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How to hire your first employee

How to Hire Your First Employee Checklist

How to hire your first employee

Creating jobs is one of the most important things that entrepreneurs can do—but hiring your first employee is certainly not the easiest thing you’ll do as you grow your business.

This straightforward checklist on how to hire your first employee will help you get the ball rolling. Before you know it, you’ll be holding your first telephone interview, filling out a W-2 and getting a cake to celebrate your first employee’s one-year anniversary.

>>>>>Want this checklist, simplified and prettified? You can download a graphic version of the how to hire your first employee checklist, right now. (It's really great.) 

We Create Jobs Report

1. Ask the question: Are you ready to hire your first employee?

Before you send out a call for applications, are you really ready to hire your first full-time employee?

Hiring because you’re tired, desperate or flailing is not the most solid of motivations (or business decisions). Hire employees because you need new skills on the team, need more time and people-power to take advantage of opportunities or need access to new markets.

One of the the best reasons to hire is because you can’t afford not to. If hiring an employee (or a team) is going to allow your business to make or save money, it’s likely a good thing.

But hold on one more second before we launch into the next section. Once you’ve determined you’re hiring for the right reasons, it’s time to consider what kind of commitment your business needs and can handle.

Before writing job descriptions and mapping hiring processes, take the time to crunch the numbers to figure out if your business is ready to support a full-time employee. Perhaps it’s more fiscally responsible to outsource work with an intern, independent contractor or part-time employee?

We could spend hours drilling down on this important financial decision, but if this is the decision you’re debating right now, we can help. Chat it out with one of our Resource Navigators here or by calling 816-235-6500. (Spoilers: it’ll definitely cost you big-time if you make the wrong decision; getting help from our Resource Navigators is always free.)

2. Define your hiring process.

So you’re ready to hire. Before you offer that job to your sister-in-law’s cousin, hit the pause button and take the time to define your hiring process (which you’ve already started by reading this blog post).

Here’s an idea of the questions you’ll want answered: What hard and soft skills are you looking for? Where will you look for candidates? What interview questions will you ask? Will you do any pre-screening of candidates?

An effective hiring process will increase productivity, improve morale, decrease turnover and reduce legal risks and costs. It is worth your time to codify your hiring process so that you can easily compare and vet candidates, and tailor your process over time to fit the needs of your business.

>>>>>Read about how creating a foolproof hiring process helped Alex Nuñez grow his custom tiling business and increase his revenues by 50-100 percent year over year.

3. Get legal.

We know you want to jump into the exciting part: defining the position, interviewing, celebrating your first employee’s first day, even first anniversary. But first let’s clear out the paperwork. Because, you know, the law.

As is true of all things in business, there’s a lot of paperwork to fill out.

As the employer

You’ll need to get your EIN and set up withholding taxes—all before you hire that first employee.

For your employees

The U.S. Department of Labor will tell you there are 12 records that you as an employer must maintain on each of your employees for the length of their employment, and that’s not including the Internal Revenue Service’s list of tax documents: W4, W2, I-9, 1099. Also be sure to check on your local and state tax obligations.

Review this ten step hiring process to make sure you follow the right steps before and after you hire your first employee. And you can always give us a call at 816-235-6500 and our Resource Navigators will point you in the right direction to get all your legal eagles in flight position.

4. Define the position

Once you’re ready to hire your first employee (and that goes for interns, contractors, part-time or full-time employees), it’s time to figure out what you need your first employee to do and what skills you need to add to your business. Chances are if you’re hiring for the first time you’ll be building out some key positions (like sales or tech) and/or looking to offload some tactical tasks so that you can focus on the vision.

It’s vital that you understand the impact and expectations of the position for internal purposes and that the job description accurately represents the position externally.

As you’re brainstorming the job description, list out all of the job duties to help you determine what the essential functions of the job are. Doing so will help you determine pay (as will similar positions in the marketplace) and whether or not the position is salaried or hourly.

5. Advertise the position

Once you’ve defined job responsibilities and qualifications, it’s time to get your announcement out into the world (and awesome candidates through your doors). Chances are you have a pretty good idea of where your ideal candidates go to look for jobs, but here’s a few to jog your memory:

  • Newspaper classifieds

  • Job fairs

  • Internet (LinkedIn, Facebook, Indeed, etc.)

  • Local jobs boards (Startland News, Nonprofit Connect, etc)

  • School placement offices, internships, co-ops

  • Outplacement and employment agencies

Here are a few pro tips to make sure your bait gets the bites you desire:

  • List position title in the headline of the advertisement

  • Provide specific instructions on how to apply

  • Identify your company as an equal employment opportunity employer

  • Avoid discriminatory references

  • Target a broad geographic area and demographic mix

Now that you have the waters churning, it’s time to take a look at what you reeled in to decide if you’re going to keep what you caught or catch and release and keep fishing.  

