Can Personality Questionnaires assess who will make a successful startupper?

May 8, 2014

When talking to venture capital firms about online selection tools they often ask if there are some common personality traits shared by successful founders. If there was a “successful startupper personality”, one could easily sift out people less likely to thrive and, so, radically improve the effectiveness of investment decisions – goes the rationale.

As it transpires, there is no universal “startupper profile” that founders would need to live up to or otherwise be doomed to failure. Each project and each team is different, therefore so are the competencies/ personalities required by them.

So how can investors and project owners decide who they need on the team?

First, you need to define the challenges the members of the team are likely to face. You can start off this exercise by looking at the various roles the members of the team will take and define the requirements against each of these profiles. You then need to match these requirements against a competency framework (like Talentsift’s) and pinpoint the personality traits you deem most relevant.

These competency scales are likely to differ for each position. For example, when assessing a member of the software design team, one would probably place emphasis on their logical/abstract and numerical reasoning skills, while verbal reasoning abilities are probably less important. On the personality side; analytical thinking, quality focus and resilience are all personality traits desirable for someone in such a role. Following the same logic, the company’s CEO will need very different competencies; including skills in directing others, negotiation & influencing, setting vision & strategy, etc. Being an intensive early stage venture, probably all members of a startup team need to bear competencies like drive & determination, adaptability, or developing skills & knowledge.

Once you have defined the individual profiles you would like to see on your team, you need to double-check whether these cover all competencies you would expect from the team as a whole. If not, you may wish to consider filling those competency gaps by adding new roles to the team.

The final step is running an individual level appraisal for each of the team members, matching the individual against the “ideal” personality profile. Based on the results you can then consider each candidate’s distance from the “ideal profile” and assess where development or support is needed. You can also consider how the group matches against your ideal mix by plotting on a grid where the team is on the scales that have been deemed relevant. This will help you identify the scales where none of the group members are strong and pinpoint where the biggest clashes are likely to be between individuals who are very different.