The moment you realise it’s time to hire your first employees for your small business is an exciting time. It means your hard work is starting to pay off, and you’re speeding along in the right direction towards bigger and better things.
But entering a new chapter can also place a lot of stress on your shoulders – what if you don’t choose the right person? What if they’re bad at the job? What if they cost more money than they’re worth? You want to spread the workload so you can focus on the important things, but you’re protective of the business you’ve worked so hard to create.
Finding the right person to slot into your small business for the first time can cause a lot of headaches, but it doesn’t have to. By focusing on the right things and looking out for warning signs, you can give yourself the best chance of hiring a stellar new staff member who will put on the gloves and help you build your business to the next level.
Here are 8 unexpected things you should know before hiring your first employee to ensure your first experience is a successful (and profitable) one.
1) Ensure applicant is a good social or cultural fit
There will be plenty of attractive resumes and handfuls of candidates perfect for your role on paper, but a crucial step most small business owners overlook with their first hire is considering how applicants would fit in socially and culturally.
Is the applicant a similar age to clients or yourself? Do they share similar values? Could you become friends with this person? You can train most employees to perform a task, but a personality mismatch will create friction and cost more time and money than it’s worth.
2) Question the applicant extensively about skills and responsibilities
Think back through all of the times you’ve interviewed for jobs in the past, and you’ll notice some interviewers asked more detailed questions about your previous roles. Taking the time to ask in-depth questions is imperative in the interview process. But why is it needed when you’ve already seen their resume?
A resume is written by then applicant themselves, meaning it only includes what they choose to say (in words chosen by them). Applicants can exaggerate their skills and to impress employers or list tasks of which they have very little experience. When conducting your interviews, ask candidates for real world examples of their experience and quiz them about the tasks they were asked to perform.
3) Ask the applicant how they manage their stress and daily schedule
These might seem like strange questions at first, but how an employee handles pressure, and a heavy workload can influence their effectiveness in the office significantly. If they have a short fuse they might take it out on someone else, and if they can’t manage their time when under the pump, they’ll turn into a liability.
It’s a good idea to ask these questions directly in an interview. The answers will reveal further insight into what motivates the applicant and makes them tick, further helping you assess if they’re a good fit for your operations.
4) Always double check qualifications
Small business owners are busy people, and while there’s rarely enough time in the day to scratch yourself, it pays to investigate finer details when hiring staff. Many small businesses have been caught out by dodgy applicants lying out their studies, and if this happens to you, it can turn into a logistical nightmare. You can do this online with a lot of institutions, and for others, it’s just a call away. It doesn’t take long and could save you a lot of stress later down the track.
5) Check multiple references
Once you’ve selected candidates you’re happy with, it can be easy to contact one reference and leave it at that, particularly if their response is positive. However, getting multiple points of view is critical because it gives you a variety of perspectives and therefore more information to use when making a final decision. Comparing notes from each call will give you a better understanding of an applicant’s behaviour, and how they will react in situations, they may be faced with in the job you’re advertising.
6) Set performance expectations early
One size does not fit all when it comes to company expectations, particularly with the performance expected from staff. Either during your interviews or after you’ve made the final decision to hire an applicant, it’s important to inform them of your expectations and what outcomes you want from the selected candidate.
Be clear on everything, even if you think you’re spelling out the obvious, and welcome any questions the applicant may have about what you expect from them. You’ll thank yourself later.
7) Have a clear idea of roles and responsibilities
When hiring your first staff member, it’s crucial to have a clear picture of tasks they will perform, what they’ll be responsible for and how they report to you. This helps applicants to assess if the role fits their skills and interests, as well as assisting you to think about things like budget projections, training and equipment they will need.
Work with the applicant until they are crystal clear on what the position includes. If the role is too new for a clear job description, discuss it with your final candidate to flesh it out, so both parties are on the same page.
8) Have a probationary period and schedule regular catch-ups
The unfortunate reality of hiring staff for your business is sometimes things don’t work out, despite your best efforts. This is sometimes unforeseeable, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Including a probationary period and scheduling regular catch ups ensure your business can ‘try before it buys’ and allows your new staff members to get a taste for your business before making a longer commitment. By sitting down with them regularly, you can get a feel for how this is going and make decisions before the period comes to an end.
As your small business grows, you will come to rely on more and more people to look after most aspects of your operation for you. It’s essential that you find the right people to expand with, as they will form the building blocks of the future of your company. If you apply these eight tips when hiring your first team members, you’ll be on your way to creating a reliable, hard-working and loyal group who will go the journey with you.
Clive Barrett is the Executive Chairman of First Class Financial Group, Australia’s largest financial support services franchise providing bookkeeping, finance and tax services.