A Qualified Endorsement Of Skills-Based Hiring With Josh Millet of Criteria

Are you trying to build cohesive teams? Then, skill-based hiring can revolutionize your recruitment process.  Host William Tincup speaks with Josh Millet, CEO and co-founder of Criteria, about the power of skills-based hiring. Millet’s insights and expertise provide a refreshing perspective on how skills-based hiring can transform traditional recruitment practices and drive long-term success in organizations.

Millet explains how Criteria’s talent success business model goes beyond pre-employment assessments to offer a comprehensive suite of tools for building and optimizing teams. He emphasizes the importance of evaluating a candidate’s potential to acquire new skills rather than solely focusing on their existing knowledge or educational background. Millet also discusses the need to devalue over-reliance on college degrees and experience as indicators of future success, highlighting the potential for skills-based hiring to level the playing field and promote diversity.

By shifting the focus to a candidate’s abilities and skill potential, organizations can make smarter hiring decisions and build cohesive, high-performing teams for long-term success.

Listening Time: 22 minutes

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Josh Millet
Founder & CEO Criteria

Criteria is a market-leading SaaS talent success company that uses science-backed assessments and structured interviews to help organizations make better hiring decisions. These solutions cover a wide range of skills, cognitive abilities, personality traits, and job-specific competencies, ensuring employers can tailor their assessments to meet the unique needs of their organization. Criteria distributed over 10 million assessments in 2023 alone that have helped organizations achieve a greater hiring success rate, higher productivity and lower turnover.


A Qualified Endorsement Of Skills-Based Hiring With Josh Millet of Criteria

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. We have Josh Ante from Criteria and he and I recently kind of reconnected and I learned a bunch about their Criteria’s business that I was unaware of. So it was actually a really good kind of reconnection. We’ve known each other for a long time.

Today’s show is going to be a qualified endorsement of skills based hiring. Because during when we were catching up, I asked him, you know, what’s your what do you think about the [00:01:00] skills based hiring? You’re like, I

Josh Millet: like it, but

William Tincup: there’s things, there’s things that’s qualified and I’m like, Oh, that’d be a great podcast.

So Josh, would you do us a favor and, uh, and introduce yourself and also Criterion.

Josh Millet: Yeah, thanks, William, for having me on. Great to be here. Um, yeah, I was just thinking, as you said, that a qualified endorsement is not the sexiest, like, marketing title, but we’ll work through it. I think it’ll be an interesting discussion.

Um, so I’m the CEO and co founder of Criteria. Um, Criteria historically was a pre employment assessment business, and we’ve kind of evolved more recently into what we call a talent success business. Our software includes a whole suite of tools. Assessments are still a very big part of it. We’ve also expanded into interviewing, structured interviewing specifically, so our customers use our structured interviewing tools.

We also have some post hire tools aimed at building teams and kind of post hire team [00:02:00] optimization, growth and development, that kind of thing. Um, so our product, uh, Vision has expanded a little bit in the last couple of years.

William Tincup: To say the least, to say the least, because, uh, folks, uh, in the industry would say Criteria Corp, uh, for a long time, and then it just got shortened to Criteria, which I really like.

And, uh, I think, I think a lot of folks had you pegged in the pre employment and, and really, really, I mean, y’all, y’all are, y’all are great in pre employment because you just know it backwards and forwards. And the fact that you’ve bled into the, into the, uh, uh, the organization, I think it’s just a Gene, I think it’s kind of natural.

I think your customers probably pulled you. If I, if I could do the archaeology of it, I’d probably go back and find that your customers kind of came to you and said, Hey, you’re doing a great job over here. Can you, can you do this thing over here? Yeah,

Josh Millet: that’s definitely true in the post hire space, right?

Our customers pulled us there. Um, they were telling us pretty directly, you know, several years ago that like, these assessments are great, but once I have the person You know, in the tent. Now what? Yeah, what do I do? [00:03:00] How do I grow and develop? And it started out first as sort of just kind of onboarding help.

Okay, this is your new hire. Here’s how he or she looks. And then from there, it’s kind of developed into a recruiter, recruitment. Okay, you, you hire, um, uh, great people, hopefully with the help of our software and our assessments. Uh, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’ll translate into great teams. I know we, we connected last week, William, we were joking about my beloved LA Clippers.

