Main image of article Google GRAD Review System: Is It Working for Googlers?

In May 2022, Google adjusted its performance review system, aiming to give employees more chances for promotion and career development. How has that revamp worked out, and what does it mean for anyone aspiring to work at the search-engine giant?

The new system, known as GRAD (Googler Reviews and Development) readjusts the ratings scale used for employees while streamlining the evaluation process. It was produced after an internal review showed that 47 percent of Google employees thought the search engine giant’s old performance review system, which featured two evaluations per year, was a waste of time.

GRAD’s other features seem designed to boost employee morale along with opportunities for promotion. “Promotions will happen twice a year and we’ll continue to invest in new ways for Googlers to grow their career through internal mobility,” read Google’s note about GRAD at the time. “Performance ratings will happen once a year and our new rating scale will reflect the fact that most Googlers deliver significant impact every day.”

Like many other organizations, Google has kept regular manager-employee check-ins, which are essential for feedback and career development. “We looked at everything, starting with employee feedback, as well as research, industry best practices, and all that we’ve learned about how to design processes for fairness and consistency,” the webpage added. 

Google tweaking its performance review system is important because other companies will surely follow its example. For years, Google and other big tech companies (such as Twitter) relied on an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) system developed by Intel; quarterly OKRs are meant to encourage employees to strive as hard as possible for challenging objectives, and everyone’s objectives feed into higher-level objectives throughout the organization. Other, smaller companies across the country adopted OKRs once “big tech” firms popularized the practice.

How Did GRAD Work Out?

Within a few months of implementation, GRAD placed six percent of Google employees into a lower category that might have put their jobs at risk, according to Business Insider. Under the old system, around two percent of employees had fallen into that category, which can shunt them onto a performance improvement plan, or PIP. Meanwhile, the number of Google employees in the top two categories tumbled from 27 percent to 22 percent.

By January, Google had laid off roughly 6 percent of its workforce, or 12,000 employees, but it’s difficult to tell GRAD’s influence on the cuts. Google has spent the balance of 2023 laying off workers in certain divisions while hiring in others. “As we’ve said, we continue to invest in top engineering and technical talent while also meaningfully slowing the pace of our overall hiring,” a Google spokesperson told Computerworld in September.

How Do I Get Hired at Google?

Fortunately, Google is extremely transparent about its hiring process, as broken down on the Careers portion of its website. It asks those who want to work for Google to engage in the following steps:

  • Self-reflection: Take an honest look at your experience and skills.
  • Polish your resume: Goes without saying. Make sure your portfolio, online profiles, and other materials are likewise up-to-date.
  • Search for jobs: Google has a handy tool that allows you to view open jobs.
  • Get ready to interview: If you have what Google needs, they’ll reach out about the interview process.

Google doesn’t utilize brainteasers (such as “How many tennis balls will fit in a 747?”) as part of its interview process anymore, but the company has a reputation for subjecting its applicants to a rigorous technical assessment, especially for cutting-edge roles in arenas such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and data science.

Also, it’s important to never neglect “soft skills” such as empathy and communication, which can demonstrate your ability to work well on teams… and might further serve you if you manage to land a job at Google. It’s clear that soft skills are a major component in surviving the GRAD system.