Tom Friedman Has Joined Google’s HR Department

Tom Friedman is moonlighting by writing advertising copy for Google’s Human Resources Department; this talent is on display in his latest Op-Ed titled–appropriately enough “How To Get a Job at Google”. Perhaps staff at the Career Services offices of the nation’s major universities can print out this press release from Google HR and distribute it to their students, just in time for the next job fair.

Friedman is quick to get to the point (and to let someone else do the talking):

At a time when many people are asking, “How’s my kid gonna get a job?” I thought it would be useful to visit Google and hear how Bock would answer.

True to his word, the rest of the Op-Ed is a series of quotes from “Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies.” Let us, therefore, all fall into supplicant mode.

The How To Get a Job With Us press release is, of course, as much advertisement for the corporation’s self-imagined assessment of its work culture as anything else; how obliging, therefore, for Friedman to allow Bock to tell us Google so highly values “general cognitive ability”, “leadership — in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership”, and “humility and ownership”. (In keeping with the usual neoliberal denigration of the university, Friedman helpfully echoes Bock’s claim that “Too many colleges…don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.” Interestingly enough, I had thought Google’s workspaces with their vending machines, toys and other play spaces contributed to the “extended adolescence” of its coders. The bit about the “ton of debt” is spot-on though.) 

The use of opinion pages at major national newspapers for corporate communiques, to advance business talking points, to function as megaphones for the suppressed, yearning voices of the board-room, eager to inform us of their strategic perspectives, is fast developing into a modern tradition. This process has thus far been accomplished with some subterfuge, some stealth, some attempt at disguise and cover-up; but there isn’t much subtlety in this use of the New York Times Op-Ed page for a press release.

Friedman’s piece clocks in at 955 words; direct and indirect quotes from Bock amount to over 700 of those. There are ten paragraphs in the piece; paragraphs one through nine are pretty much Bock quotes. Sometimes, I outsource my writing here on this blog to quotes from books and essays I’ve read; Friedman, the Patron Saint of Outsourcing, has outsourced his to Google’s VP of “people operations.”

The only thing missing in this Friedman piece is the conversation with the immigrant cabbie on the way to Google’s Mountain View in the course of which we would have learned how his American-born children were eager to excel in precisely those skills most desired by Google. Perhaps we’ll read that next week.

10 comments on “Tom Friedman Has Joined Google’s HR Department

  1. Erez Maggor says:

    Yes, the same thing was done recently for Amazon by ’60 minutes’.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gcXoj_UBXv8
    It was basically a 15 minute primetime advertisement. As if there’s nothing to say about labor exploitation, tax evasion, monopolization etc.. that goes on in the place.

  2. DK Fennell says:

    Too bad he hasn’t yet written a piece about how a blowhard, with below average cognitive skills, can parlay an ability to hobnob with “important people: into a low pressure but prestigious “intellectual” job where neither writing ability nor thoughtfulness is required. I understand the first step is to marry well (a pre-high tech skill, yet it still works). But there must be more to it than that.

    • Samir Chopra says:

      It kills me to think this guy has such a pulpit.

      • DK Fennell says:

        We old-times remember when the daily NY Times used the kind of ink that readily came off on your hands, which you had to wash in order not to soil your clothes or anything you touched. Now in its digital form Tom Friedman is the unwanted thing that rubs off on you that you have to be careful to wash off before it touches anything.

  3. Hope Tom collected a nice fee on top of his NYT salary. Making yourself a company’s tool is one thing. Doing it gratis is another entirely.

  4. I haven’t respected Tom Friedman since his book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” was selected as required reading for my freshman-year college class. It was awful. Terribly written, repetitive, not convincingly argued. Moreover, I hate the NYT opinion pages and have refused to read them since senior year in high school. Many of those “articles” are perfect examples of thoughtless liberalism/corporate appeasement. And I say that as a staunch liberal!

  5. Will says:

    Matt Tabibi on Friedman is always worth a re-read (originally in the NY Press):
    http://delong.typepad.com/egregious_moderation/2009/01/matt-taibbi-flathead-the-peculiar-genius-of-thomas-l-friedman.html
    Amazing the guy (TF, not MT) still has a job.

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