It’s important to remain humble about even the most data-driven techniques for hiring, because human beings are infinitely complex and can fail or succeed for all sorts of reasons.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Josh Millet.
Josh is the Founder and CEO of Criteria, a pre-employment assessment company. Prior to launching Criteria, Josh co-founded an online test preparation company, Number2, which was acquired by Xap Corp in 2002. Josh holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Mellon Fellow.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I guess I took a pretty circuitous route to the HR software space. In my twenties I went to grad school for medieval French history, thinking I would be a history professor. But I always had an interest in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and learned a lot about assessments through a volunteer tutoring project I did after being recruited by some friends in the psychology department of my grad school. One of those friends became my cofounder of my first assessment company, and years later we co-founded Criteria.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
One story that I’ll always remember sort of became the origin story behind Criteria. At a previous job, even though I had o HR experience, I was asked to play a leading role in interviewing candidates. I sat through a lot of painful interviews where it was clear early on there wasn’t a mutual fit. It was in one of these interviews that I started thinking “there has to be a better way to do this,” and the idea that would become Criteria was formed. I still remember the name of the person I was interviewing when I was struck by the idea because the interview wasn’t going anywhere, but I will never reveal it!
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
Here are five we use and recommend as best practices for our customers:
- For most roles, maybe as much as 80% of them, it’s better to hire for potential than for experience. There are exceptions (extremely specialized fields that require domain expertise — you wouldn’t want a brain surgeon or a divorce lawyer with no experience) but generally the data shows that focusing on hiring for long term potential drives better outcomes in hiring.
- Use assessments, and when you do, consider using them very early in the hiring “funnel” where they can help streamline the hiring process and drive efficiencies. They can also surface talent you never would have noticed based on a resume.
- If you want to get a sense of the long term potential of an applicant, a cognitive assessment is one of the best ways to do so — it measures problem-solving, attention to detail, and learning ability.
- If you are concerned about reducing bias in your hiring process, consider giving less weight to resumes and interviews, they tend to introduce a lot of unconscious bias into decision making.
- To optimize decision making and make the interview process more fair, structured interviews are much more fair and work better than unstructured ones.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
- Focus on your employer brand. For us, as a small company, this means paying a lot of attention to our web presence on Glassdoor and LinkedIn.
- Encourage and incent employee referrals.
- As CEO I spent a great deal of my time recruiting and interviewing new hires, ad so does our senior leadership. I hope this conveys to our candidates that we take our culture seriously ad that every team member is valued.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We are trying to fuel a movement to spread awareness of the effects of unconscious bias in HR decision-making and to help reduce it. It all starts with awareness, and companies are making progress there. If companies focus on reducing the impact of unconscious bias, they will make their toilet management process more fair and equitable, and they will also make better, more evidence-based hiring decisions that will drive better business results.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
I like my quotes funny, so tend to gravitate to Twain and Yogi Berra. Everyone involved in hiring is if you think about it in the prediction business. It’s important to remain humble about even the most data-driven techniques for hiring, because human beings are infinitely complex and can fail or succeed for all sorts of reasons. So I like to remind myself that “Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.”
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
I guess I’d like to have lunch with Adam Grant, I find him to be an interesting thinker.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!