Most companies have a secret formula to find, attract and hire talent. Google has identified five keys that are valuable to its ever-growing operations and its innovation culture.

I've been having disagreements for years about the usefulness of college degrees as a measure of someone's ability to be an outstanding employee. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't think it's ever a bad thing to have a degree. I just think people make an assumption about formal education that's often untrue. They assume that if two people are exactly the same in terms of age, life and job experience and demographics, and one has a college degree and the other doesn't - that the one who has the degree will be a better employee and have a more successful career.

So I was thrilled to read an article by Thomas L. Friedman in the NYT a few months ago, called "How To Get A Job At Google." Friedman's article expands upon an interview between Adam Bryant of the NYT and Lazlo Bock, SVP of People Operations for Google GOOG -1.35%, where Bock goes into depth about the core attributes Google looks for when hiring. At one point, Bock says, “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.”

My point exactly. Someone can do very well in college and not have what it takes to succeed in the real world - and vice versa. Bock went on to say that an increasing proportion of people hired at Google these days don't have college degrees. Bock then shared the five criteria Google does use when evaluating job candidates. I was struck not only by the list, but by the order. Here's my understanding of what he said, and why it's important for any job seeker:

5. Expertise. Bock noted that, except for making sure that people in technical jobs having coding ability, expertise is last on their list of five. They've found that the other four attributes (which I'll get to in a minute) far outweigh expertise when it comes to predicting the abilities that Google has found they need in their employees. Bock notes that experts are more likely to simply default to the tried-and-true. I've seen this as well - when people self-identify as "expert" in an area, or as "highly experienced," there's a much higher likelihood that they will strongly defend their existing point of view when questioned, rather than being curious...their identity is all too often wrapped up in being the authority, vs. finding a better solution.

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