and recruiting top talent should be questioned and tested?
  2. A common factor running through many of Google insights into recruiting and retaining top talent is how pro-active they are. Are you counting on external sources to send talent your way? Are you not proactive enough?

This book review was written by Rich McGourty and Lees Parkin. What are you reading this summer?