Uh, yes. Yes. A lot of Hall of Famers there, but the collective output is not necessarily what you’d expect based on that. And

William Tincup: that was during that string where they were, they lost when Harden first joined, they had lost a series in a row. I’m like, there’s so much talent on this team. This is, there’s, there’s at least three.

Hall of Famers, at

Josh Millet: least three. And they have a good coach as well. They’ve turned it around a little since then, but it’s still not what you’d expect. And I think our, um, our emphasis there is, you know, building a product that managers can help, [00:04:00] can use to help them kind of manage at scale. That’s right.

And, and to sort of optimize teams based on alignment and, and, and framework that we’ve developed around, um, you know, sort of team health, I would call it, and team optimization. Not from the standpoint of, you know, um, we use, uh, a criteria internally, we use engagement pulse surveys, right? It’s not really that, it’s more around is, is the team collectively aligned?

Are they all rowing in the same direction? Not are they, you know, enga pulse surveys are really helpful, but they’re more about, okay, do we have a happy, Happy team is their flight risk, if they’re not happy, that kind of thing. Um, this is more about team optimization at scale. What I love about that

William Tincup: is, again, we’ve seen the Olympics, uh, through the years.

We’ve seen World Cups, if you follow, uh, football, and it’s not always the most talented team that wins. It’s the team that’s the most cohesive, uh, generally speaking that, that usually wins those types of things. So I love the fact that [00:05:00] you’re kind of helping that cohesion, uh, giving visibility and insight into a cohesion of a team that you could be a, you know, you could be an all star in sales, just, just rocking it at one company.

And then you come over to another company and you’re put on a different team and the dynamic doesn’t suit you. And you’re not as successful, and it’s for no other reason than that there’s cohesion wasn’t there. So I like the, that, that visibility and insight into co, well, I say cohesion is probably a better word than, than that, but, but for managers to be able to understand that.

Both in the hiring process, but then through onboarding and into, and most importantly, as they’re doing work, uh, to, to really understand how that, how they’re all, you said, rowing and, uh, you know, in the same direction. I think that’s a great metaphor, actually. Yeah, totally,

Josh Millet: totally agree. We, we’ve had a sort of beta version of that product out for quite a while, uh, but we’re pretty [00:06:00] dramatically overhauling it and, and re releasing it in, in Q1 of, of next year.

And, um, it’s interesting, uh, because the usage of that, even among our bigger customers, it’s funny, a lot of the times they’re using it for, like, really team sized units, so like eight or ten people, you know, like a, a single span of control of, of one manager, not like how, how big a team it is. Of course, if you do that across the org, you can kind of see how does my whole org look, but a lot of our sort of early adopters there are looking at, oh, how does my team of eight engineers work together, or my product management team work together, um, and so it’s really about giving insights to that individual manager.

Which, you know, one day we hope that’ll all flow up to the, to the C suite and the head of HR, but it’s, it’s kind of being adopted bottom up, um, where, you know, it’s small, you know, you think about the, the, the two pizza team size, right? Or one manager. And, um, so you’re getting information on, does, does the team know what the goals are?

Do they feel aligned? Um, you know, things like this. Are they motivated? [00:07:00] Um, not like, are they happy with the org and are they going to leave? You know, there, there, there’s a correlation there, but it’s not as strong as you’d think, right? Some, um, certainly like dysfunctional teams that aren’t aligned that tends to breed unhappiness, but you can, you can also have happy folks who don’t quite know what the, you know, North star is.

So, and that’s stuff we want to be able to give to the manager to act on like in, in real time.

William Tincup: So, so as you, so as you look at. The way that the market has shifted into skills, skills everywhere. So skills in internal mobility, skills in hiring, skills, skills, skills, skills, skills, skills, skills. You can’t go anywhere.

Can’t go to a conference and not talk about skills. I don’t necessarily mind that. But it’s eerily familiar to, if you’ve been in this game as long as we have, to competency models. Like there was a real hot moment that, you know, competency models. We gotta, everything’s gotta be around [00:08:00] a competency model.

