How to Hire Your Very First Employee

  •    Freelance writer focused on web development, email marketing and baseball. He lives in Los Angeles, but wishes he lived in Tokyo.

Starting your own business is an intensely personal process. You're pouring a lot of your time, effort and money into achieving something you've long dreamed of doing. This can make it difficult to trust other people to be part of the process. When things take off, though, you'll need to hire one (or two or three) people so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

How to do you even get started with the process? Here's how to hire your first employee.

​First and Foremost

You can't hire an employee until you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. If you don't have an EIN, then you can't report employee salary/tax info. This is just the kind of thing that'll make the IRS upset.

You'll also need a system in place to withhold taxes for your employees. This process is explained in the bestselling IRS novel: Publication 15 (2017), (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide. This is very detailed in the kind of way that may make you fall asleep at your desk, so it wouldn't be a terrible idea to consult an accountant about it.

Additionally, you'll have to verify a potential employee is eligible to work in the US through a form I-9. US Customs' e-verify website walks through the necessary steps.

If this is already sounding like a lot of work, that's because it is! At least the first time you go through it. Before you jump into the hiring process, it's best to ask yourself if you're in a position where it'd be worth this extra effort. If you only need a little bit of help, it might be worth giving consideration to contracting out some of your work instead.

If you're truly busy though and having to work fifty or sixty hours a week while turning down business, it's probably time to hire someone.

​Finding Candidates

Before you can do that you need to find the someone you'd like hire. How?

Build a Job or Careers Page for your website. Even if that page should more accurately be called "One Job" for the time being, your customers are the best place to start when looking to hire employees. They already know and love your business, which should give them a head start over someone who is just responding to a job listing.

Post your job opening to Craigslist. There are tons of jobs sites and boards on the internet, but Craigslist remains the most universally used for smaller companies. They charge between $7 and $75 per listing depending on the perceived fanciness of your local area.

Check listings at sites like Hire My Mom. Many people proactively put their resumes up on websites so employers and recruiters can find them. Including you.

You'll also want to write a solid description of what the job entails, alongside the education and experience you expect in anyone you hire for the role. This is fairly standard stuff and one of Weebly's own job listings would work as a good template.

​Interviewing

Once you find a good candidate, you'll need to interview them. It's fairly standard to talk on the phone first, then move to one or two in-person interviews. You very likely already know that.

What you may not know is what sort of questions to ask. Make a list of eight to ten that, regardless of where the conversation goes, you want to ask every single interviewee. A basic list might look like this one:

  1. Why do you want to work with us?
  2. Why are you looking to leave (or why did you leave) your current job?
  3. What was your favorite thing about your last job?
  4. What was your least favorite?
  5. What was your biggest failure in a recent job? What did you learn from it?
  6. What was your biggest success?
  7. Where do you want to be in one year? Five years?
  8. What do you think makes our product/service unique?

No matter how the well interview goes, it's best to keep in mind that interviews are not a great picture of how good or bad of an employee the person will be. You'll obviously want to feel like you can build a solid working relationship with the person you hire, but one interview may not be enough to learn that. The NY Times recently ran an interesting article on this very topic.

Weebly takes a unique approach to hiring called a "trial week," in which a potential employee is brought in as a contractor from anywhere between one to five days to see if they do the job well. If they do, then they're hired. If they don't, then they're not. It may be worth adapting some variation of this to make sure your first employee is the right fit.

Regardless of your approach, don't rush into making the hire. Your first employee will hopefully play a big role in helping grow your business, and will likely have his or her own feelings of ownership towards it, so you want to be sure they're the right fit. Don't just hire the first person you see. As mentioned already, you could potentially bring in a contractor (or look to a family member or friend) to temporarily help with some of your work if you're slammed. Who knows, that temporary contractor could even turn into the person you'd want to hire long term.