Top Tips for Taking on Your First Employee

Job interview
Photot: Gangplank HQ / Foter / CC BY

So, you took the huge and daring step to start your own business. It’s been going well, and you’re finding yourself swamped with the amount of work you have to do. Is it time to take on an extra pair of hands?

Many small business owners make the mistake of taking on their first employee either too soon or too late. Deciding when the time is right depends on a number of factors such as workload and profits. They must be high enough to be able to cope with another member of staff, but not too high to the point where you will be too busy to train them adequately. If you decide that you are in the right place to take on your first employee, here are some top tips for finding the right candidate.

Draft the Job Description

Before you start to think about what kind of person you’re looking to take on, you need a good idea of what it is they will be doing in the company. Draw up a list of which tasks you will need them to be able to complete in order to gauge what skills your staff member will need to have. Then make two lists, one of absolutely necessary skills, the other which would be beneficial but aren’t intrinsic to getting the job done. Bear in mind that nobody is perfect, and if you’re looking for a super hero who can do everything you will no doubt be disappointed.

Create a Great Job Advert

In order to attract the best applicants you need to make a great job advert. Be specific, include as much information as you can on the skills required and the specifics of the job role. If you’re unsure how to format the job advert here is a good guide to use.

Advertise the Vacancy

There are many ways to go about getting your vacancy noticed. Try using your network first – let your connections in the industry know you’re hiring, post the vacancy on social media like LinkedIn. It is a good idea to think about advertising the job on job boards too. The big name job boards can be expensive, but there are a lot of smaller companies and websites for specific localities, like ‘Jobs in Manchester’.

Evaluate the Applications

In order to make the right decision you need a well-constructed evaluation process for every application. Use your list of required skills to judge every CV. Compare each individual’s skills to one another. Read into everything carefully – a CV is a fairly limited list of skills but you can gauge a lot about a person in the way they choose to present themselves.

Interview Professionally

You need to plan and prepare to interview applicants just as much, if not more, than they will prepare to be interviewed. Make a list of questions to ask, and another of points to discuss about their CV. Make sure that your questions cover all aspects of their professional ability, and add a few extras in order to get an idea of their personality. Of course you need someone who is capable, but you need to know that you will get along too, and personality is very important. You want to hire someone with the right attitude, rather than a collection of skills. At the end of the day you need someone who mirrors your own drive and enthusiasm whilst also bringing something new to the table.

Don’t be afraid to ask for Help

Taking on your first employee is a huge step for the business, so there is nothing wrong with wanting some assistance in the decision making process. If you think you might benefit from having a second opinion in the interview, you could have a professional friend or family member sit in with you. This can be helpful as they might pick up on things that you yourself miss. You could also get assistance when analysing the applicants or drafting the job description. Big decisions are sometimes too hard to make alone.

Test the Water

Once you feel you have chosen your successful candidate, you will need to discuss formalities like wages and contracts. Whilst you might feel certain you have made the right decision, it is always important to be tentative at first with new business ventures. This individual will be an intrinsic and expensive resource in your growing company, and there is always a chance they won’t fit in. I would recommend starting with a month’s probationary period which can then extend to three months if you’re still happy. This way if you do find you’re having problems it is not a huge upset to business if you want to let them go. Keep in mind that your first-time-hire isn’t always the perfect solution. You will be learning a lot about yourself and your management ability, and no doubt their role will evolve as time goes on too.

Don’t Forget the Formalities

Make sure you have all the required information ready, insurance, payroll, tax and so on. You don’t want to get caught out by legal issues.

Increased Responsibility

If you thought running a business solo was hard work, you’ll realise that running it with employees requires even more work. Not only will the new employee need training and familiarising with your business, its processes and whichever aspects you want them to get involved with, but you will also have the added responsibility of providing someone else’s income and future. Your business will be affected, but so will your life and your new employees. Don’t take the decision lightly.


Olivia Lazenby is a blogger for She writes regularly with advice for job seekers and career driven individuals in the Greater Manchester area. 

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