We gotta hire to it, we gotta promote to it, succession planning, everything’s gotta be tied to it. Comp, the whole bit, but we have to have these models. Years later, I would ask the question like, who actually did that? Right? Like, like, I know, I know the, I know the IO folks built

Josh Millet: them ,

William Tincup: you know? Yeah. And at big company X, whatever, I can’t say X, uh, big com, Acme company,

Josh Millet: big, big company.

X is off the table. Now. I know it’s taken, it’s taken. Can’t, driving

William Tincup: me crazy. I can’t say that, but it’s like, I know, I know that we’re built, but I don’t think, I don’t, I can’t, I can’t find. A company that fully implemented that across all of those things. So when I look at skills based hiring, I kind of have this deja vu moment where it’s like, are we just doing the same thing using different words?

Josh Millet: Yeah. I think, and the commonality there, I think is like, I would characterize both, both those things or those movements or whatever, as, as like necessary, [00:09:00] but not sufficient. Right. Right. And, and so like overall, we’re, we’re big fans of skills based hiring. I think the basic impulse is really sound. I think it’s going to be, you know, one of the biggest.

Uh, I don’t know what to call it, one of the biggest movements in HR and TA, the next probably better part of a decade, right? It’s getting wider adoption. The implications of it are really positive societally, I think, right? You know, I think it has a lot of potential to level the playing field, the, um, it’s, it’s way past due that we sort of start to devalue.

Um, you know, college degrees and experience a little bit, not, not altogether, they have value, but, but they’ve been overvalued. We’ve been over indexing on them when we make hiring decisions for like decades, which is, which is

William Tincup: a bias that we’ve had. I went to Princeton, so I earned that degree. Now, obviously, if you went to Princeton, you’re just like, I didn’t go to Princeton by the way, but you know, the bit, [00:10:00] the bit is, is.

No, no, no, they didn’t, they didn’t want me. Um, but the, the thing is, is there’s a bias inherent in that is that people will only look at people that they feel that they are, that’s like them. And so if you went to Michigan, you obviously believe in the alumni of Michigan. So you’re going to hire people that went to Michigan.

Yeah. Yeah. And so devaluing, it’s also, there’s some of that bias that was laid, laid in there that if, if the person could do the job, but they just so happen to have an associate’s degree or no degree, so what? Like can they, can they do the job job?

Josh Millet: And I think the other thing about it is like, there’s a pretty.

Huge body of evidence now that shows that in terms of predictive signals, they’re, they’re kind of at best okay, like they, they are pretty weak signals when you compare to, to them to some other things that you can pretty easily evaluate in a, in a job seeker. So why are we using them as these gatekeepers [00:11:00] when, you know, especially you look at the US, for example, you, you’re just using a four year degree as a requirement.

You’re. Pretty much right off the bat, excluding almost 60 percent of the population from applying for that role, and that 60 percent is not representative, right? So there’s, there’s a lot of, um, really bad diversity impact, if you care about that. There’s, there’s also just like, in, in today’s There’s a labor environment where, you know, whatever you say about what’s happening in the economy, you know, today, at the end of 2023, there’s a profound labor imbalance, labor supply imbalance that we’re going to be faced with in the next decade, and it obviously has to do with things You and I can’t change like demographic trends, aging population, all that.

There’s not enough workers in certain industries. Um, you know, what’s happened in the technology industry where, where we play is, is obviously, um, I think pretty unique that, you know, all of a sudden people are like, oh, it’s harder to get a job. That’s not the [00:12:00] case when you look outside of the technology bubble.

You know, we’ve had a big correction technology, but you look in healthcare, manufacturing, all these other industries that, that we work with and people can’t. hire fast enough still, even, um, even today. And so there’s a labor shortage issue. And that is, that is one of the accelerants, I think, behind skills based hiring is, like, people have been sort of down with the theory behind it for a while, at least, you know, companies that are sort of forward thinking, but now there’s no choice, right?

I mean, because if you’re, if you’re filtering out because of a lack of experience or lack Pedigree, educational pedigree. If you’re filtering out 70, 80 percent of the population, you’re, you’re just kind of showing up with one hand, but you know, one hand tied behind your back for the, for the talent core.

