TecHRseries Interview with Josh Millet, Founder & CEO at Criteria

In a remote work-oriented world, communication, engagement, and talent acquisition are all easier with a good technology stack that is cloud-based, if cloud adoption wasn’t a priority for businesses before, it is now, especially more so because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Josh Millet, Founder & CEO at Criteria joins us in this interview to discuss the top HR challenges and tech trends for businesses in 2020.


Tell us a little about yourself Josh…we’d love to hear about some of your biggest career highlights (and learnings!) so far!   

I took a circuitous route to the software sector. I spent my 20s doing a Ph.D in medieval French history, of all things, before getting bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in the first internet boom in the late 90s as I was finishing grad school. I always had an interest in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and Criteria is my second company in the assessment space. I founded the company 13 years ago, with my co-founders David Sherman and Eric Loken, two psychologists, and David has served as Criteria’s COO ever since. It’s been a pretty cool journey since then – we launched the product with four employees just months before the 2008 financial crisis, bootstrapped the business for years before raising over $60 million in two rounds of financing, and now we have 4,000 customers and 140 employees.  

Given the challenging economic climate businesses have been forced to undergo because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how teams can reduce their own inefficiency and contribute better to business continuity during this time…  

I think when we look back on this time we’ll see that companies and people have had to get scrappy to survive and thrive. Obviously there’s been terrible economic dislocation and it will have lasting effects in certain industries, but there will also be lots of great companies started during this time. Many of them will be responding to the challenges of remote work. In terms of HR specifically, like a lot of areas they have been charged with doing more with less. The good news is that there are a lot of great software solutions out there that can help with engagement, talent acquisition and other HR challenges. I’m biased, but looking at great tech tools is a great way to realize efficiencies.

When it comes to employee pre-assessment policies, what are the top factors or parameters that recruiting teams should always keep in mind?  

The specifics of how a company chooses to implement assessments will depend on the business goals and the dynamics of their talent acquisition strategies. In terms of maximizing the predictive accuracy of your selection process, and driving better business outcomes, there is no better tool than a cognitive ability assessment. If your emphasis is team-building, assessing interaction styles and promoting diversity, personality and EI (emotional Intelligence) assessments are very useful. Finally, we generally recommend that assessments drive the most value when used early in the hiring process, so that companies can discover talent they might have otherwise missed because of a lack of traditional credentials—this also can help remove bias from the hiring process.

Read More: Implementing Diversity Training: A Chat with Elisa Vincent, VP of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft

Given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote hiring is now picking up pace, what are some of the top thoughts you would share here with hiring teams: what should they focus on when carrying out the entire talent acquisition, recruiting and even training via remote model.   

The challenges around hiring have become more acute during the pandemic. Though there may in many industries be lower levels of hiring happening, there has never been a time in our history when the unemployment rate went up 300-400% virtually overnight.  The result has been that we have transitioned from one in which candidates had all the power to one in which employers have much more leverage. The most important metric we look at for assessing the labor supply and demand balance is the applicant to hire ratio. On our platform in the past three months we have seen the number of job applicants for each opening double, from 70 to 140 on average. In that environment HR departments are being asked to handle more applicants than ever, with fewer resources. Data-driven tools that provide real talent signals are more necessary than ever in this environment.

How is HR as a function in global companies evolving as a result of the pandemic, where do you feel the HR / HR Tech industry is headed?  

Employee engagement is the most immediate challenge, and so I think quite sensibly this is a first area of focus for HR departments. We are releasing a “teaming” product soon that will help address the challenges of team-building and managing (up and down) in a remote environment.  The impact of remote work is felt at every stage of the employee lifecycle.  But to be honest the biggest change I see from customers during the pandemic is only tangentially related to Covid, and that’s the urgency with which HR departments are focusing on eliminating bias wherever they can, as a result of the light the Black Lives Matter movement has shed on the persistent presence of unconscious bias and systemic racism in our country. We have had more discussions with D & I folks in the last three months than we have had in the last 10-12 years—there’s a real sense we all can do more to combat bias, and that assessments can play a role in mitigating the influence of unconscious bias in the talent acquisition process. I believe that when we look back on 2020 and how it affected HR, the focus on removing bias will be just as significant and as enduring as the move to more remote work. I certainly hope that will be the case.

Can you share your thoughts on how teams can use data driven tools and insights to identify business problems while being remote (faster and better) and how can they leverage digital tools to help arrest these problems? 

Because of the labor surplus I mentioned earlier, HR departments are seeing unprecedented levels of applicants, and generally don’t have more resources to handle them. The process of finding the right people just got a lot harder, but the good news is that there is probably more talent to choose from, and using data-driven tools like assessments can help you find talent at the top of the funnel more quickly and accurately than reading resumes can.  Assessments can also help you remove bias from your selection process, cut down on wasted interview hours, and deliver better hiring outcomes.  A remote environment where there’s a surplus of applicants is a perfect time to incorporate assessments into your talent management strategy.

Read More: Onboarding HR Solutions and Products That Can Streamline your Digital Onboarding Processes

How would you advise businesses, especially HR to stay a step ahead of the game as the global economy tides through these uncertain times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?  

There’s no getting around the fact that HR, in particular, faces peculiar challenges due to COVID. How do people leaders adapt to a situation when their contact with their organization’s people is severely curtailed?  In terms of talent acquisition and management, increasing reliance on evidence-based techniques and tools will pay dividends not just during COVID, but long after it recedes.  If you are not using data-driven tools to inform talent decisions, your competitors are, and you’re going into the talent wars with one hand tied behind your back.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

If you’re using data to inform decision-making in many different areas of the business, but not yet much in managing your most important asset, your humans, now is a great time to reassess that.

Criteria was founded in 2006 and has raised a total of $64.3M. With over 20 million assessments administered globally, the company has helped organizations make objective, data-driven hiring decisions that lead to better business outcomes with its scientifically validated assessments across multiple dimensions including aptitude, personality and skills. On average, Criteria has helped organizations increase their hiring success rates by an average of 52%, reduce turnover by 48%, and generate 25% more revenue.

 Josh Millet is the Founder and CEO of Criteria, a pre-employment assessment company with a simple goal: to help organizations make better hires. With over 20 million assessments administered globally, the company has helped organizations make objective, data-driven hiring decisions that lead to better business outcomes with its scientifically validated assessments across multiple dimensions including aptitude, personality and skills since 2006. On average, Criteria has helped organizations increase their hiring success rates by an average of 52%, reduce turnover by 48%, and generate 25% more revenue. Josh holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Mellon Fellow.