It’s no secret that it’s hard landing a job at Google, which is unequivocally one of the most important technology companies of the century. Like Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Intel, and Sun Microsystems, they changed the way we communicate, do business, and even the way we think. Scary, but true.
When Google decision makers talk about their hiring philosophy, and particularly, how they interview and what they look for, the public’s ears perk up. And this reporter is no different.
In a recent New York Times interview, Google’s top HR guy and senior vice president of people operations Laszlo Bock explained what his company, which has a reputation for hiring brainiacs, looks for when interviewing candidates. Virtually everyone in the workforce could learn a thing or two. More than insight into Google’s interview process, we learn what one of the most powerful and influential technology companies in the world thinks is important.
Surprisingly, the giant search engine company considers GPA and test scores (such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) useless. In fact, Google doesn’t ask job candidates for their GPA or test scores, because the company doesn’t feel they will have anything to do with the candidates’ performance if hired. While most students practically torture themselves getting top grades so they have a top-of-the-class ranking, Google doesn’t put much credence in metrics. Bock said “academic environments are artificial.” The people who thrive in them are “conditioned to succeed in that environment,” he said.
Google doesn’t look for traditional, by-the-book thinkers. They look for unusual people who can think for themselves and don’t rely on formulas or tried and tested methodologies. In short, they want people who can find solutions where there are no obvious answers.
But the Google’s HR chief said the company didn’t always think this way. Several years ago the company did a study to find out if anyone at the company excels at hiring. They looked at tens of thousands of interviews comparing how well candidates scored to their performance on their jobs. They found that interview test scores had no bearing on job performance. Those were the days when Google was famous for asking candidates mind-bending impossible questions. Bock said that the company learned that asking these questions were a waste of time because they didn’t predict anything, except make the interviewer feel smart.
Google’s hiring secret? Behavioral interviews, according to Bock, which are a “consistent set of questions that ask people what they did in specific situations.”
The obvious message to high-performing job candidates determined to land jobs at prestigious brand-name companies like Google is rather than take the traditional path and put in countless hours preparing for their torturous interviews is do some research and find out what the company considers important. In Google’s case, it’s not batting out right answers, but demonstrating that you have the ability to think independently and find your own answers. This is why Google is unique, and how it secured its global legacy.
The writers churning out books about baby boomers are glomming onto a news event, which has segued into a demand for boomer content. Along with a slew of books, there are probably a couple of dozen websites targeted at boomers. Some are beating the mythical retirement theme to death, others are about lifestyle and health, and many are about jobs. But most of the job sites are also missing the point. They’re passing on cliché job advice, the same tips and strategies that are targeted at younger generations. More important is giving them solutions so they can deal with age discrimination and not have to scrounge around for two years looking for a job.
What’s needed are books which explore, probe and analyze the culture that shaped their attitudes and inclinations. That brings us back to boomers’ obsession with youth, which on a large scale, is how our culture feels about aging.
In 2007, CBS aired a program “Is 60 the New 40 Or is 40 The New 60? The writer, Lloyd Vries addressed the aging issue. He wrote, “People employed in television and other fields no longer worry about being blacklisted. But they fear being ‘graylisted.’ If you're lucky enough to still work at your job after 20 or 30 years, those young people who roll their eyes when you start talking about how things were done ‘back in the old days’ are the same people who want your job — and will probably get it.” Vries asks the question, “Does our culture truly appreciate and admire those who have all that comes with telltale gray hairs? You may read dozens of magazine articles celebrating the vitality of the aged, but you won't see one ad like this in any of those publications: ‘Lacking Experience and Wisdom? Want to Look a Little Older so More People Will Respect You? Try Our New Aging Cream for Instant Wrinkles and Gray Hair.’” The writer hits the proverbial nail squarely on the head.
He wasn’t the only one to zero in on the real issues. In a Psychology Today article, Dale Archer, physician and author said, “Today's culture is so obsessed with looking/acting young, it’s difficult to believe that our founding fathers powdered their wigs gray in order to appear older and wiser. That’s right—being old was in. No more! From hair dyes to Botox to Viagra to wrinkle creams to a plethora of surgical procedures, the race is on to remain forever young.”