So it’s,

William Tincup: it’s, it’s usually hiring managers, um, that I, at least that I’ve found that are the ones that are the kind of locked in, locked in kind of how we did things yesterday. They’re the ones that, because that’s how they came up. So they came up a certain way and so they think that everyone needs to go through the same [00:13:00] similar process that they did.

So, so I think it’s kind of undoing that, that kind of bias or at least kind of reworking that bias to then say, you know what, the audience has changed, you know, candidates. Have changed, you know, they, they desire speed, they desire, uh, you know, they, they want personalization and, and if you can’t solve for those things, uh, they want fairness.

Like there’s all kinds of things that this, you know, these two generations, millennial and Gen Z, they want that, you know, boomers and Gen X didn’t really care as much about. Yeah,

Josh Millet: it’s, it’s also, it’s also reflective of just a generally risk averse view, I think, which, which is like, yeah, if I hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree, um, I might have egg on my face later, and I should have, you know, but, um, that’s just That’s just an inappropriate view, and HR, you know, tends to be appropriately so, you know, risk, risk [00:14:00] aware, let’s say.

Right, right. But, you know, as you’re trying to build your workforce for the, for the next 10 years, that, that view just has to kind of be phased out, out of necessity, if not out of, you know, um, for, for other reasons. So, I, I totally agree with you there. Is

William Tincup: there any, is there any other things around skills based hiring?

that we should be aware that we should be looking at is especially with AI, uh, generative AI and things like that. Is there anything else that you can look at it and see the edges of skills based hiring and say, Hey, we should just kind of

Josh Millet: keep an eye on it. Yeah. I mean, so to, to get to the sort of the, the, the headline of this conversation, I think like skills is a really good place to start.

And, and it’s really the sort of. Different conceptions of what skills are that has me sort of only endorsing it in a qualified way. I think if you think of skills as pretty narrowly as, like, knowledge that you’ve acquired, then skills based hiring is not going nearly far enough. [00:15:00] Because, um, you know, what we need to be doing in terms of making talent decisions if we want to predict long term success is Looking at the sort of potential a person has to acquire more skills, right?

The job requirements and, you know, with the rise of AI, but even before then, the job requirements are changing so quickly, you know, there’s all these predictions about a huge percentage of the jobs that are that are prominent today won’t be in five years and different jobs will have appeared and even within jobs that the skills that are being required are changing so quickly especially in in certain fields so if you’re focusing only kind of in a backward looking way on what does this person know at the at the point I hire them which is one way to think of skills is like can this person do x um then you’re you’re Not going far enough and kind of overturning the way we’ve been doing hiring.

Um, ’cause that’s backward looking. You need to sort of, um, it’s sort of a cliched term, but you need to be looking at potential and hiring for potential. Um, as in like, what is this person’s potential vis-a-vis [00:16:00] acquiring new skills. And there’s a lot of ways to measure that. If you, if you measure, if you look at learning ability, the velocity that people take in new information and, and adapt to it and digest it and apply it, all those things are predictive of.

you know, what future skills a person could have. So, so I think from that standpoint like Yeah, if we think of skills very broadly as demonstrated capabilities or abilities that a person has, great. Let’s, you know, I’m all in on skills based hiring. Let’s, uh, let’s move forward with, like, looking at what the person can actually do rather than, like, whether they went a particular ability route as in to a particular college to, to, uh, acquire those skills or to like get a degree that’s supposed to be a proxy for those skills.

And it’s pretty unreliable proxy. It turns out a lot of the time, I think,

William Tincup: you know, the way I’ve, I’ve. You know, trying to, I guess I’m the visualization person. So I think of skills as like mercury and like on a plate. I don’t know if you ever broke [00:17:00] thermometers and played with them or not, but yeah, I did.

I didn’t eat any of it, but I did. That’s good. That’s comforting.

Josh Millet: It’s comforting.

William Tincup: I don’t know why he died so early. The thing is, is like. They’re fluid and they don’t, they don’t, they don’t conform to this, this, this, the rigidness of the way that we think of, uh, and, and they also, it’s like micro skills. So you have a skill, okay, let’s say it’s Java development.

