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How to Hire Your First Employee

Hiring your first employee is exciting, but it can also be a daunting task. An employee can bring new skills, perspective and the bandwidth needed to take your business to the next level — but the hiring process can be difficult to navigate without hiring experience or a dedicated HR team.

Below, we walk you through the process of hiring your first employee from start to finish, starting with determining your needs and recruiting high quality candidates to making the right first hire for your growing business.

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Is it time to hire your first employee?

To help you decide if it’s the right time to hire your first employee, define a potential role by keeping a list of routine tasks that need to be completed daily and weekly, special upcoming projects that require a specific skill set and any work a potential employee could do throughout the week when everything else is finished.

When you have a list of at least 20 hours per week of ongoing tasks and several planned projects, it may be time to consider hiring your first employee. Here are four steps to help you hire the right person for your business:

  1. Prepare for the hiring process
  2. Attract the right applicants
  3. Identify your top candidates
  4. Bring your top candidate onboard

1. Prepare for the hiring process

There are a few preparation and housekeeping tasks to consider before starting the hiring process, including budget and legal obligations. Here’s what to consider before posting your job:

Decide what you can afford

Hiring your first employee often costs more than just their salary. As an employer, you may be required to pay state payroll taxes, unemployment taxes and workers’ compensation, as well as other expenses like equipment, workspace and benefits.

Consider whether it makes more sense to hire a full-time, part-time or contract employee. An independent contractor can help with specific projects on a temporary basis with little overhead costs. However, a permanent employee will have a stronger sense of company loyalty and long-term commitment to your vision.

Take care of your legal obligations

Although it may seem intimidating, navigating the legal aspects of hiring a new employee simply comes down to filling out a few forms and complying with certain regulations.

Here are some steps you should consider to hire a new full-time employee in the US:

Related: What Are ER Taxes? A Guide to Employer Taxes

Get ready for your first employee

2. Attract the right applicants

Next up is getting the right candidates to apply for your open role — starting with figuring out who you’re looking for and transforming that wish list into a compelling job description.

Imagine your ideal candidate

Before posting your job, write down the characteristics, skills and qualifications you’re looking for in your ideal candidate. These attributes will help you craft a job description that attracts the most suitable applicants for your role. For example, you might imagine your first employee as being a self-starter with a growth mindset. Identifying these qualities early on will help you spot the perfect candidate when they’re sitting in front of you.

Create a compelling job description

For small businesses, getting the job posting right is critical for standing out in a crowd of big competitors. Start with an engaging summary of the role and clearly describe what the job entails. To attract candidates who enjoy working at small companies, explain that you’re hiring your first employee and are excited to be expanding your business.

Find the best talent for your open position by including the following elements in your job description:

  • Accurate job title
  • Overview of your company
  • Key job duties and responsibilities
  • Required and preferred skills
  • Working conditions (e.g., environment, physical demands, travel requirements)
  • Salary or pay range (optional)
  • Employee benefits or perks

We’ve compiled job description samples for over 600 jobs to help you attract the most qualified candidates.

3. Identify your top candidates

Once you’ve attracted several applicants to your job posting, it’s time to screen your candidates to determine who should move forward in the hiring process.

Conduct pre-employment screening

Find out which applicants meet your basic requirements and desired skill level by:

Interview promising applicants

During the interview process, ask questions that will reveal if your candidate’s vision aligns with yours, as well as broader questions to learn how they respond in difficult situations, what motivates them and if they have the ability to drive business value.

Look for the following qualities and attitudes in your candidate’s answers:

  • Flexibility
  • Grit and resilience
  • Passion
  • Culture fit
  • Versatility
  • Sense of accountability
  • Competitive drive

Check out our list of interview questions for over 500 jobs to help you hire for a specific role or skill.

Check your candidate’s references

Calling your top candidates’ references will give you an opportunity to assess their honesty, collaboration skills and ability to do the job. Beyond resumes and interviews, speaking with someone who has worked directly with your candidates will provide you with insights into whether or not they’re the right fit for your company.

Related: Sample Reference Checklist: a Form for Your Business

4. Bring your top candidate onboard

When you’ve narrowed it down to the top candidate, it’s time to offer them the job and welcome them to your business and their new role. Here’s how to get things off to the right start:

Send an offer letter

After making a verbal offer to your top candidate, send an official job offer letter. Your offer letter should explain the terms and conditions of employment and include job details, such as:

  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Deadline for accepting/declining the offer
  • At-will statement

Welcome your new hire to the team

An exceptional onboarding experience sets your new employee up for success in their first days, weeks, months and beyond. It also gives them the tools they need to start making an immediate impact. To help your first hire feel empowered in their new role, consider planning out their first month in detail. Offering specific goals and clear expectations will help you measure their success and give them something to work towards.

Related: Employee 30-60-90 Day Plan Template

There’s a lot to think about when hiring your first employee — from determining your budget, to taking care of your legal obligations to actually finding and hiring the right person to help grow your business. But by following these steps (and checking with a legal professional), you can make sure you’re covering all of your bases to make the right first hire.

The best part is, once you’ve hired your first employee, it’s often a lot easier to hire your second, third, fourth and beyond to build a great team.

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*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.