Physician and author Andrew Weil said “Americans Are Obsessed with Youth.” And writer Jared Diamond, author of “the World Until Yesterday” said Western cultures tend to be youth-centric,” and much more.
Boomers don’t get it. They fail to open their minds and hearts to the real problem, which is seeing themselves as they are, not as they’d like to be. That knowledge alone could change their lives. It would open a new chapter in their lives. But most don’t want to turn the page.
Boomers are quickly finding that dealing with the obstacles outlined in my last blog isn’t easy. To repeat, the obstacles are: 1. Coping with aging; 2. Abandoning fantasies of retirement because they failed to sock enough money away; and 3. Having to work and deal with age discrimination.
Boomers’ obsession with staying young and meeting the superficial requirements of a youth-obsessed culture isn’t breaking news. Journalists, sociologists and psychiatrists have been writing about it for more than a decade. Boomers didn’t pay attention to these observations until recently. But their antennae should have been picking up the vibes in 2011, the historic year marking the oldest boomers turning 65. Even know, I wonder if their observations and insights have hit home.
I’d like to think that boomers are taking stock of themselves, getting in touch with their mortality, making peace with the fact that no matter how much money they squander on trying to retrofit their bodies so that they look 10 and 20 years younger, all their efforts are for naught. Judging by many of the recent books published catering to the legendary boomer generation, I seriously doubt whether this is happening. Here are a few I plucked off Amazon: “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And IT Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)” by P.J. O’Rourke; BABY BOOMERS Bucket List, The Ultimate “Things to Do Before you Die” by Russell Cope; “The Next America: Boomers, Millenials, and the Looming Generational Showdown” by Paul Taylor and Pew Research Center; “The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible (Cosmetic Making Book 2)” by Jan Benham; “Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over 50” by Amy Hanson; “the Baby Boomers’ Retirement Survival Guide: How to Navigate Through The Turbulent Times Ahead” by Rich Paul; Funerals Can Be Murder: Every Wife Has A Story (A Carol and Jim Andrews Baby Boomer Mystery Book 5)” by Susan Santanelo; and “Reinventing Retirement Baby Boomer Style: The Activities Playbook” by Deb Gilbert, to name a few.
I counted more than 30 books about boomers, which were about wide-ranging subjects from their music and retirement to financial planning and grand-parenting. It’s a hodgepodge of titles. Among them, I’d like to think there are a couple that square off on the big issues impacting this historic generation. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. Look for my next and last blog on the boomer subject – for a while at least.
Few boomers will admit it, but they’re responsible for the nation’s youth fetish. One writer said, “Youth is the global currency.” The boomers were responsible for perpetuating that belief, and it’s more pervasive than ever now that baby boomers are in the news. Their story started in 2011 when the oldest boomers – 78 million – turned 65. Until 2018, every day, 10,000 boomers will turn 65. For a generation that thought they would live forever and stay perpetually young in the bargain, they were faced with a harsh reality: they’re old. If 65 is the defining Maginot Line separating youth from old age, they’re old despite the silly hype we read about and hear on the news that 60 is the new 40 and 70 is the new 50. Someone—possibly a millennial hotshot marketing or advertising copywriter—came up with these ridiculous slogans that are an insulting distortion of the truth. Sadly, there are boomers who believe or would like to believe that 60 is the new 40 and 70 is the new 50. Maybe it’s because they religiously take their stay-young-forever vitamins and rejuvenating creams, and invest hefty sums tightening and de-wrinkling their sagging faces, liposuctioning the fat out of their tummies and buttocks, and spend countless torturous hours in gyms that wreak of sweat and body odors.
In 2013, Americans spent more than $12 billion on surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, according to The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery—the largest amount since the Great Recession of 2008. Annually, Americans spend $11 billion on vitamins and supplements.