What’s the breadth and depth of that skill? Yeah. And Oh, by the way, that’s a Polaroid or that’s a, that’s a snapshot in time and there’s. Both the upside of, okay, you know, your job development, and then you’ve learned other things. Okay, that’s additive, but rarely do we talk about decay.

Josh Millet: Yeah, that’s right.

That’s right. I think that fluid, um, I like that, Mercury. I didn’t know where you were going with it, but I like it. You know, I think, um, for me, it’s, it, it, programming languages are actually a perfect example, [00:18:00] right? We did a release, Scott, probably Three or four years ago now, a release of like a big overhaul of our product.

We had the whole engineering team working on it for months and finally released it. And we were reflecting as we were kind of celebrating the release that, um, it was written in at the time, I think it was written in React, right? Which was a framework that, um, when we hired that team of like eight engineers that worked on that release, none of them.

New React, right? Not a single one. Um, and some of them were hired before it existed. So of course, it was just a thought in someone at Facebook’s mind. Right? So, uh, you know, so of course we couldn’t have tested them on that skill that we were then two years later going to do or three years later do a release based on, you know, that programming language.

So that’s a, that’s a field where, you know, the shelf life of most programming languages is like, Some of it can be measured in, like, quarters or months, not, not even years, you know, um, and so, you know, you want to, what you want to be focused on in hiring great engineers if you’re, if you’re planning to keep [00:19:00] them for anything more than six months is, you know, how, how curious are they, are they about acquiring new, you know, learning new languages, how proficient are they at learning new languages, not just do they know X language on the date of hire, which, It’s a piece of it, but it ends up being a relatively small piece.

It’s interesting.

William Tincup: I was talking to Indeed yesterday and he was doing a kind of the jobs and hiring report type stuff. And, uh, and I asked the, the economist, I said, what, what shocked you? He goes, I was shocked that they’re. I was shocked that there wasn’t more jobs that that, that were titled, or somewhere in the title was ai.

Hmm. That AI was a, a bullet point. Uh, and in some cases, not even a bullet point. Like we’re, we’ve, we’re talking every day about ai. Like we talked about the beginning of the internet. We’re talking about. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. Mm-Hmm. , uh. But from, from their perspective, it’s like, yeah, but it’s not showing up in job postings [00:20:00] in the way that you would think that it would show up in job postings, which is kind of fascinating.

Like, how do you test for that? How do you assess for that? You

Josh Millet: know? I see the same trend actually. Like, um, I think you were at HR Tech, right? And I was there, um, had, I think it had been a year. I took a year off the year before. And, um, of course everything was all, you know, every booth. You know, AI, it was, it was everywhere.

Um, every summary you read at the conference, you know, makes it seem like it was only an AI conference. And then we, we do our like annual survey, um, each fall, I think it came out a couple of months ago, like a benchmark hiring survey. And a very small percentage of HR people, even at companies, you know, of scale, these aren’t like small businesses, are actually using AI in their talent acquisition process.

Like 12%, like a tiny number, you know, and it’s every, and it has to do, I think, a lot with, um, you know, it being a very high stakes [00:21:00] thing, and there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of regulation, there’s a lot of coming. Uh, legislation around it and, you know, the New York bias law and all that, and it harkens back to what we mentioned earlier.

There’s, um, appropriately, there’s a risk averse, um, kind of angle to what a lot of TA people do. It’s a highly, um, litigious area, obviously, um, and so, yeah, the hype in this case, HR, is way ahead of the Uh, of adoption, right? Even though people, there’s universal interest and we’re, we’re using it a lot at Criteria internally, starting to build it into the product, of course, but, um, we got to do so in a really careful, considered way.

Um, because it’s still early days in terms of adoption.

William Tincup: I love it. That’s flown by. Josh, thank you so much for your time and thanks for, uh, us, you know, I just love the title and us being able to nibble around the edges. It’s easy to be a cheerleader for skills based hiring and skills based promotion and skills based everything, uh, which, which is, and we, [00:22:00] and we should, because it’s a better, it is a better model.

We all know that. Um, but, but we also need to be critical. And walk slowly. So thank you so much for your time and talking to the audience.

Josh Millet: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me, William. This was fun.

William Tincup: Absolutely. Thanks for the audience. Appreciate you. And until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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