Hiring your first employee is a significant milestone in your business’s growth. You go from self-employed to business owner, from employee to employer, and from dreamer to shot-caller.
Hiring help allows you to focus less on busy work and more on developing your business.
If you’ve been the only one steering your company since the beginning, it can feel uncomfortable to hand some control over to a stranger.
You’re probably filled with anxious questions like:
- Will they perform well?
- Will they ruin my customer relationships?
- Will I just have to redo all of their work?
- Will they be unresponsive?
- Will they be overbearing?
Hiring your first employee is a nerve-wracking process with no shortage of nail-biting concerns — but it’s necessary for growth.
The key to landing the perfect employee is a well-developed hiring process. Use the time between writing your job description and pinpointing a few potential candidates to answer your own questions and alleviate your concerns.
You want to be enthusiastic about the handshake that finalizes your first hire.
In this guide, we’ve explained how to hire your first employee so you can make the most out of this big step in your business’s growth.
Here you’ll learn:
- When you should think about hiring your first employee
- Where you should look for potential employees
- How to perform an initial background check
- What kinds of questions to ask when you’re interviewing
- How to onboard your new employee
When Should You Think About Hiring Your First Employee?
Timing is critical when you bring on your first employee. Hire too early and you’ll be spending precious capital you should use to develop your business. Hire too late, and you run the risk of missing deadlines, sacrificing quality, and falling short of client expectations.
Both outcomes can spell disaster for your new business.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of timing. The ideal time to hire will fluctuate from business to business. However, there are a few signs that it might be time to hire your first employee.
- Your business is growing steadily and future projections indicate further growth on the horizon.
- Your business is generating more demand than you can feasibly handle on your own without reducing quality or timeliness.
- You have sufficient cash flow to put towards an employee’s pay without harming other areas of your business.
Steps to Hire Your First Employee
After taking a long, hard look at your business, you’ve decided to start building a team.
Now, it’s time to develop an effective hiring process.
Different employers develop various hiring strategies based on their personal preferences and business needs.
However, most hiring processes follow the same general structure:
- Conduct a talent search
- Perform a background check
- Interview candidates
- Onboard your new hire
Let’s look at these four steps for hiring your first employee in greater detail.
1. Search for Potential Employees
Before you can identify the best candidate to hire, you should clarify your needs. Think about what kind of work you’ll assign to your employee. Do you need a salesperson, writer, data analyst, researcher, or something else?
Define the role’s responsibilities clearly so it’s easier to hone in on the kind of professional you need. The more specific your job description is, the greater chance you have of finding a perfect match.
Once you’ve narrowed down the specifics of the role you’re looking to fill, it’s time to build your job listing.
Your job listing should explain:
- What potential employees can expect from the position
- What kind of experience is required
- What kind of skills are needed
- What level of education is ideal
A clear description limits confusion, prevents under- or overqualified individuals from applying, and saves time for everyone involved. To further save time you can also create an application. Unlike resumes, an application lets you ask important questions that are specific to your company and the position.
When you’re satisfied with your job posting, it’s time to send it out. To get the highest-quality leads when hiring your first employee, take your listing to websites where experienced professionals look for work.
Major recruiting websites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Monster make it easy for employees to find your job opening based on their experience, work history, and skills. Try to find industry-specific job boards for an even more targeted approach.
2. Perform a Background Check
According to a 2017 study from HireRight, 85% of applicants lie on their resumes. It may be concerning, but don’t let that statistic keep you from finding the best employee possible.
Understandably, most job-seekers will spotlight their best qualities while conveniently glossing over their less-than-ideal habits. When hiring your first employee, you can verify the information candidates give you by performing a background check.
Start by looking at their work history. Take note of anything out of the ordinary — like major gaps in employment or significant shifts in profession — and ask about these things during the interview. Potential hires tend to be more forthcoming during an interview than on their resume or the application.
Additionally, ask for references — at least one personal (family members or friends) and two professional (past employers).
Don’t ask for references just because it’s standard. When you’ve narrowed down your search to a few top candidates, take the time to call their references.
Ask some objective questions about the employee’s:
- Reasons for leaving
You should also ask a few questions that are relevant to the job you are hiring for. And, depending on the scope of the work, you might need to conduct a criminal background check and/or drug test.
3. Conduct Effective Interviews
You’ve already identified a few potential employees and double-checked their credentials. Now, it’s time to see which candidate is the best match for your business.
Good old-fashioned interviews are crucial when you’re hiring your first employee. Even when they’re short and sweet, face-to-face interviews will help you separate the good candidates from the best candidate.
Since you’re the main person your first employee will be working with, the interview is an excellent time to set expectations. You can choose to keep the interview fun and loose or straightforward and professional — as long as it reflects your personality and work style.
Come prepared with a series of pertinent questions for each potential hire.
Ask each candidate about anything you found interesting or concerning on their resume or application. Just be sure to avoid asking anything illegal. Generally, anything related to immutable characteristics (i.e., sex, age, medical conditions) is strictly off-limits.
Take some time to go over the job description again to make sure they understand what they’ll be asked to do. It’s also essential to clarify expectations regarding salary, scheduling, vacation days, benefits, and other job-related specifics.
Depending on the type of work you’ll be asking the employee to do, it can also be a good idea to get an example of their work. You can request a sample with the initial application, or give them a test assignment after the interview. If you use their work in any practical way or are asking for a lot of their time to complete a test, you should compensate them for their efforts so they aren’t being taken advantage of.
4. Onboarding Your First Employee
The process of hiring your first employee doesn’t end when you choose the ideal candidate. Once that person accepts the job offer, you need to begin the legally-intensive and document-heavy process of employee onboarding.
First and foremost, you need to choose what type of employment you’re offering in a legal sense. Most hirees will be classified as either an independent contractor or standard employee.
In general, independent contractors work on their own schedule and standard employees follow a set schedule. This distinction determines whether you pay taxes as an employer and what you can legally require of your employee.
Your new hire will need to fill out the appropriate tax form based on their employment classification. A W-2 form is usually associated with standard employees, while a 1099 form is for independent contractors.
It’s also a good idea to put together an employment contract. Getting your employment terms in writing will protect you and your new employee. Exactly what goes into your contract will vary depending on your business, but they commonly include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and a non-compete agreement.
Once legal matters are out of the way, there will still be quite a bit of onboarding left. You’ll need to get your new employee acquainted with your website and any software you use for organization, communication, and payments. If you haven’t considered using these resources before, hiring your first employee means it’s time to start thinking about it.
Every new business owner wonders how to hire new employees effectively. After all, your team can make or break the future of your company.
An employee that’s a great fit in terms of qualifications and attitude can launch your business to new heights. A poor employee who’s incompetent and lazy can drag your organization into the mud.
When it comes to hiring, there’s a learning curve that you’ll master over time. But, if you look for your first employee in the right places, make sure they’re qualified, and ask good questions in the interview, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with the right employee for your growing business.