It’s been a great year of growth for us, but a decision is looming over us – whether to hire our first permanent employee. It’s something we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and research about, so we thought we’d share our thoughts with you in case you’re in the same position.

Profitable businesses expand at an alarming rate, and over time, you might find that you and your founders don’t have enough hours in the day. You may also need full-time specialised help with certain tasks. Great news: it’s time to hire your first employee.

The laws that govern hiring and firing differ according to country and concern things like residency, tax and insurance. In the US, the rules also differ according to your state. We won’t cover legal issues here since it’s far too complex.

Instead, we’ll look at the practical aspects of hiring employees, and ways to make smarter choices when it comes to building a solid, reliable and enthusiastic team.

Preparing to Hire Your First Employee

You probably have a good idea of the gap you want to fill in the organization. Hiring isn’t cheap; make sure you really need that extra pair of hands on a permanent basis.

When writing the description, note the salary and any benefits you’re offering the employee. If you’re not sure of UK salaries, you can use a salary checker to get a general idea of what people expect to earn.

It’s also a good idea to assemble some trusted contacts that will help you with the selection process. When reviewing resumes, an extra pair of eyes is essential, and many large organisations have several staff score each applicant individually to ensure the selection process is unbiased.

That helps you to select the applicant that’s best for the job – not the one that you ‘feel good about’. You can then conduct background checks, with consent, and send invitations to interview.

Interviewing and Selection

The purpose of the interview is to test out the facts in the resume and see if you and your employee will get along. Have your questions planned in advance, and practice them first. If you want to add ‘tricky’ questions, make sure you know why you’re asking them and what you’re trying to find out.

You can use other tactics alongside interviewing. Some employers go to great lengths to vet candidates, putting them through all kinds of weird and wonderful tests. If you feel drug screening is necessary, or you want to analyze someone’s handwriting, or you want to Google their name and check out their Facebook photos, knock yourself out – as long as it’s legal. (You may find it more useful to get a feel for their attitude towards work.)

Once you’ve narrowed the shortlist down, check the references of the candidates you’re interested in. Some organizations will give you detailed responses; for some, a reference is simply a check-box exercise. You can offer a job prior to getting references back, but it’s sometimes not the best idea.

Settling In and Moving On

Once your employee is in their role, expect to continue to monitor and manage their progress.

Over time, when you hire more staff, you can delegate this task to team leaders and managers. For now, it’s your responsibility – and yours alone – to make sure your sole employee is comfortable in their new job.

Finally, consider the long-term goals of hiring. While we wouldn’t recommend Marissa Meyer’s controversial bell curve method of monitoring performance, you may eventually have to fire staff. By being smart with your hiring, and taking time to select the right people, you can hopefully avoid firing anyone for some years to come.