Todd Pollak, director of Financial Services at Google
Todd Pollak is director of Financial Services at Google, running a team responsible for some of Google's biggest customers like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.
His great career wouldn't have happened without one of the craziest job interviews we've ever heard of: a six-hour car ride with his potential boss from San Francisco to L.A.
It was 2001 and he was a young salesperson working for a startup called Vuepoint (later named Certpoint Systems, which is now owned by Infor) , founded by Ara Ohanian.
Ohanian needed a sales manager. Pollak didn't have the experience but Ohanian liked him.
"I saw that this person had tremendous potential, but before letting him take half nation as territory I said, let's travel together,'" Ohanian, CEO of Certpoint Systems , told us.
Pollak's interview was supposed to be long and tough as it was: a flight and a meeting with the company's biggest customer in L.A.
It was scheduled for September 11, 2001.
Ara Ohanian, CEO, Certpoint Systems
Then the World Trade Center was attacked and all air flights were grounded. So Ohanian told Pollak they were renting a car and going to the meeting anyway. He even made Pollak drive.
"He said, we're going to the meeting as a show good faith. I thought he was crazy, but went with him, curious to see what would happen," Pollak said. "The minute I started to drive, I realized that Ara and I are similar people with similar values. We talked for six straight hours."
When they arrived a security guard refused to let them in, yelling,"Are you crazy? The Twin Towers were just hit. Go home!" Pollak remembered.
And the two road-tripped home, good friends by that time. Pollak was hired and they've been friends ever since.
Ohanian went on to perfect the extremely long interview process. In the years since, he took some job applicants on cross-country flights from New York to L.A. He took others on five-hour hikes in Wyoming.
"I used any activity where I could really see one-on-one how an individual behaves," because people can't fake their personality for that long, he said.
"I look for specific things: energy, humor, the ability to be spontaneous at the right moment, being comfortable in one's skin," Ohanian said. He also looks for curiosity, compassion, and empathy, watching how they treat flight attendants, waitresses, other people in a service role.
Ego problems will often show themselves there, he said.
Ara Ohanian (Tin Man, center) conducted job interviews during a Halloween party
Even a short interview can be a test of character. He once made his prospective CFOs interview on Halloween, while he was dressed as the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, complete with silver-painted skin.
One guy couldn't take it. Said he couldn't talk seriously to a man in costume.
Another excused himself for a moment, went to his car, grabbed a bandanna, and came back in as the Scarecrow.
He was hired.
Pollak can't use such extreme methods when hiring for his team at Google, although he would like to. "If I had the ability to spend six hours with someone straight, I would do it no question," he laughs.
"But Google has a rigorous process in place for hiring so instead, I never ask them about work," he says. "They wouldn't be in the room with me if they weren't qualified for the job. I focus on person's values and how they see the world."
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