Inside Google Marketing: Tips on discovering and attracting the right talent

Kerry O'Shea, Atikah Amalina Zaini / April 2021

Kerry O’Shea and Atikah Amalina Zaini, diversity program managers in staffing at Google, share the benefits, opportunities, and best practices they adopt to help Google discover and attract marketing talent that drives a culture of innovation.

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A skilled workforce and a strong company culture are critical to business success, and discovering and attracting the right talent to achieve this success starts with getting the basics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) right.

Businesses need to understand the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce regarding innovation, profitability, and retaining their most talented employees. In 2018, it was estimated that, by improving gender equality in APAC, the region could add $4.5 trillion to the GDP in 2025 — a substantial 12% increase.

However, COVID-19 has had a major impact on the progress made regarding closing the gender parity gap, with estimates of female job loss rates due to COVID-19 reaching 1.8X higher than male counterparts. With this setback compounding the diversity divide, now is the time for businesses to take action.

DEI and D&I are becoming part of daily hiring and business strategy vocabulary, but, to consider DEI, we first need to fully understand what they mean.

Diversity is the differences and variations found in a group. This cannot only encompass social identities like gender and race but also personal attributes like experience and values.

Inclusion happens when we value the perspectives and contributions of all people and intentionally incorporate their diverse needs and viewpoints.

Equity means ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, and we don’t all start from the same place. It’s a commitment toward addressing and correcting this imbalance.

An awareness and understanding of DEI, and a sensitivity toward these nuances, are business imperatives that enable companies to hire diverse marketing talent — but what does that mean for APAC?

Navigating DEI in APAC

APAC is arguably the most culturally diverse region in the world, and although this means a diverse pool of talent, it also comes with certain challenges. These include hiring around labor mobility (less than in the US and Europe) and different levels of English or local language proficiency. The important thing is not to apply a one-size-fits-all strategy, but, instead, to think about your DEI plans at the local level.

This is because underrepresented groups differ from country to country — and so does the regulatory environment, with some nations adopting workforce quotas for people with disabilities — so, although principles and frameworks are fine, it is important to leave room for local context and interpretation.

To help provide a jumping-off point, here are some best practices businesses can adopt when discovering and attracting diverse talent in APAC.

Move from screening-out to screening-in

A lot of companies adopt screen-out criteria when assessing candidates for open roles — for example, only accepting candidates from top-tier universities and excluding the rest. At Google, instead of screening out questions, we build “screen-in” criteria by focusing on competencies over credentials. As an example, our recruiter job description typically looks for a university degree “or equivalent” and staffing experience “or equivalent” because we recognize that portable skills (such as stakeholder management) from other fields can be just as effective as education or direct experience.

Think “culture-add,” not “culture-fit”

Hire the best person, but make sure “best” doesn’t mean most similar, or most familiar, or just quickest to ramp up. At Google, we have moved from focusing on “culture fit” to assessing “culture add.” This means that, instead of seeking to hire more of what is already working, we focus on asking what is missing on a team, to find those who will add valuable dimensions to the team culture and outputs. This approach moves us away from hiring people “like me,” “like my current team members,” or “I prefer working with” and toward hiring people who will bring diverse perspectives to the team.

Consider a differentiated approach to your recruitment strategy

Challenge traditional CV and interview formats and try to adopt recruitment language and visuals that suit your business, not the industry. When creating your own recruitment advertisements, consider the language you use and the stock photography you might select. Are the images representative of your business values and the audience you are trying to attract?

We love this example from Japan — a country that has often historically been characterized as the country where “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” As a way to acknowledge the individuality of candidates, Isehan Group decided to run a “Face Hiring” campaign, encouraging graduate job seekers to come in clothes, hairstyles, and makeup that reflect their personality, rather than the common practice of changing their look to conform to the style of the typical Japanese worker.

Extend your talent pool beyond city centers

The onset of the pandemic, and subsequent work-from-home and remote-work policies, have introduced a wider pool of talent. Traditionally, candidates would be attracted to roles that are physically close to them, and businesses would usually be based in city centers. Now, with distance working, many businesses can expand their reach into previously untapped communities and build a bigger pool of diverse talent.

Don’t forget about the importance of purpose

Candidates want to know what kind of organization they’re joining, and a company’s purpose and mission are core to that. They want to know what you care about and whether it aligns with their values too. They also expect this to be publicly available. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. To achieve that mission, we need to be representative of the users we serve so we can truly build for everyone.

Don’t just attract — retain and develop

Many job candidates are looking for permanent workplace flexibility, a commitment to health and well-being, and to work with a purpose. It’s important to understand these pull factors and be intentional about baking them into your talent acquisition framework and business model.

Attracting top talent is only the first step to ensuring business success. The real value comes when you’re able to not only retain this talent but also have the right systems and checks in place to develop it. Check out our tips and best practices on how to retain and develop your talent pool in the second part of our series:

What’s in a name? How the age-old question helped push Google’s thinking around inclusion