How to Hire Your First Employee

There’s an old adage, “Hire slowly; fire quickly.”  It’s good advice.  Here’s another piece of advice:

Don’t use a recruiter.  True, a recruiter will do 90% of the work for you, hold your hand for the remaining 10%, and give you a guarantee. But in making your first hire, learning under fire is a rite of passage.

What’s the process?

First, define the need.  Why do you want to hire someone?  If it’s for convenience, forget about it.  If it’s a necessity, go for it.  Also, decide if you are hiring based on potential (someone with a good academic record and some work history) or actual experience.

Second, determine the cost.  What will you pay in salary, commission, bonus, benefits, and don’t forget the cost of office space.  Figure out what one year will run you and if you have 150% of the money, proceed.  If the position is administrative, if the person will not be responsible for a revenue stream, you need enough money on-hand to pay them for at least a year.  If the position is supposed to be a revenue producer, recognize that it may take weeks or months before they start producing, but you will still have to pay them.

Third, prepare a job description.  It should include a brief history of your company, the job title, a list of responsibilities, a list of qualifications, and information on submitting a candidacy.

Fourth, have your process in place.  The way you handle hiring says a lot about your company.  I have one client, an excellent organization, that has been sitting on resumes for over four months.  They interviewed five of the six candidates I submitted to them and expressed interest in all of them.  Now that they are ready to make a final decision, all but two have withdrawn and the organization’s reputation has been tarnished.  Don’t start the process until you are ready to hire.

Fifth, post the job description on your web site.  Let your network (including LinkedIn) know that you are looking to hire.  If you do not get any responses after two weeks, take out an ad listing the title, qualifications and submission information: your name and e-mail address.  Request a cover letter, resume and salary information.

Sixth, read the cover letter.  If the person does not know how to write a business letter, forget about them.  And if they don’t tell you their salary, they are “game players.”  A good professional knows to answer, “I am presently earning X.”  They will realize that you will realize that if they are employed you will have to beat X, unemployed, there will be room for negotiations.

Seven, if the cover letter is well-written, take a look at the resume.  First check that they meet your minimum requirements.  If they don’t have the education, years’ of experience, industrial knowledge, etc., or if they can’t keep a job for more than a year or two, move on.  If all is well, call them (you want to hear their phone skills) and set up an interview.

Eight, during the interview, confirm that they actually meet your minimum requirements.  Delve deeper.  Ask them about themselves.  You have to actually like the person you’re hiring.  Ask them to tell you about their successes and failures, and why they want to work for you.  What they say is not as important as how they say it.  Don’t bother with the “What are your weaknesses and strengths?” questions.  They are meaningless.  That’s why you check references.

Get a second opinion.  Even though you have no staff, you are not alone.  Ask your lawyer, accountant or even a major client to meet with them.  Don’t waste your money on aptitude tests.  They’re nonsense and reflect poorly on you as a decision maker.

Ninth, check references, preferably former supervisors.  Ask them about reliability, strengths, weaknesses, contributions to the company and verify any statements made by the candidate.

Tenth, make the offer.  Put everything in writing.  Have the contract reviewed by your attorney.  Don’t forget a three-month probationary period.

And in the end you will have gained the experience to supervise the recruiter you’ll hire for your next search!