Hiring Your First Employees? Here Are 5 Things to Keep In Mind

It’s easy to make hiring mistakes in your first year, but there’s a way to navigate through them.

You’ve got a startup idea, a plan of action and the capital to start out. All you need now are a few employees to help you keep everything going. So you read a few resumes and schedule a couple of interviews. But once you’ve met the candidates, you’re struck with a terrible revelation: you have no idea what defines a “good hire.”

The 2015 Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics from Bersin by Deloitte found that the cost to hire is now $4,000 per employee. That can begin to add up if you continually make bad hires in the first year of your business.

Unfortunately, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from someone who’s been there before to help you navigate the bumps in the road.

Here are five hiring lessons you’ll be faced with in your first year of business and how to handle them:

Don’t Start Out Hiring With Long-Term Contracts

Spoiler alert: there are going to be unexpected problems your first year and you’re not going to know how to fix them. But there are people out there who have the expert knowledge to help you. That’s who you need to hire when you’re starting out.

When I started my business, I looked for people with the know-how to solve issues I was having. Then I hired them under a short-term contract. Bringing on people with a specific skill set for only one purpose saved me from having to train employees on a wide range of tasks that I wasn’t yet an expert on. In addition, with short-term contracts, there’s the benefit of not being tied to employees who won’t work out in the long run. It gave me a chance to learn to recognize what a good hire looked like.

Once the short-term contract is over, you can easily go separate ways without wasting more of your payroll budget. If someone has proved to be a quality performer, you can find other projects or ways to incorporate them into the business.

Stay Focused on the Types of Employees You Actually Need

Once you’ve identified a position you need filled, define the key objectives for that job. Decide on two or three essential must-haves for the position and what qualities would just be icing on the cake. Then stay focused on finding an employee who can fill that hole.

Even though it can be time-consuming, you need to research candidates. I always checked references or asked for examples of past work before interviewing someone. When possible, I gave specific tasks that demonstrated a required skill. 

Don’t be distracted by remarkable but unnecessary skills. For example, if a candidate can speak six languages, that’s impressive. But it’s not a reason to hire them if you’re looking for a website designer. Also, be aware of your personal inclinations when interviewing candidates. In general, I like people. In the beginning, I would start interviews with general questions about the person rather than their skill set. I had to learn that, although I liked someone and wanted to give them a job, it didn’t mean I should.

Before you decide to hire someone, ask yourself why you want to — and answer honestly. If the answer isn’t that they meet all the job requirements, keep looking.

Don’t Forget That You Are Your Employer Brand

Established companies like Google or Starbucks have become entities of their own. They have defined personalities that attract and help retain top talent. When your company’s still forming, you are your employer brand.

The relationships you build with employees and how you handle them are going to influence your ability to hire coming out of the gates. It’ll be a long time before your company is big enough to stand out on its own. Until then, your reputation and your vision for the future is what’s going to excite and attract employees to your company.

My business’s goal is to help job seekers succeed. What we do is all about providing practical advice to solve their problems, along with support and cheerleading. I continue to focus on these values with my team, and as a manager, to maintain this same approach.

Don’t Assume Everyone Knows What You Expect

Your company was born in your mind. Once you begin to hire employees, however, it involves and depends on other people in the real world. Don’t assume your employees know how you envisioned every task or project would be completed.

Personally, I had to learn to clearly define the who, what, when, how and why of each task. Unless I did, I took the chance that a task wouldn’t be done the way I wanted. (And things didn’t always turn out as I hoped.) Be very clear when explaining your process, expectations and goals. That way, time and resources won’t be spent on tasks that don’t produce the results you wanted.

Also, begin to create manuals for repetitive tasks. Eventually, these things will become second nature to you — but not to new hires who weren’t there in the beginning.

Check in With Your Employees

Having employees who feel valued has a huge impact on how a business performs. In a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, 91 percent of employees who reported feeling valued said they were motivated to do their best compared to the 37 percent of employees who did not feel valued. The most effective way I’ve found to show your employees that they matter is simple: talk to them.

Starting out, I’d ask my employees what I could do to make their lives better, one-on-one, and listened to what they said. Even if they only told me everything was great, checking in with my employees allowed me to show them I appreciated their input and wanted to do what I could to support them.

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC members generate billions of dollars in revenue and have created tens of thousands of jobs.
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