If you’re running your own business and finding there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all your work done, it may be time to hire your first employee.
But for many business owners, that idea is daunting. What if you hire the wrong person? What if your business slows down and you no longer need an extra worker? How can you possibly come up with a job description for a person who may have to wear many hats?
These questions are completely justified, but you can minimize your anxiety about them by going through the hiring process in a careful, step-by-step manner, says Phyllis Hartman, SPHR, a human resources consultant in Ingomar, Penn., who works with many small businesses. “It’s much wiser to spend extra time up front to make sure you hire the right person,” she says. “Letting an employee go because they weren’t a good fit, and having to hire again, is much more time-consuming.”
Here are some tips when hiring for first time:
Assess both your skills and your “pain”: Think carefully about what you do well in your business and the tasks with which you aren’t comfortable or fall short. Hire someone to “fill your gaps”—do the things you can’t—rather than to be a copy of yourself. For instance, if you’re a great strategic thinker, but terrible with details, your first hire may need to be an administrative assistant or bookkeeper.
Hire an experienced worker for a short stint: If you just can’t settle on a clear job description, Hartman suggests hiring someone who’s not an entry-level worker—just for a few months. Be clear that the job is temporary, and you’d like the person’s help defining the new role. Recent retirees can be a great resource. After the temp period, you’ll know better what skills you need in your first permanent employee.
Write a clear, honest job description: Once you know what kind of employee you’re hiring, refine your “help wanted” ad by reading online job descriptions for similar positions. And be honest about the tasks involved: If you’re hiring an administrative assistant but need the person to update your social media pages, occasionally empty the trash or make runs to the office-supply store, say that up front so there’s no misunderstanding. Post your job ad on Internet job boards, websites for professional organizations to which you belong, and your state’s job service (a local website for your state’s unemployed workers to job-search).
Learn about employment laws: Familiarize yourself with the questions you’re legally allowed to include on employment applications, questions you may ask in interviews, and any accessibility issues you may need to disclose about the required work (i.e. whether heavy lifting is required). The Small Business Administration or your local Chamber of Commerce may be able to help. It also may be a good time to consider employment practices liability coverage, which can help protect you in the event that an employee files a complaint against your company, especially if you don’t have a human resources professional at your company.
Do a good background check: Hartman suggests asking job candidates for three professional references, at least one of which is a former boss. Call them all—you’ll see patterns in the information they share, and you’ll be better prepared to choose the worker who is the best fit.
Get payroll help: Even if you only hire one employee, Hartman strongly suggests using a payroll service. They can help ensure that your worker’s taxes and withholdings are handled correctly. A payroll service can also make sure employees get important legal notices that you might not know about otherwise. Their help can let you focus on more important things—namely, getting that new employee up to speed on your business.
Hiring your first employee is a big undertaking, but these tips can help you find the right candidate to help your business grow.
This guest post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.