Building Your Empire: How to Hire Your First Employees at a Small Business

Business.com / Hiring / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here are some suggestions for how to hire your first small business employees from someone who has been there.

If you're like most small business owners, you began your company with a couple of people and a big dream.

But if you're now at the stage where you’re thinking of hiring outsiders, then you likely already put in a significant amount of time and sweat equity into your business. It makes sense then that you are concerned about making the right hires.

Hiring your first employee can be anxiety provoking for many founders since the right people could make the difference between your company succeeding or failing.

These first hires also contribute significantly to creating your company's culture. But how do you make those right hiring decisions? How do you even know what's right for your company?

Here are some suggestions for how to hire your first employees from someone who has been there.   

1. When You Need to Hire 

Most startup founders begin doing everything themselves. This is partly out of necessity, but it's also because many want things done in a particular way. Having hands-on control of many aspects of your new company can be useful, but it also can be damaging. After a point, a founder can no longer do everything. If they try to, the trade-offs they have to make about what to prioritize can sometimes compromise or limit the company's growth.

A good indication that you should consider hiring outside help is if your growth is limited because of your lack of time, capacity, or skills. Sometimes you need expertise or skills to help your company that none of the founders currently has and it's necessary to look outside for help.

In other situations, the opportunity cost of spending your time working on a certain task or project is higher than the amount you would pay someone else to do it. If your company is experiencing these challenges, then it’s time to hire.

Here is a helpful guide from a fellow Business.com contributor about hiring employees on a limited budget.

Related Article:How Onboarding Can Make Or Break Your New Hire's Success

2. How to Design the Position 

The next thing you need to figure out is exactly what your company needs. Do a skills assessment of the people currently on your team to determine where there are gaps. If you can bring a new employee on board who can help to fill all of these gaps then that would be ideal, but that’s often not the case. That means that you should prioritize which skills you are most important.

For example, if you need administrative support think through exactly what type of help you require. Will the admin employee be scheduling appointments, handling paperwork, or doing bookkeeping? These types of tasks might require a totally different skill set.  

Since you're a small company you should also consider amalgamating positions that would usually be distinct like project management and social media marketing or making the position part-time. 

Related Article:90 Days to Prove Yourself: The Power of a Probationary Period

3. How to Attract the Right Candidates

The next thing that you need to do is figure out how to make the position attractive to the type of candidate you would like to hire.  A key part of doing so is setting up an attractive and competitive pay and benefits package. Since you don't have a set benefits program yet, you can be more creative than other companies. 

For example, if you're looking to recruit Millennial employees it makes sense to offer them student loan repayment assistance. Many Millennials are graduating college with significant amounts of debt. In fact, the average amount of debt Millennials graduate with is $35,000.

If your company is offering a unique benefit like this, these candidates will be more likely to prefer to work for you than your competitor. Since you’re a startup, you should also consider offering equity to new employees as an additional incentive.

Another way to attract the right candidates is to advertise in places that they're likely to look. Take advantage of social media and consider providing a monetary bounty to people who refer you to a successful candidate.

Related Article:4 Hiring Metrics That Will Make A Difference This Year

4. How to Make the Right Hire

The next step to making the right hire is to have in-depth conversations among the founders about what kind of culture here company wants to have. It's important to know exactly what kind of candidate you're looking for before you start interviewing.

If you're looking for someone who is hardworking and creative, then make that clear in the job description and design the interview to learn more about these qualities. That could mean coming up with the right questions or it might mean designing a creative challenge for the candidate. Also, make sure that you call the candidate’s references before hiring, many people can interview well but don’t make good employees.

If you follow these tips, you will likely be able to not just attract the best employees for your startup, you’ll also be able to keep them around.

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