Bring up the topic of hiring mistakes in a group of business owners and you're bound to hear quite a few horror stories. The manager who fudged his qualifications during the interview process and turned out to be completely incapable of performing. The accountant whose history of taking liberties with company money stayed under the radar until damage was already done. Any business owner who has made these types of hiring slip-ups can tell you just how costly they can be.

At SurePayroll, we recently surveyed our customers and discovered that three out of four admit to making hiring mistakes, many of which cost as much as $10,000. In today's extremely competitive job market, employers have to be much savvier to avoid getting burned by candidates who stretch the truth to land a job.

How can you make sure you don't get duped by a bad hire? Use proven methods -- not your intuition -- to check out their background, skills, and personality traits. Gut instinct is important, but it isn't foolproof. Employers often hire candidates only to find out they aren't really that friendly, talented, or qualified. They were simply great actors.

Here are four affordable screening tools you can use to help you avoid costly mistakes:

Background checks. Background checks will ensure you're not risking your business by hiring a violent criminal, white-collar criminal, or illegal alien. With nearly half of all small business job applicants submitting resumes with false information, going the extra mile to have professionals check for red flags is a must to keep your business out of harm's way.

Drug screening tests. Experts in toxicology say that 75 percent of illegal drug users are employed, and most work for small and midsize businesses. If you're in a business that uses drivers, people performing physical labor, or other positions that require alert, sober employees in place to avoid serious accidents, drug tests are an absolute necessity.

Skills testing. Just because a candidate looks good on paper doesn't mean he or she will be able to follow through with excellent work. Whether you're hiring a copywriter who must have an excellent grasp on grammar or a programmer who needs to be well versed in C++, skills testing will provide a detailed look into how a candidate is truly capable of performing.

Personality tests. A professional personality assessment can reveal aspects of a candidate's character and potential that an interview can't. Will the salesperson you're thinking of hiring be a good fit in your highly competitive business? A personality test lets you find out before ever sending an offer letter.

By putting these pre-hiring safeguards in place, business owners can stop losing sleep over bad hiring decisions and focus on what really matters -- growing their companies.