There is no mistake more costly, in terms of money, effort, and time, than a hiring mistake. It takes just one bad apple to spoil the barrel--and that's especially true for leanly-staffed startups. When you're building a business, every single hire must be the right hire.

For any role at LexION, the first step of the interview process is a test. We do this before a phone screen or any next interview. Our test is an inventory based on the Kiersey test, an adaptation of the classic Myers-Briggs; there are easily over a dozen different options, all geared in a slightly different way. Successful businesses from McKinsey to Gilt Groupe to Makerbot use these objective psychology-based measures to help inform hiring decisions.

When these tests work well, they can create your best team.

Personality Test Basics

Anyone can interview well, but what does that mean? It means they interviewed well. End of story. Interviewing well doesn't actually mean they are a good fit for the job. People with introverted personality types often find interviewing much harder than those who are naturally tendency is extroverted so an introvert who is actually be perfect for a certain type of position just may not shine as brightly across an interview room. Conversely, all those gregarious extroverts who are charming and polished in interview? Probably not as well-suited for a role in a quiet back office where their day-to-day will consist of interacting mostly with a computer screen.

Are there ways to game the test? Well, sure, but we instruct people very specifically to take the test in ten minutes or less, so that they focus on whatever naturally comes to mind first. We tell them that there are no right or wrong answers. And if they try to skew their answers based on what they think we want to see? They are only setting themselves up for a role that doesn't fit, and that will become clear soon enough. Moreover, psychologists show that we are biased to think more highly of people like us. So women may be biased in favor of women, MBAs may be biased towards MBAs, or any number of things. We all tend to be biased toward people who are more attractive, conflating looks with other positive qualities like leadership. It's not pretty, but it's true.

A psychological test is not a be-all, end-all; I would never base a hiring decision off the results alone. It is just one more data point to add to all the information you gather about a prospective hire, including their resume, references, history of achievement, educational credentials, and face-to-face impressions.

However, this particular data point could ultimately be more useful than all the others. It gives you insight into whether a person is, quite simply, naturally suited for a position. Hiring smart means that you set each and every one of your employees up for maximum success. The way to do that is to get people into a role that best aligns with their innate tendencies and talents.

How to hire heroes and dodge zeroes? There’s a test for that.

Next week, I'll discuss how personality data can not only save you from a bad hiring decision, it also saves time on the other side.