It’s all for naught, because a staggering number of boomers are living in a fantasy world. No matter how much time they torture their bodies on machines that look that were designed by the Marquis de Sade and attempt to stall the aging process with expensive cosmetic procedures, the fail to realize that all their efforts are in vain. Their fantasies of perpetual youth are short-lived because there is no fooling with Mother Nature. Whether they admit it or not, the effects of cosmetic surgery are short lived. Having grown up in an era that spawned natural healing, and the proliferation of naturopathy, Chinese healing methods, and the adoption of Buddhist philosophy – which was centered on self-acceptance and moving from a preoccupation with immediate ego gratification to a state of higher consciousness, which enriches our souls—a relatively small number of boomers subscribe to this New Age view of the world. That’s a pity because they’d be better able to cope with their aging issues, which are creating enormous problems for a generation that believed that Woodstock was a mystical/spiritual/cosmic event, and that everything would somehow go their way. For the first time in their lives they find themselves dealing with their own mortality, aging, not to mention having to abandon fantasies of retirement; and resigning themselves to the fact that they may have no choice but to work as lost possible. More on the subject in my next blog.
It’s hard to find definitive numbers, but I’d estimate that less than 25 percent of boomers – and it’s probably considerably less – can’t afford to retire.
Depending upon the source, the organization compiling the data, preparing the studies and conducting the surveys, numbers vary greatly. But the bottom line is most boomers have either postponed retirement or don’t envision it in either the near- or long-term. To meet their financial obligations, they must continue working for as long as they can.
Here are a few recent statistics:
A Transamerica spokesperson said, “Baby Boomers are not being sufficiently proactive about taking important steps to help ensure that they continue working beyond 65 or have a Plan B if retirement happens unexpectedly.”
Additionally, the study found that many (65 percent) are staying healthy so they can continue working; 41 percent are keeping their job skills up to date; 16 percent are networking and meeting new people; 14 percent are scoping out the employment market and possible opportunities; and 26 percent have a backup plan if forced into full retirement sooner than expected due to health issues, job loss or other unforeseen circumstances.
An AARP study revealed that more than 9 million American ages 65 and older can’t afford to pay for basic living expenses. Nearly half (47 percent) of the 20 million Americans age 65 and older in the U.S. who live alone or with a spouse can’t afford to meet their daily needs, such as prescription drugs and food costs.
It’s no wonder AARP buried their emphasis on retirement by shrinking their name to the nebulous AARP.
Retirement is just one of the baby boomers’ big disappointments. Let’s not lose sight of this generation’s place in history. This was a generation that was riding high. Once young, and rebellious, they saw themselves as the generation that would make the world a better place. They thought they were immortal, an indestructible force that would accomplish great things.
P.J. O’Rourke, author of “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn't My Fault) (And I'll Never Do It Again),” called the boomers the “largest, richest, best-educated generation of Americans, the favored children of a strong, confident and prosperous country.”
But the boomers made some big mistakes. One of them was never planning on getting older. They thought they’d stay young forever. They invested billions in anti-aging remedies, and cosmetic surgery. They elevated cosmetic surgery into a niche industry. And they exercised obsessively in an effort to keep themselves fit, lean and youthful. But they were all futile efforts, because no matter what they did they couldn’t stop their biological time clock. Mother Nature wasn’t about to be fooled. Despite all their desperate efforts to look young, they got older and they started to look older. Their biology got the better of them. Their hair thinned, turned gray, white or they went bald. The added pounds, and despite their best efforts, the wrinkles and lines could, at best, be temporarily removed. But they returned.
If coping with aging wasn’t difficult enough to digest, they never imagined that their culture would reject and dismiss them because they got older. Although they were largely responsible for creating an ageist culture that rejected old people, they found themselves in the enemy camp when employers refused to hire them because they deemed them over the hill, redundant, out-of-touch, stuck in their ways – victims of all the myths associated with aging. They never thought they’d be victims of age discrimination.
And that’s not all. More on the subject in my next blog.