Be the Boss: Do a Candidate’s Grades Really Matter?

May 20, 2016

Citadel’s CEO Ken Griffin has long credited the firm’s success to Citadel’s most important asset: its people. In this on career development, Ken talks with Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations and author of the book, “Work Rules!”, as they share what their companies look for when hiring. In part two, Ken and Laszlo answer the age-old question, “do grades matter?”

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(Left: Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel; Right: Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google)

Editor: Are test scores and academic pedigree good indicators of success?

Ken Griffin: Almost everyone who succeeds at Citadel had a great job before they joined us. Really talented people gravitate to great firms early in life. Great doesn’t necessarily mean big or well known. Great means being associated with other really talented people and impactful projects. Some of our best lateral hires worked at very talent-rich organizations that were quite small. These individuals are often more self-sufficient, more entrepreneurial, more adaptable to a rapidly changing environment.

We are taking a more targeted, assertive approach to talent. Rather than focus on the thousands and thousands of incoming resumes, we aggressively identify, recruit and hire top performers in our industry and beyond. We need incredibly gifted individuals who can identify and embrace change.

Laszlo Bock: When Google was small we used to focus on academic pedigree, test scores, and GPA. In 2005 we hired Vint Cerf, who was one of the two guys who invented the Internet. At the time he was 62, 63 years old. We cared so much about academic history that we actually asked him for his college and graduate school transcripts to make sure he was qualified. Madness!

What we’ve found is that academic credentials – your grades, test scores, where you went to school – don’t predict performance. They’re not bad things, but we were overlooking people because they went to the “wrong schools.” Now we screen in those candidates and Google is stronger as a result.

Next time, Ken and Laszlo offer their tips on how to set up a new hire for success.