If you’re planning to start a new venture and are worried about hiring your first few employees, you must read this article till the end. When I started my consulting firm Digiexe.com, I also faced these challenges and frankly speaking, made a few mistakes too. I hired my first employee through Facebook in 2014 and today he is leading a crucial project individually as a partner. And although 2020 was a nightmare for the entire world, I hired a team of 30+ interns—12 of them I retained as full-time employees.
Remember: Human capital is the only resource that money alone can’t buy. You must know the art of attracting talent.
With this guide, I’m going to share some of the time-tested tips that, if applied properly, will act as a sure-shot formula to hire your first employee.
Ground level preparation
I see a problem with most of the solopreneurs or small businesses when they decide to hire their initial workforce: There are no defined rules, tasks, and processes set for each job role.
Even if you get success in attracting the best talent from the industry, you will not be able to retain them. If things are not planned well, it will not only lead to “early attrition” but will also be a financial loss to your business.
While I recommend closing the open position quickly, I also recommend small businesses prepare well before hiring your first employee.
1. Create a competitive job description
Your employee will always ask for the task you expect them to do. Every organization (no matter the size) must have the job roles and key responsibility areas (KRAs) well documented so that you are never throwing a random task towards your team.
People will only deliver and feel accountable when you have goals and tasks discussed in advance. Ask yourself, how will you differentiate between a performer and an under-performer?
Also, find out the level of experience you require. A few tasks are made for less experienced workers only, so be open to hiring varying levels. All of us want growth and look forward to more challenges and responsibilities, so be realistic with your expectations.
2. Define your budget
Be ready with your budget, especially if you’re a small business owner who handles your own finances. You need to plan two things here:
- COH: Cost of hiring, that you can afford. For example, consultant fees, newspaper ads, and related expenses.
- Recurring cost: Salaries that you can afford every month. For the first few months, when there will be a learning curve, your new employee or employee may be ramping up their productivity. Decide a salary that you can afford in every situation.
3. Be ready to get your hands dirty
You have a job description ready and your financials are also planned. Now, it’s time to plan your day in such a way that you yourself can provide your training. How do you think your first few employees will get training and get accustomed to your business’s needs?
I love this saying: “In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.” ― Phil Collins
The first employee will be like your newly born baby. Don’t expect them to perform if you don’t have time to invest and train them.
I love Teachable for its world-class online course creation tools. I’ve even selected a few courses from Teachable creators as compulsory courses for my new hires. On Teachable, industry veterans have launched beautiful courses of every type. Instead of hiring a full-time trainer for small setups, it may be a wise decision to enroll your employees in an online course (like those of Teachable creators) that can be beneficial. (Check out my honest Teachable review on my blog for more info on creating courses.)
Of course, you also want your new hire or hires to be well-versed in your own business. Require them to take your course or participate in a coaching session with you.
Once you’re done and dusted with all of the preparation mentioned above, it’s time to look at the methods of hiring.
Proven strategies to hire your first employee
Now I will take you through some of the steps that are time tested ways to hire your “founding team members” and scale your small business.
1. Campus hiring
If you are planning to hire some of the “freshers”, campus hiring can save you a lot of hiring costs. Oftentimes this is almost a zero COH and a win-win situation for both companies and colleges. Reach out to the placement teams of M.B.A. or Engineering programs (depending upon your business needs) to find possible new hires.
Prepare a list of local colleges to connect to over LinkedIn or email and find out the salary you need to pay in order to get an invitation for hiring from the college placement teams.
Pro-tip: Consider hiring interns for short-term projects. Candidates that are placed as interns for short-term summer or winter projects are generally sourced against small remunerations called stipends.
According to a recent study, LinkedIn today has over 740 million visitors across the globe. Connecting with an entry-level resource to a CXO level employee is just as easy as connecting to an old friend on Facebook. You can easily create posts with relevant hashtags that immediately catch the attraction of job seekers. The best part is that creating a post for hiring purposes on LinkedIn is that it’s free.
However, be aware that it doesn’t always work. LinkedIn hiring is often dependent upon the network of members in your community.
What to do then? The answer is: “LinkedIn Job Post”
If you don’t know how to create your first job posting, here is a step by step guide for you:
- Ensure you have a LinkedIn Id
- Create an official page for your company
- Click on Jobs
- Describe the job and skill set you need
- Define your budget
- Review the post and click “Checkout”
On the basis of location preferences and the skill set you have defined, LinkedIn will market your job to relevant candidates. LinkedIn is one of the best platforms to use to hire a first employee as you can see the entire profile of an applicant and they’re recommendations by connections.
I personally check the last 30 days’ “activities”, which also tells me a lot about individual preferences and what’s happening with the candidate. Consider it a kind of background check that you can do for free.
3. Job portals
I have sourced a few candidates using the platforms like “Indeed.com”. Figure out the most popular job portal in your area and opt for a “job post package.” If you need quick hiring, this method works like a charm.
Once you post a job, you get proper resumes. And every candidate comes filtered to your basis the questionnaire you have created. The moment you have the required number of candidates, you can plan the interview date and share the calendar with candidates.
4. Manpower consultants
Sourcing the candidates through manpower consultants leads to the highest cost of hiring. They will charge you anywhere between 4% to 8.33% of annual cost to the company.
But, this is still the best deal as you get a helping hand to close your hiring budgets. Doing everything in-house is easier when you already have a team in place. If you’re a smaller business and you’re looking to hire your first few employees, I recommend you outsource the hiring process.
Of course, never be afraid to reach out to your network and see who may have these hiring skills—or who may be able to fill your business’s needs.
Next up: the major task of interviewing your potential new hire.
Interview tips to hire your first employee quickly
Now for some of the do’s, don’ts to begin your first interview process.
1. Screen every resume and filter the relevant ones
When you post the job, you may find your inbox flooded with resumes. But, not all of them are relevant. A few won’t have the relevant skills or will be a mismatch of salary and location preferences. Look at previous experience, education, and location to figure out the most relevant candidates.
2. Prepare a set of questions unique to every resume
There may be a few questions common to all, but while you screen resumes, you may have some specific questions for each person. As I said before, understanding an employee’s mindset is also important. Only evaluating qualifications and experiences will not suffice.
Today, you can have a virtual interview over the phone or Skype. The first round should be general, with “tell me about yourself” kind of questions as the focus. Check out the interviewee’s level of confidence, the purpose of job change, etc.
4. Discuss your expectations
This is a no-brainer, but it’s still important to discuss. A candidate may take this job as another career opportunity. But for you, as a smaller business or solopreneur—often with a tight budget—this hire may be more crucial. Discussing the job requirements, targets and expectations are key.
Don’t feel like you’re in a rush or under pressure to hire. You want the right fit for your business, after all.
5. Encourage the candidate to ask questions
This is the last step before you finalize the candidate and move ahead with the salary discussion.
Prepare yourself to answer some of the tough questions that a candidate may ask. Generally, these questions are related to a growth path, work culture, perks, and leaves. As a small business owner, you may not be able to offer all of these at the beginning, so be honest with your employee about what they can expect.
First time hires, long term employees
For a business owner, how you use your resources is the key to your success. Remember this when hiring your first employee as well. Prepare yourself in advance, choose the right method to source your new hire, and finally, define your interview process.
Your initial team members will be like your “brand ambassadors” to the world. Their positive words about you as a boss and your brand will help you get to a stage of “passive hiring” in the future when you want to scale even more.