Hiring Your First Employee
Q: I am going to be hiring my first employee soon after the New Year. What can you tell me about how to do it right? — Maria
A: Hiring any employee, but especially your first one, is one of the most important decisions you will make in your small business. Because most small businesses have less than 10 employees (in fact, most have between one and four), whom you hire will make a big difference, both inside and outside the business.
Within the business, your first employee will help set the tone and the culture of the business. Because you will be working with this person a lot, it goes without saying that a personality mesh is as important as their skills, background and experience. And because your employee will also be representing you and your business to the outside world, how well he or she does that is equally critical.
The hiring process can be broken down into four steps: Planning, Recruitment, Interviews and Offers.
1. Planning: This may be, surprisingly, the most crucial step in the process. What you must do is to really figure out what it is the person will do. Because so many small businesses begin with one person doing what they love, often the challenge when bringing in a new person is to figure out what you will not do and then delegate that.
So what is it exactly that you want the person to do? What will be their duties? What will their job title be? Create a list of job responsibilities and key duties.
After that, consider what sorts of skills are needed for someone to fulfill those duties. The skills required to be a successful project manager are different that what are needed to be a great salesperson or an effective secretary. Be as specific as possible.
Next, consider experience. Decide whether someone new to the workplace (who will cost you less) will suffice or whether experience is more important. What sort of education level (or other training) is needed?
Finally, consider how you want the person to work. Do you need a team player or someone who works well alone? Is initiative more important than coachability? Are organizational skills more important than creativity? Do you want an introvert or an extrovert?
Once you have a laser-like idea of what sort of person you want, you need to draft a detailed job description matching that. According to the Internet job site Monster.com, a good job description serves several functions:
- It entices the right candidates to apply
- It focuses your screening process towards only the right sort of applicants
- It helps you make a good first impression
2. Recruitment: According to Monster, the Internet is the most cost-effective way to attract the sort of candidates you want to apply for your job, averaging $377 per hire. Aside from an online job listing, other ways to attract applicants include:
- Classified ads
- Job fairs
- Print ads
- Employment agencies
- Executive search firms
Once you receive a good pool of applicants, weed some out and set up interviews for the rest. Remember this however: The best resume is not the only criteria to consider; look for that magic "X Factor." (I was not the best law student — by a long shot! — but I got one of the most coveted jobs out of law school because the firm realized I had more to offer than being able to get an 'A' in Civil Procedure.)
3. Interviews: Because you took so much time to really think through what the job will entail and what sort of background, experience, skills, and personality you want your new employee to have (you did, right?), interviewing should be a straightforward affair. While the questions you prepare in advance need to reflect these priorities, keep these tips in mind:
- Ask unexpected questions. "Where do you want to be in five years?" will elicit canned responses and be less helpful than giving the person a typical work scenario and asking them to explain how they would handle it and why.
- Ask challenging questions. What was their worst job? Why? "Name a roadblock you have faced at work and how did you handle it?"
- Listen more, speak less.
4. Make the offer: To get great employees, you need to offer a competitive package. Go to Monster.com or Salary.com to see what other employers are paying and offering for similar positions. Although many small businesses cannot afford to pay what big corporations do, we can offer valuable, intangible benefits like flex-time, job-sharing, telecommuting, and growth potential.
5. Get your forms in order. Our friends here at Greatland make it easy.
Today's Tip: Other places to get information about hiring your first employee are SBA.gov, Inc.com, USChamber.com, and IRS.gov.
© 2010 Steven D. Strauss, www.MrAllBiz.com