October 28, 2006

Who Knew I Was Too Dumb to Work for Google?

Though I've never made a serious inquiry to seek employment at Google, I was surprised to learn this week that Google, in a race to hire talent, is loosening its requirements for job applicants, including their long-mandated requirement of a 3.0 average in college. The surprise wasn't so much that the world's most innovative search engine was on a quest to lower their collective IQ, but instead that this rule existed in the first place. Given the technology industry's many stories about dropouts founding companies, Google would be one of the last places I'd expect to require going back into the dustbins of history and finding my old university transcripts. Yet, it turns out my "stellar" 2.71 average at Cal would have had me rejected from their front door without discussion.

(See: Google Lowers Its GPA)

After graduating from high school with a 3.17 average (3.5 adjusted for AP and Honors courses), I didn't exactly anticipate rolling through Berkeley with a spotless 4.0 average. I'd always lacked the gene that forced me to study and was always distracted with things I found much more important than rote memorization. While others locked themselves away in libraries and avoided seeing the outdoors, I was either writing for the newspaper, editing my homepage, seeing an A's game, or just watching the Simpsons. After my first semester as a freshman at Cal, I sported a 2.88 GPA (to the best of my memory) and the highest it ever got after that was 2.96, just shy of the not-so-magical 3.0 mark.

When this laissez-faire attitude saw the addition of another full-time distraction (a girlfriend) in my Junior year, my grades fell even further, with a 2.0 average the first semester and a 2.33 the second, totaling a 2.16 overall. In fact, during that year, I had to meet with a counselor in the Political Science department (where a 2.0 GPA was mandated for graduation in the major) to explain my 1.7 GPA at the time (5.1 grade points over 3 classes) and say I'd do better in future courses.

Yet, to me, I didn't really care what the final numbers said. While working full-time and forging a double major, it seemed obvious, at least to me, that nobody outside of the university would ever need to know my GPA when I graduated, and to date, nobody in the interview process has. All they saw was what they needed to see - a two line summary showing I'd graduated from UC Berkeley in 4 years with 2 majors. Now, 7 1/2 years out of school, it's my accumulative work experience which is the headline, and my alumni status simply forms as a backdrop showing I jumped through the right hoops in the right order on my way.

That said, I'm somewhat incredulous that Google ever had this requirement, and then stuck by it for so long. How would a 3.2 from a local junior college trump a 2.7 at Cal or Stanford (where their cofounders started), and how would they ever hire anybody from UC Santa Cruz, so famously on a pass/fail system? Was the rule in place to make sure they weren't hiring folks with low aptitude levels, or instead, to make sure their prospective employees were planning to do their homework and not play hooky come classtime?

I just have to shake my head at how such an innovative company who wants to seek the highest level of talent would set such an artificial bar. While they are already getting press for "lowering standards" to acquire less-robust folks, I think it's about time, not that I'm going to revise my resume and offer them a look now.

Listening to ''Jumbo'', by Underworld (Play Count: 5)