5 Things to Remember When Hiring Your First Employees

The idea of hiring your first employee can be a daunting task for a small business owner. What paperwork needs to be completed? What will be the company policies on things like overtime, meal breaks and attendance? It may seem unnecessary to write policies and develop training plans when hiring just a few employees, but these things are important if you want to build a strong foundation as a new employer. So today, we’ll take a look at five tips to help you when planning for your first employees.

5 Things to remember when hiring your first employee


Whether you plan to hire one employee or many employees, you will want to develop an employee handbook. An employee handbook clearly states company policy, conduct expectations and lays the foundation for the overall work experience employees should expect.

There is software available to help draft an employee handbook, and this can be useful for a small business owner who does not yet have enough employees to warrant an HR person. However, it is still a good idea to hire an attorney or HR consultant to review the handbook or to help develop your handbook if you choose not to go the software route. An attorney or consultant can help ensure you have included all relevant state and federal policies.


What exactly will your new employees do once hired? Draft job descriptions for each position you plan to fill. The job description should include a brief summary of the job (1-3 sentences), job responsibilities and qualifications.

The qualifications section should include the essential functions of the job—these are the skills and tasks the employee must perform with or without reasonable accommodation. Among other things, these could include things like a lifting requirement, the ability to stand for long periods of time, computer skills and the ability to speak a specific language.

You can show candidates the job description during the interview process, so they have a good sense of what the job entails. It is also a good practice to have new hires sign their job description on their first day.


There are a number of required forms and pamphlets you will need to give your new employees. These include things like the W-4 and I-9 and also various notices that may be required by your state. Along with required forms and notices, it is a good idea to develop your own forms for personal contact information, computer use, direct deposit, emergency contact information and other forms that are relevant to your business.

You can find information on state labor websites. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) can also be a good resource.


In larger companies, an engaging and informative new employee orientation is a necessity, but such an approach may not work when you are only hiring two or three employees. Even with only a few new hires, you should still plan an orientation. It can be as simple as sitting down with your new hires to fill out paperwork and to review key policies in the employee handbook.

Create a relaxed environment by making the review of policies conversational. This allows the new employee to easily ask questions. Take some time to outline your expectations for how your business will grow with the addition of employees.


Up until the day your first employees start, you have probably handled all business responsibilities yourself. It can be hard to delegate tasks to your new employees. This is where it comes in handy to have a formal training plan.

Start by making a list of what tasks your employees will be responsible for and what tasks you will handle. You can refer back to the job descriptions you created to help make your lists. Then go through and determine when and how you will train your new employees on these tasks. Set goals based on this, and then check in with the employees at regular intervals (e.g. 30, 60 and 90 days) to see how they are progressing.

Be patient as employees learn their jobs and know that your new employees may find different ways to complete tasks you handled in your pre-employee days. It can be hard to delegate tasks that you handled on your own previously, but your new employees may bring improvements and changes that could result in continued growth for your business.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that hiring your first few employees does not warrant policies and formal procedures. These actions lay the groundwork for the future growth of your business and ensure that you are setting clear expectations from the day your first employee starts.

5 Things to remember when hiring your first employee
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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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