Hiring your first employee is a nightmare. It shouldn’t be; it should be a cause for celebration, it means that your business is doing well and it’s time to double your workforce. However, apart from the raft of legislation that employing a worker involves, there’s also the small matter of how do you find the right person? One overlooked factor for small firms is the risk factor. As a small firm you may not be able to hire the “best in show” when it comes to your employees. This doesn’t mean you should take on a second, third or fourth rate employee, it just means that the candidate with the most experience, the best qualifications and best track record may not be one you can afford. When it comes to hiring that first employee finding the right match can be more important than finding the ‘best’ person for the job.
Beyond the obvious
- Some business advisors will tell you to not take too much notice of unemployed candidates. That’s hard at the moment as there are around 2.6 million of them in the UK. During recessions most of them aren’t there because they’re without skills or abilities. Perhaps during levels of high employment you can avoid those between jobs, but this can discount whole groups such as talented parents who’ve been taking time out, so it’s never that strong an approach. Be sensible, if there are frequent, long gaps in the employment history it could be a sign of issues, but at the moment a period of unemployment should be no great surprise on the CV, especially a recent one.
- Educational backgrounds should be looked at carefully; very carefully. Good schools and good grades are not as clear cut when it comes to indicating talent as might at first seem the case. Bad schools and good grades tell an interesting story about personal capabilities, determination and the ability to overcome obstacles. Straight A’s from Eton are ten a penny; they can be more difficult to achieve at some dodgy, badly ranked comprehensive.
- Experience is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. It is useful to have an employee who knows how to do a job, but for small firms, you’ll have your own way of doing things. The real thing to look out for is aptitude at learning and the willingness to do so. Those who have done well in previous, but different, roles may demonstrate skills such as “can do” attitudes, which can be invaluable when a company consists of only a small number of staff. Those who demonstrate “might do” attitudes are less useful, in any firm.
What’s in it for you?
So, you’ve hired an employee who has no skills in your firm’s area, not much in the way of recent work history and comes from the wrong side of the tracks. What’s in it for you? One of the big things is likely to be loyalty. If you get the right person for the job you may find that you’ll be able to afford someone with real star quality at a rate you can afford, but add to this factor the simple fact that they’ll have reason to stay loyal to your firm and you have the basis for a long term, productive relationship. There’ll be a couple of details to take care off; training is crucial and if you’ve got the right employee shouldn’t prove too much of an obstacle. Simple things like payroll software and job descriptions should be already in place before their first day to ensure all goes smoothly. With the small details in place and the right (affordable) employee to hand, you’re good to go; hopefully a long way.
Affording the right employee when you hire for the first time can leave you looking at a list of apparently unsuitable candidates. However, looking beyond the obvious to find the right attitude and willingness to learn can make the right candidate that bit more affordable. Ensuring payroll software and job descriptions are in place will help to get you off to a smooth start and will help to provide the basis for a productive working relationship.
Simon blogs about small business advice, covering everything from QuickBooks online tips and advice to how small businesses can take advantage of social media. When he’s not online Simon enjoys keeping fit and visiting art galleries