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5 Tips on Hiring Your First Employee

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As the economy continues its recovery, some small businesses are beginning to hire for the first time. Maybe you just started a business or maybe you’ve been biding your time until the economic landscape stabilized. Nearly all small businesses stop being a one-person show at some point. Maybe you don’t want to grow into a giant like Google or Facebook, but you may be overwhelmed as the sole proprietor. Doubling your headcount can be a scary step, though.

When expansion time rolls around, consult these 5 first-hire tips to help you hire your first employee:

1. Figure out what you need. As a small business owner you probably need a little help with a lot of things — from answering the phone to running an advertising campaign. But you can’t just put out a job ad for a jack-of-all trades. So pin down two or three related tasks that are taking too much of your time. For a home-based product company, it could be packaging and shipping. For a painter with an overflow of work, it could be the small, simple paint jobs. From there, write a detailed job description for the ad—it will help you find the best person for the job.

2. Actively recruit, don’t settle. If you post the position on a national job web site and wait for the right applicant, you are probably going to end up disappointed. Finding the right employee requires you to look for them as well. Skim through the posted résumés on career sites like CareerBuilder and LinkedIn. Reach out for referrals from other small businesses in your area or industry. Above all, don’t rush into hiring your first employee. A mistake could cost you as much as $10,000 according to a recent SurePayroll survey.

3. Use pre-employment screening. Sounds like an expensive service only used by the big guys, but a background check can cost less than $25. There are many companies offering pre-employment screening tests such as background checks, and even behavioral assessments and skills tests. While it’s tempting to follow your gut feeling about a certain job candidate, it’s better to cover your bases. As a small business owner, you have a lot to lose if you don’t.

4. Don’t forget the legal steps. Hiring your first employee will make you a bona fide employer. Unfortunately, that comes with a lot of paperwork and certain liabilities. To make sure you’re on track, follow this checklist provided by

5. Prepare a few policies. With only one employee, you don’t need to write a 50-page employee handbook complete with a dress code and IT policy. But you should at least establish the number of vacation and sick days you’ll offer and the employee’s schedule. Any other rules you want the employee to follow should be understood during the first interview—otherwise, it looks like you’re managing by the seat of your pants.

Learn what’s right for your business

Visit SunTrust’s Small Business Best Practices Guide for a straightforward checklist of best practices in six important areas of financial management, including starting your business.

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