Google's head of talent says that arrogance in job seekers is a major red flag. Here's how she hires for team players instead.

Google's head of talent says that arrogance in job seekers is a major red flag. Here's how she hires for team players instead.
google talent kyle ewing

Courtesy of Google


Kyle Ewing is Google's head of talent.

  • Google strongly values collaboration and teamwork.
  • In job interviews, hiring managers consider it a red flag when a candidate takes credit for their colleagues' work.
  • Across companies and industries, HR execs say they look for humility - and avoid arrogance - in job candidates.
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If you're applying for a job at Google, you're probably pretty smart.

You're probably the kind of person who comes up with creative ways of solving problems, and who doesn't shy away from a challenge. A job interview at Google is a prime opportunity to showcase all that. But veer too far into "I'm so great" territory, and you'll quickly convince the hiring manager to move on.

Kyle Ewing, Google's head of talent and a 13-year company veteran, told Business Insider that she values humility in job candidate. Ewing said there's a big difference between taking pride in your work and ignoring your teammates' efforts. Ewing is wary of hiring folks who don't appropriately credit their team, because she knows how important collaboration is at Google.


Even job-seekers who don't plan on applying to Google would be wise to show they're good team players. The workplace is quickly moving away from specialists operating in silos and toward colleagues collaborating across divisions. Meanwhile, employers say they're having a hard time finding job candidates with strong teamwork skills.

Being a good collaborator - and highlighting that in job interviews - will help you stand out from the competition.

And make you look like a Googler.

Google's research suggests that a team's dynamics can influence its success

Google looks for four key traits in every new hire: general cognitive ability, leadership, role-related knowledge, and Googleyness.

That fourth trait, Googleyness, is less about whether the person will fit into the company culture and more about what they can add to the company culture. Googleyness means, among other things, thriving in ambiguity, challenging the status quo, and caring about the team.


From Ewing's perspective, "Caring about the team means acknowledging the power that comes in working together, and working toward and achieving goals together."

Google's people operations team spent two years trying to figure out what makes a successful team. As Business Insider's Richard Feloni reported, the company learned that the dynamics between team members are typically more important than the individual team members themselves. In particular, a comfortable environment for risk-taking (also known as psychological safety) can help teams thrive.

Ewing said she still wants to hire people who are innovative in their own right. "Employees at every level are not only encouraged, but expected, to have great ideas," she said. But, she added, Google has "the resources to actually help you bring those things to life." Even beyond financial resources, Google's parent company, Alphabet, employs more than 100,000 other smart people with specialties outside your area of expertise.

Teamwork skills are becoming more important to hiring managers in different industries

HR executives at other top companies say they look for humility in job candidates - and steer clear of people who appear to hog the spotlight.

At Salesforce, for example, executive vice president of global recruiting Ana Recio sees arrogance as a major red flag in an interviewee. She's generally turned off by someone who keeps using the word "I" and doesn't mention the team that helped them hit certain goals. Not coincidentally, research shows that leaders who use we more than I are more likely to succeed.


Leaders at ThirdLove - an online bra company founded by the former Googler Heidi Zak - also listen closely to how a candidate frames their previous work experience. They'll ask job candidates: "What was the last mistake that you and your team made, and what did you learn from it?" In this case, they'd rather hear the candidate use the word "I" instead of "we," taking responsibility for the error.

As for Ewing, she hopes current Google employees value their colleagues' contributions, too. "It's one thing to say, 'I have the best idea ever and it worked out,'" she said. "But you should probably acknowledge the army of folks that helped it come to fruition."

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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