6. Prescreen applicants

As the applications, cover letters, resumes and references begin to fill your inbox, it’s time to start to tighten up your funnel. Who is qualified? Who piques your interest? And lastly, who do you wish to vet and learn more about?   

To quickly get to know folks and winnow your river of candidates to a manageable stream: consider conducting pre-screen telephone interviews. Telephone interviews are a great way to screen folks in just 10 to 15 minutes, saving you time and resources. You’ll learn who can show up to phone call on time and get to know a little about how they present themselves and their experience.

Keep in mind:

  • Ask all the candidates the same questions so you can easily compare later.

  • Keep each call to approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Stay away from anything that could potentially discriminate against a protected class. (We could say that on every step of the process, BTW.)

  • Make sure all the inquiries are permissible, pre-employment inquiries. (In short, stick to what’s in the job requirements.)

After the telephone interviews, you can narrow the pool down to the three to five candidates you wish to bring in for an interview. Make your office tidy, and get ready to be one step closer to hiring your first employee.

7. Interview candidates

Job interviews can be enjoyable and intimidating, on both sides of the table. Come prepared: bring a fellow business owner or a trusted mentor if you want some accountability, have a plan and your list of questions.  

Take time before the interview to review the application packets and consider the tone and atmosphere of your interview. It’s probably best that it mirror your style to give candidates a sense of who they will be working with. This is an opportunity for them to see if your business is a good fit for their skills and goals.

Have a solid idea of how the interview will be structured. Fun questions (“What color is your brain” and “What superpower do you want”) are a great way to get a glimpse of someone's personality and how they handle off-kilter situations and end an interview, but the skill-based questions should be job related,open ended and follow these guidelines:

  • Do ask about: references, work schedules, work history, experience, career interests, career goals, professionalism, education and related qualifications, professional associations

  • Don’t ask about: age, religion, race, sex, nationality, genetic information, marital status, number or ages of children, status of living arrangements, personal finances, arrests or convictions, salary expectations, disabilities, past injuries, diseases

During the interview, don’t make any promises and give the interviewee plenty of time to think through answers and ask their own questions.

After the interview, have the "committee" complete an agreed upon interview evaluation form (summarize what you heard, what you liked and what you didn't, so you can easily compare candidates and your first, gut impressions), check references and be sure you are compliant with regulations should you conduct a background check.

If your business demands pre-employment testing, it should be job related and consistent with the business’s needs. Have all candidates complete the same test so that when it comes time to make a decision you can feel good that you compared the candidates fairly and found the best fit for your business.

8. Make a decision

No matter how excited you are after the interviews, slow down, check their references (be sure to ask them all the same questions and document) and ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I get enough information to make a decision?

  • Do I need to schedule any further interviews?

  • Is the candidate qualified to perform the essential functions of the job?

  • Does this person appear to be a good fit with the position and the skills required to do the job well?

  • Did the references confirm the candidate’s qualifications?

  • Would hiring this person for our company be a good decision for our company? Why or why not?

Notice that all of these questions revolve around job-related issues. In case it hasn’t become crystal clear yet, allow us to spell it out—stick to job-related topics so that you can stay away from any discriminatory charges.

Legit reasons to reject a candidate include: not being able to work the required hours, lacks the skills outlined in the job description, failed pre-employment testing, unable to perform the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation or provided inaccurate information during the selection process.  

9. Extend an offer

And now the fun part, time to extend an offer. Confirm everything in writing and make a job offer. Once you get a yes, let the other applicants know that the position has been filled.

We’re getting closer and closer to your first employee’s first day!

10. Complete new hire documentation

If you’re still following the SBA’s handy checklist for hiring your first employee, you should have already set up an EIN and withholding taxes. Which means you still need to:

  • Complete I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for every new hire.
  • Register with your state’s new hire reporting program.
  • Obtain worker’s compensation insurance (while this is a federal requirement, administration is at the state level).
  • Post required notices (Department of Labor and OSHA).
  • File your taxes.
  • Get organized and keep yourself informed.
  • Set up recordkeeping.

And then reach out to us here or at 816-235-6500 to make sure you’re following the right hiring requirements for Missouri or Kansas.

Well, you made it! Get your first employee on the schedule and nail down your onboarding process. Then welcome them to the team.

Need extra support in order to begin hiring?

Need to get yourself in a class? Want to dive deeper into these questions with actual humans? We and our resource partners are ready to help. So whether you’re trying to figure out if you need an employee or an independent contractor, need assistance nailing down your hiring process or want some more specifics on regulations in Kansas or Missouri, send us some info here and we will be in touch ASAP with your free personalized action plan.

Big thanks to SCORE Kansas City and Paychex whose awesome workshop “Employee Life Cycle: Interviewing, Hiring & What Comes Next” is to thank for much of this information.

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