Get yourself hired at Clever, a seven-year-old marketing company, and as one of the first orders of business you'll be flown out to San Francisco. You'll meet the company's founders, as well as a few colleagues. You'll start in on fairly typical on-boarding activities -- like plowing through all that HR paperwork.

Then things start getting a little different.

You'll sit down and complete the 93-question Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which will diagnose you as one of 16 distinct personality types, and a StrengthsFinder assessment, which will surface talents of yours within its "language of 34 themes."

Will you bristle? That depends on whether you've already fallen in love with the unique culture at Clever.

"Oh, we know we can come off sounding nuts," says Clever co-founder Stefania Pomponi. "Business journals will pooh-pooh companies that use Myers-Briggs," which dates from the 1920s, and was created by a mother-daughter pair inspired by the work of Carl Jung.

"Consider that these are just data points in big buckets," she continues. "And just fun."

The whole slate of tests is known internally as "Office Astrology." Because, as co-founder Cat Lincoln says, everyone knows his or her sign. And, as with astrology, certain individuals find the whole exercise extremely useful, most find it amusing, and few take it entirely seriously.

Lincoln is among those who find the slightly tongue-in-cheek diagnostics systems legitimately useful. "I'm an introvert. So I'm going to need a little more time to process something -- and it's good if others know that. Stefania is an extrovert, so she might want to talk out her thoughts."

Clever, as a company, is entirely virtual. It was founded as Clever Girls in 2009 by former grade-school friends Lincoln and Pomponi, along with Kristy Sammis, who is the company's chief operations officer, creative director, and also has a co-founder title. It came of age alongside influencer marketing, which entails enlisting high-profile individuals to endorse products over social media. (Remember Batkid? Clever created the social-media campaign behind it.) While a bunch of Clever's employees are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of the 50 staffers are scattered around the United States, working from home.

This means Slack is the water cooler for Clever's dozens of salespeople, creatives, and managers. It's the powder room. It's the elevator. Employees bond by sharing their favorite cheesy Christmas movie recommendations in the channel #holiday-party-2016, and they celebrate big sales announcements in a channel called #gong.

"Without the face-time, its easy to have miscommunication," explained Lincoln over a good old-fashioned phone call last week. "So we have them do a Myers-Briggs test. And during on-boarding, all of our employees do a StrengthsFinder assessment. It's 25 minutes or so."

Knowing each hire's Myers-Briggs profile has indeed illuminated some interesting data. The most popular code amongst Clever's employees is ENFJ, which, according to the Myers-Briggs foundation, is typically represented by just 2 to 5 percent of the population. It's a self-confident, energetic type -- and commonly associated with being a "giver" or "mentor." ENTJ, which is a personality type known as the "commander" or "entrepreneur," is also fairly common at Clever. (You'll notice both of these types share certain letters, including the E for "extrovert." Here's more on Myers-Briggs.)

There's something slightly obvious about the results, according to Pomponi. "Because we are female-owned, and most employees are women, as a culture we have something of an empathetic tendency. It's a fun and challenging place to work -- not cutthroat. Not cold or cut off. 'Softer,' if that makes sense," she says. The founders explain that even though it's necessary for all Clever employees to be self-starters comfortable with working from home, they are also a social bunch, and lots of employees in various cities around the United States get together weekly to work in a coffee shop or Breather space. (And they document it all on Clever's #where-I-work Slack channel, of course.)

All this analysis seems to be both fun and illuminating enough for Clever that the company has dabbled in taking it in more extreme directions. At employee retreats and get-togethers, breezy, BuzzFeed-style quizzes also make appearances. "We did a Disney Princess thing one year. We did signs another year," says Lincoln with a chuckle. "It gives people something to belong to, to bond over, and to talk about."

Clever is also unique, as a virtual company, in that its managers don't conduct annual performance reviews. Instead, they focus on immediately identifying moments worthy of praise or constructive criticism -- and dole it out on the spot. They also give impromptu raises and promotions.

"In the age of social media, when you can get instantaneous feedback, why wait months and months for feedback?" Pomponi says. "All [of us founders] having been at companies before, there were certain things we decided we didn't want to do."

Instead, they've found a new way. It may involve Slacking GIFs of Snow White or Jasmine to your colleague -- because you know their secret princess identity.

But, hey: They know yours, too.

Published on: Dec 12, 2016