Hiring your first employee is exciting, but it can also be a daunting task. An employee can bring new skills, perspective and the bandwidth needed to take your business to the next level, but the hiring process can be difficult to navigate without HR experience.
Below, we walk you through the process of hiring your first employee from start to finish, from determining your needs and finding high-quality candidates to making the right first hire for your growing business.
To help you decide if it’s the right time to hire your first employee, start to define a potential role by keeping a list of routine tasks that need to be completed daily and weekly, special upcoming projects that require a specific skillset and work a potential employee can do throughout the week when everything else is finished. When you have a list of at least 20 hours per week of ongoing tasks and several planned projects, it may be time to consider bringing on your first employee.
Prepare for the hiring process
Decide what you can afford
Hiring your first employee will cost more than just their salary. As an employer, you are required to pay taxes (such as Employer Health Tax and Workplace Safety and Insurance premiums) and workers’ compensation, as well as other expenses like equipment, workspace, and benefits. Consider whether it makes more sense to hire a full-time, part-time or contract employee. An independent contractor can help with specific projects on a temporary basis with little overhead costs. However, a permanent employee will have a stronger sense of company loyalty and long-term commitment to your vision.
Take care of your legal obligations
Although it may seem intimidating, navigating the legal aspects of hiring a new employee simply comes down to filling out a few forms and complying with certain regulations.
Here are important steps you should take to legally hire a new full-time employee in Canada:
- Obtain a registered Business Number (BN) with a payroll deductions account
- Get the employee’s Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- Have the new employee fill out Form TD1, Personal Tax Credits Return, which will determine the amount of tax to be deducted from an employee’s income or other income, such as pension income.
- Set up a payroll system
Attract the right applicants
Imagine your ideal candidate
Before posting your job, write down the characteristics, skills, and qualifications you’re looking for in your ideal candidate. These attributes will help you craft a job description that attracts the most suitable applicants for your role. For example, you might imagine your first employee as being a self-starter with a growth mindset. Identifying these qualities early on will help you spot the perfect candidate when they’re sitting in front of you.
Create a compelling job description
For small businesses, getting the job posting right is critical for standing out in a crowd of big competitors. Start with an engaging summary of the role and clearly describe what the job entails. To attract candidates who enjoy working at small companies, explain that you’re hiring your first employee and are excited to be expanding your business.
Find the best talent for your open position by including the following elements in your job description:
- Accurate job title
- Overview of your company
- Key job duties and responsibilities
- Required and preferred skills
- Employee benefits or perks
Identify your top candidates
Conduct pre-employment screening
Once you’ve attracted several applicants to your job posting, it’s time to screen your candidates to determine who should move forward in the hiring process.
Find out which applicants meet your basic requirements and desired skill level by:
- Reviewing resumes and cover letters
- Conducting 15-30 minute phone screens
- Communicating with candidates through email
Interview promising applicants
During the interview process, ask questions that will reveal if your candidate’s vision aligns with yours, as well as broader questions to learn how they respond in difficult situations, what motivates them and if they have the ability to drive business value. Look for the following qualities and attitudes in your candidate’s answers:
- Grit and resilience
- Culture fit
- Sense of accountability
- Competitive drive
Check out our list of interview questions to help you hire for a specific role or skill.
Check your candidate’s references
Calling your top candidates’ references will give you an opportunity to assess their honesty, collaboration skills and ability to do the job. Beyond resumes and interviews, speaking with someone who has worked directly with your candidates will provide you with insights into whether or not they are the right fit for your company.
Bring your ideal candidate onboard
Send an offer letter
After making a verbal offer to your top candidate, send an official offer letter. Your offer letter should explain the terms and conditions of employment and include details, such as:
- Job title
- Start date
Welcome your new hire to the team
An exceptional onboarding experience sets your new employee up for success in their first days, weeks, months and beyond, and gives them the tools they need to start making an immediate impact. To help your first hire feel empowered in their role, create an employee handbook to convey important company information and consider planning out their first month in detail, offering specific goals and clear expectations that will help you measure their success.
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