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Why Google Hires Humanities Majors?

In the landscape of modern workplaces, we have moved past the belief that only specific majors lead to success in specific roles. Although industry-aligned education is undoubtedly valuable, the talent that lies outside of traditional majors considered for a role can’t (and shouldn’t!) be ignored. Tech giants like Google and Apple actively seek students with liberal arts or humanities degrees, valuing their ability to consider various options and potential outcomes in problem-solving. This sentiment is echoed by Vince Broady, founder of content marketing platform Thismoment, who emphasizes that these individuals bring a unique perspective not only to decision-making but also to larger questions about a company’s impact on an industry. 

Looking outside of the typical pool of majors a company considers can offer organizations a few benefits. Firstly, it promotes diverse perspectives and innovative solutions, as success in the role is not defined by a specific educational trajectory. For instance, in the finance and analytics industry, companies like Goldman Sachs occasionally employ applicants with a background in psychology or sociology to bring valuable insights into consumer behavior, enhancing risk assessment models and market analysis. Secondly, breaking away from reliance on certain majors helps organizations build a workforce with holistic skill sets rather than specialized knowledge, encouraging innovative problem-solving, and promotes a more dynamic and collaborative work environment. Here’s where skills-based hiring comes into play.  

What does skill-based hiring look like? 

In practice, skill-based hiring starts with refining job descriptions. As stated by McKinsey partner Brooke Weddle, updating a job description by saying, “We are no longer going to require a four-year bachelor’s degree for this role”, and emphasizing instead the skills required for success in that role is a very basic way to implement skills-based hiring. 

However, a question that arises here: what type of skills can you mention? Is it soft skills and attributes? Or technical skills? 

Identifying the right skills to assess a candidate for can be quite a daunting task. In well-known roles, hiring managers can leverage generative AI to identify the essential skills required for specific positions, facilitating creation of job descriptions. Furthermore, the technology can sift through vast amounts of textual data, including resumes, cover letters, and online profiles, to identify keywords and patterns associated with specific soft skills. This analysis allows recruiters to gain insights into a candidate’s communication style, adaptability, teamwork, and other soft skills.  

Regrettably, a challenge emerges during the interview stage as evaluating a candidate’s soft skills and attributes can be intricate without resorting to informal or subjective measures such as the “beer test.” Steve Jobs’s “beer test” is an informal assessment method that suggests imagining whether you would enjoy grabbing a beer with a candidate outside of the professional context. The idea is that this hypothetical scenario can provide insights into the candidate’s personality, communication style, and cultural fit within the team.

However, the beer test has its own issues as individuals may feel more comfortable around those who are most similar to them, leading to potential unconscious rejection of candidates who exhibit differences in behavior or appearance. Instead including specific questions like “Can you tell me a time when you had to manage your team through a difficult situation?” or “How do you prioritize tasks when you have to meet difficult deadlines?”, can help recruiters learn about some of the applicants’ soft skills without any bias. 

As we delve into our final thoughts, it is essential to clarify that we are not diminishing the significance of industry-specific education. Rather, we ask you to open your horizons- expanding access to candidates who instead of a traditional education, bring diverse skills and experiences to that table. Embracing this inclusive approach not only allows for the enrichment of your talent pool but, more importantly, positions your organization to thrive and remain competitive in an era where diversity and innovation is essential for success

By Vibha Sathesh Kumar
Vibha Sathesh Kumar