Regarding Marissa Mayer’s Personnel Decisions

From Laura M. Holson’s NYT profile of Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of search products and user experience (this is the source Douglas Bowman pointed to regarding the story that Google solved a design dispute by user-testing 41 different shades of blue):

At a recent personnel meeting, she homes in on grade-point averages and SAT scores to narrow a list of candidates, many having graduated from Ivy League schools, whom she wanted to meet as part of a program to foster in-house talent. In essence, math is used to solve a human problem: How do you predict whether an employee has the potential for success?

A scrum of executives sit around a table, laptops in front of them, as they sort through résumés, college transcripts and quarterly reviews. The conversation is unemotional, at times a little brutal. One candidate got a C in macroeconomics. “That’s troubling to me,” Ms. Mayer says. “Good students are good at all things.”

I realize how hard it is to find good employees, and how hard it is to evaluate prospective employees from their résumés — that snap judgments from limited information must be made. But this makes it sound like Mayer still uses SAT scores and college grade-point averages to judge current Google employees being considered for promotion.

As for holding one bad grade — or even entire bad subject areas — against someone, I’m more suspicious of people who did get good grades in every subject. In my experience they tend to be rule-crazy conformists, obsessed with their grades rather than with particular subjects.

Friday, 20 March 2009