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How to Hire the Right Employees for Your Small Business

How to Hire the Right Employees for Your Small Business

Discover the essential steps to hire your first employee and avoid common mistakes. Find the right talent for your small business and set yourself up for success.


Thinking about trading in your solopreneur status to hire some help?

If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. Turns out that hiring employees is one of the most common challenges that entrepreneurs face – and one of the most important too.

Expanding your team can free up more time for you to focus on other aspects of your business and help you excel in important areas you may have been ignoring. But choosing the right people can significantly impact your company’s future – so it’s important to set the stage with a strong first hire.

From what to consider before you post your new position, to how to properly evaluate your candidates, avoid common mistakes and more, this comprehensive guide will take the guesswork out of finding new employees for your small business.

Questions to consider before hiring your first employee

It can be tempting to act quickly when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck – but reflecting on what’s best for your business will pay off later down the line. Ask yourself:

  • Why do you want help?
    Your customer service might be suffering because you’re too busy, or you may be turning down work, ignoring your bookkeeping or feeling like you lack a specific skill set to continue to move your business forward. Whatever the reason – it’s important to clearly define your why so you can identify the specific duties you want your new team member to take on.
  • What skills would benefit your business?  
    Once you’ve identified the specific tasks you need help with, you need to determine what skills and qualifications are relevant to that type of work. Remember that you’ve chosen to delegate these tasks for a reason. Many small business owners want to work with people who share their same skills – but this is a good opportunity to pick someone with their own unique expertise so they can crush the tasks you’ve decided not to take on yourself. 
  • Should you hire an independent contractor or a full-time employee?
    If you have enough work to fill someone’s calendar, then you may want to hire for a full-time role with salary and benefits. Just remember that this is a commitment: you’ll not only need to be prepared to pay someone long-term, but you’ll also need to consider other elements like their well-being, training, and professional development.

If you’re looking for niche expertise, you don’t have enough work for full-time, or the tasks you want to offload are mostly administrative, you may be better off retaining someone on a freelance or contract basis. Virtual assistants, SEO specialists, content strategists, and graphic designers are just a few experts that are easy to add as consultants.

  • How much can you pay your new team member?
    It’s important to determine the budget for your new hire’s salary (or hourly rate) long before you make a job offer. Check similar open positions to determine the range you’ll need to spend, and include it in your job description to avoid attracting over or under-qualified candidates.
  • What’s your return on investment?
    Setting specific benchmarks for what you expect your new employee to achieve will help you map out how their presence will make a very real impact on your business’ short and long-term goals. Plus, they’ll help both you and your new team member measure performance once they’ve started in their new role.

8 steps to hiring your first employee  

Once you’ve reflected on what your business really needs, follow these steps to find the right candidate to help you:

  1. Create a compelling job description. Clearly outline all the requirements, responsibilities and objectives of the role you’re looking to fill – and don’t forget to include a job title, a company overview and any unique perks or benefits of working for your small biz. Use plain language, avoid jargon and do your best to make it as engaging as possible.
  2. Spread word that you’re hiring. Put your job posting on your website and relevant online job boards – but don’t stop there. Take time to share that you’re hiring on social media, reach out to your professional contacts to ask for referrals and don’t hesitate to contact potential candidates on LinkedIn if you come across a promising profile.  
  3. Sort through resumes. Do a quick read-through and ensure the applicants you shortlist have the core skills necessary to succeed in the role. Pay close attention to those who customized their resumes to your specific job description and – if you’re not sure about someone – take time to read their cover letter to see if it sways you one way or the other.
  4. Do your own interview prep. Put together a list of questions that you’ll ask everyone so it’s easy to compare applicants afterward. Also, brush up on the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) rules about interview questions so you don’t stumble into territory that might appear discriminatory: like age, race, gender identity, birthplace, marital status and more. If it’s relevant to the role, you could also ask interviewees to submit a sample or complete a problem-solving activity or technical assignment before the interview to assess their skills.     
  5. Get to know your new potential employee. Use the interview to get a feel for how someone responds under pressure and how they conduct themselves in a professional setting. It’s also important to see if your personalities jive – consider whether you’d spend time with this person outside of work, and assess whether you think they’ll be willing to stay long-term and if they’d be a good role model for future employees. These considerations matter just as much as their skill set.  
  6. Conduct a background check. Even if running a full-blown background check isn’t an option, do a quick social media search to get a sense of how your potential team member interacts with their peers, what causes they support, etc. This can be particularly eye-opening, and something you don’t want to regret having skipped later down the line. Following up with references is always a good idea too.
  7. Make an offer and be prepared to negotiate. Lengthy interview processes and unclear timelines can tempt applicants to accept other offers, so – if you’ve found the right person for the role, you need to move quickly. Put together a solid proposal with competitive compensation and benefits. If you’re worried about not being able to compete with the larger salaries, employee benefits and health insurance offered by bigger companies, consider what other perks you can provide, like work flexibility, wellness programs, upskilling opportunities, local discounts and more.
  8. Complete the necessary paperwork. From payroll taxes, to workers’ compensation insurance, employer identification numbers, direct deposits, non-compete agreements, and more – do your research to know what you need to submit to the IRS and the Department of Labor after you’ve received an accepted offer. If you’re not familiar with your area’s labor laws, consult with an employment law expert and consider using an online Human Resources Information System (HRIS) to create and store all the necessary paperwork.  

Common hiring mistakes and how to avoid them

Steer clear of these four things when hiring for your small business:

  • Forgetting to define your company culture: These days, job seekers want to work for companies that will prioritize employee happiness just as much as their own bottom lines. So, not only do you need to create a positive employee experience, but you also need to advertise it on your social media and in your job description too. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our list of must-read books for small business owners to learn how to become an inspiring leader and foster a supportive work environment.  
  • Prioritizing experience over potential: You want to strike a healthy balance between experience, skills, and personality when choosing someone to work with. So, if you come across a driven job candidate with a personality that appeals to you, consider whether you can offer training or if they can learn the skills necessary to succeed in the role.
  • Rushing the hiring process: Don’t settle for the best candidate in your applicant pool if you’re not confident they’re the right fit. Instead, post on alternate job sites, continue to advertise on your social media and rejig your job description to focus on qualities you felt were missing from your first round of resumes. You’ll thank yourself later!
  • Overlooking new employee onboarding: Make sure your new hire’s credentials and logins are all set before their first day. Plan an enthusiastic welcome, take time to review their responsibilities in more detail and give them a project to get started. You’ll also want to make sure you’re available to address their questions so they get settled and feel supported.

An important building block for your business

Sticking to a well-structured hiring process can help you find and entice top talent to join your team and positively impact your business’ bright future. Just take your time, trust your instincts and enjoy the process. Plus, if you’re looking for other ways to set yourself up for success, check out Practice – an all-in-one solution for managing your scheduling, contracts, forms, payments, and more.

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