Every year, LinkedIn publishes a list of what it says are the 50 best workplaces to grow your career.

It's intended for potential applicants, but I like to use it for something else -- something that can help business leaders and entrepreneurs of all stripes.

In short, when I find a compendium like this, I like to take the data points and advice and reverse engineer it. You walk away with good insights into how some of the most successful companies say they recruit and hire top candidates -- strategies you can borrow to use in your own business, if they apply.

Case in point: Alphabet, parent company of Google. 

Every year, according to the most recent data that I've seen, more than 2 million people apply to work at Google. That's a mind-blowing number, as it represents more than 12 times as many people currently working there in the first place.

In order to be able to manage that applicant volume with anything even remotely resembling efficiency, Google would have to have two things in place:

  1. First, the most efficient possible systems: Everything from candidate management systems, to AI-enabled selection, to a trove of data informing things like how to recruit, how to interview, and how to assess candidates.
  2. Second, and a precursor to the first point, really: a clear sense of what kinds of people will do well at Google, even regardless of specific job titles and responsibilities, since those are likely to change over time, anyway.

The answers the company provided to LinkedIn have more to do with the second point. Here are the highlights:

  • Don't look for degrees as much as you look for skills. ("Google does not require college degrees for all new hires.")
  • Screen and search for "general cognitive ability." ("The top skill by far is general cognitive ability, especially problem-solving skills. Even if a potential hire isn't as well-versed in a particular field or technique as another candidate, if they show us a strong ability to work through a problem they haven't encountered before, we find that to be the best indicator of success.")
  • Screen and search for "growth mindset," regardless of whether applicants are "just entering the workforce or have decades of experience."
  • Search for candidates who show promise to grow beyond the role they're being considered for. ("We want someone who is going to meet new challenges as they come and grow into new responsibilities over time. This is something we've backed up with research.")

Now, I doubt you have the same problem that Alphabet has. The applicant volume cite means that on average, Google would field a new application every 15 seconds, 24/7.

Even so, I think there are at least two good thought-starters for almost any business to consider from this compilation:

  1. Look beyond traditional qualifications. You want people who are qualified and have the right skills, but maybe using degrees or certifications to narrow your filter isn't as efficient as it once seamed.
  2. Invest in people more than you invest in specific positions. If you want people who will grow, you need roles and opportunities that they can grow into.

Regular readers might know that I've done this sort of thing with Google in the past. For example, we've:

They say good artists borrow, but great artists steal. You don't have to want to work at Google -- or anywhere other than yourself -- for this kind of information to be valuable to your business. And maybe worth a rhetorical swipe