Hiring Your First Employee

This is the most serious employer photo I have! And it ties in nicely with the release of our new eBook. Anyway, this post is not about dressing for work but about hiring your team. It is an exciting stage in a small business but it is also quite scary. Being on the other side of the table when interviewing someone can be just as nerve-racking as being the interviewee! I was lucky that one of my roles before I set up the business, was a recruitment consultant (I hated it and lasted two months). And so I got some practice and training on how to interview people. But there are lots of other things I wished I could have read about before I started it. So I thought I would share what I have picked up as a small business owner.

Advertising the role

I think writing a job description can be really hard but it is so important as this is what will attract the people you want and put off those that aren’t suitable so the more you give the better. I think the style and tone that you write in is really important as this will indicate what kind of business you are. There is no need to be super corporate and formal if that isn’t your business.  What I do when I write a job description is I imagine the person in the job, what they are like, what they do from day to day, how they interact with the team and then I let that imaginary person form what I put in the ad.

Where to advertise is another challenge too. Your own social media channels are a great start as hiring someone who already is a fan of your business is a bonus. But you also want to widen your reach. We advertise on Creative Opportunities which is part of the University of the Arts so great for London based roles and is also free. So check out local universities as they might have similar job centres.

Preparing for interview

For some roles, I come up with a little exercise for the candidate to do. This is usually computer-based, but I have asked people in the past to set up a classroom! The idea is to get an idea about what their skills are like and whether they are a fit for the role. Someone could be very confident in their interview but you have no idea if they had help writing their CV and if the job requires good written skills then you want to check they have that. Likewise, someone might be very nervous in an interview scenario and not be able to show their best self so an exercise can give them a chance to show off their skills.

Lisa Comfort - Hiring Your First Employee

Interviewing

I always think the best approach is to make the person feel as comfortable as possible. Informal chat is the best way to relax someone. Ask about their journey, find something they like doing as a hobby from their CV and have a chat about that first. Don’t dive straight in with the serious questions. It is always best if things flow but have some questions prepared so that you don’t go blank. This will help you feel more confident.

I think it is also really important to talk about the company so they get an idea about what it is like. Does the company ethos suit them? I interviewed someone once who was perfect for the role but then she started asking me about company benefit schemes, when she would get her laptop and company phone etc and it made me realise she had no idea of what working in a small business is like. I now always talk about the environment people will be working in, who works there too and what it’s like on a day to day basis.

Always give them a chance to ask questions. I usually ask people a couple of times if they have anything further to ask and offer them the chance to email any questions they think of later.

Contracts

I really think it is worth investing in getting an employment solicitor to draw up a contract. You can then use this for all future hires. It will protect you as an employer, set out your terms correctly and will also make your new employee feel more comfortable working for you. There are templates online so to save money you could always start with one of those and then get a solicitor to check it.

Payroll

This is another thing you need to think of. How will you pay them? If it is a regular job on the same days and they don’t work for anyone else then you can’t have them work for you as just freelance. They will need to become an employee. This means getting an accountancy firm to sort out your payroll and advise on the auto-enrolment pension scheme.  It is worth reading up on employer’s NI, pensions and general PAYE so you have an idea.

Trial day

Another thing that can be handy is suggesting a trial day – all full time employees at Sew Over It came for a trial day before they started. This is just to check that the role is the right fit for both.

Appraisals and pay reviews

Another thing I think it is important is to set up an annual review. It gives you a chance to properly catch up and talk about what has worked or not worked in the first year and set some goals for the following year. I also think it is important to review pay annually – even if you don’t give a pay rise, it is still a good idea to discuss it. This is what I would want as an employee!

My biggest piece of advice over all of this is to draw from your experience when you were an employee. What would make you want to work for someone and more importantly keep you there? It takes on average 6 months to train someone and for them to leave soon after this can be a real pain as you will have to retrain a new person all over again.

I hope this is helpful to other business owners out there!

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