Any small business owner knows the dream of expanding and hiring their first employee.

Not only is hiring your first employee a sign that things are moving in the right direction, but it also presents an opportunity to grow and scale in ways you haven’t been able to before. 

And while the hiring process may seem challenging to navigate, especially as you go about it for the very first time, there’s a way to ensure it’s done correctly so you find the right candidate. 

Questions to ask before hiring your first employee

Before getting down to making a first hire, it’s a smart idea for organizations to look inward and ask themselves a few questions. 

  • “Are we busy enough?”: Companies that go through highs and lows in terms of cash flow or are busy during certain seasons may be tempted to make their first hire when times are extremely busy and sales are on the rise. Businesses should keep in mind that if they want to hire a full-time employee, there needs to be enough work for the employee, even when times are a bit slow. If there isn’t, hiring a temp or seasonal employee may be the way to go.
  • “Are we financially ready?”: Hiring an employee comes with a price tag, and it’s often not exactly cheap. Not only do you have to pay someone a salary or hourly wage, but there’s also the cost of running an ad for the role and running a background check. Additionally, it takes time and energy to check resumes and interview candidates. 
  • Will hiring take our business to the next level?”: Businesses that want to grow and scale in a new area or sector may not be able to do so without a new employee who offers a new level of experience and skill. Hiring the right talent can potentially be the in a business needs to grow.
  • “Do we have time to deal with the logistics?”: When deciding to hire, a company needs to comply with specific laws and regulations regarding anti-discrimination. Additionally, there are legal obligations to get an employee’s Social Security Number or Social Insurance Number. It’s also necessary to set up a payroll system, obtain a registered business number, and fill out and organize various tax forms.  

Keep it on record

Interviewing candidates can be overwhelming. Keep all your interview notes in one place so they’re easily referenceable. Try using a tool like Fellow!

8 tips for hiring your first employee

Once you’ve got the answers you set out to find and you’re ready to find your very first employee, follow these eight tips so nothing falls through the cracks.

1 Figure out what you can afford

We mentioned above that hiring an employee can be costly, so it’s essential to run the numbers and determine what you can afford. We’re talking more than just salary — as an employer, you’ll have to consider things like:

  • How much you’ll pay in taxes, like the Employer Health Tax and Workplace Safety and Insurance costs
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Necessary expenses, like equipment, hardware and software, benefits, and more

You’ll also want to run the numbers to figure out whether a full-time employee is necessary or whether it would make more sense to go with a part-time or contract member of the team.

2 Hire for potential, not just experience

The next step in hiring your first employee is understanding how to see potential and not just scan a resume for experience. A first hire needs to have a strong interest in the organization and a passion for selling the product or service. You’ll also want to look for someone excited about joining the team and see how they can help take the organization to the next level.

Additionally, consider your own strengths and weaknesses and hire someone who excels in the areas in which you could use a little help. 

3 Attract your ideal candidate

Before posting details about the role and hopefully making your first hire, consider the type of individual you’d like to have join the organization. Make a list of details like characteristics, skills, qualifications, and personality traits you’d like an ideal candidate to possess. Knowing these details ahead of time will make creating a job post even easier.

For example, if you’re looking for someone who can work independently or for an individual who’s organized, consider the qualities they’d have to possess so you can identify them during an interview.

4 Create a detailed job description

Getting the details of a job description right is crucial to not only find the candidate you hope to hire, but also to ensure it stands out from the crowd of your competitors. The job description should let a candidate know more about the role and what they can expect when working with your organization. 

When writing a job description, include these elements to attract top talent:

  • Job title
  • Summary of the role
  • Company overview
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Preferred skills
  • Perks and benefits
  • Job type: remote or in person
  • Salary range

5 Have applicants demonstrate skill

Being able to answer interview questions with charisma and charm is one thing, but being able to demonstrate the skills you have is another. Because of this, it’s crucial that an organization, especially one making their first hire, takes the time to vet someone by asking them to complete a job-related task. 

For example, organizations may want to give a candidate a test project to complete that demonstrates how they’d be right for the role. Try to provide limited guidance and see how the candidate can complete the assignment on their own. Or, a candidate may give you insight into their experience and skill set by asking certain questions about the task.

Asking for this type of test can help narrow down candidates and weed out the ones that aren’t the right fit.

6 Check references

Once you’ve found a candidate you believe is right for the job, it’s time to check their references. Checking references provides an opportunity to review the candidate’s experience with collaboration, responsibility levels, honesty, and ability to do the role you’re hiring for. 

While an impressive resume and a professional interview can go a long way, speaking with someone who has worked with this individual on a professional level gives you even more insights into whether the candidate would be a good fit to join your organization. 

7 Formally welcome them to the team

When the references check out, it’s time to formally welcome the candidate to your team! 

Doing so begins with an offer letter, which is the verbal offer of employment that outlines the terms, conditions, and details like the:

  • Official job title
  • Agreed upon compensation
  • Start date
  • Benefits

Hopefully the candidate accepts, but you should be prepared to adjust the offer letter if they have questions or if a detail takes them by surprise.

8 Set them up for success with an onboarding

Finally, it’s up to you to set your new hire up for success with an exceptional onboarding experience. This onboarding should go well beyond their first day and extend into the first week, month, and beyond! Since this is your first hire, you’ll likely have to build an onboarding process from the ground up. 

For starters, you’ll want to send them a welcome email to help calm the first day jitters. Then, if the role is in person, get everything ready for them to arrive. This includes their desk, a computer, a chair, a parking pass or building card, any potential building or bathroom codes, and a copy of the employee handbook.

Show them around the office and even take them out to lunch on their first day! You’ll also want to get them up to speed with any goals for the first few weeks, set our clear expectation, and let them know how you’ll measure their success.

The more you know!

Although it may seem daunting or stressful, remember that hiring your first employee is exciting!  It’s a major step for any organization, so you want to make sure to take the time to do things right. Once you decide to grow the company even further, take what you learned the first time around and see if you can tweak the process a bit. Remember, once you’ve hired your first employee, it’s usually a lot easier to hire your second, third, fourth, and beyond to build your dream team.