KPMG Spark Blog

Hiring Your First Employee

So, your company has grown and you’ve reached the point where you can take a couple hats off, huh? That’s exciting! We’re happy for you. We know, however, that hiring your first employee can be pretty hard to navigate including finding the right person and getting through all the red tape. We’re here to break it down!

In this article, we break it down to 5 steps of the selection process and have a related article on 5 steps of navigating the red tape. With these simple steps, you’ll get through it in no time and have your next employee ready to go!

Five Steps of Selecting the Right Employee

1) Define your ideal candidate

Before you start looking at resumes and reading cover letters, take some serious time to think about who you want joining your team. Especially if this is employee #2, this person will have a big effect on your company (the term *baby* substituting for company might be more appropriate here). Thus, you not only want to get along with them, but also want them to have specific key competencies that will aid them in executing what needs to be done. With that said, identify key competencies you want this person to have. For example, if you are running a social media advertising agency, you need someone who knows how to run social media ads, who knows how to get along with clients, and someone who can organize and prioritize tasks.

In addition to this, think about what you want this person to accomplish. Do you want them to be on your level as an officer of the company, a contractor, or a regular 9-5 employee? Think about that and this will help with the next steps.

2) Create a job description

This is the next step after defining your ideal candidate. Writing a good job description is essential to helping you attract the most qualified candidates for the job. If you are opening this position to people you don’t personally know, this can be the first time your future employee/partner/co-owner has heard about your company. Let’s make a great impression!

Indeed gives some good advice. You want to provide as much detail as possible in the job description, but also want to keep it concise. According to Indeed, job descriptions between 700 and 2,000 characters get 30% more applicants. That’s shorter than you think!

A clear and great job description will include the following:

Job Title: make this a targeted job title; it may even be appropriate to include “Employee #2” in the job title. (e.g., Social Ads Controller, Employee #2)

Job Summary: This should include an overview of your company and expectations for the position. Point out why the person would love to work for you (especially since it may only be the two of you for a minute) by describing the culture you hope to establish.

Responsibilities and Duties: Here you outline the core responsibilities of the position and, if you can, what a typical day looks like for this employee. If you’re not sure due to the volatility of a start-up, then include that! This excites a lot of people and may help sell this position.

Qualifications and Skills: Here you want to list both hard and soft skills you hope this candidate has. Consider making this list shorter rather than longer as a lengthy list may dissuade many qualified candidates from applying.

1) Analyzing the Application

If you’re trying to decide what documents to require in the job application, consider what you want to know about the candidate. A résumé is very telling about experience and qualifications and a cover letter gives you some exposure as to why the candidate thinks they’re a good fit for you (and a peek at their writing skills). Something that is usually overlooked is asking the candidate to include references from past employers.

As you will be the one to analyze these documents or contact references, here are a few tips:

2) The Résumé

With the résumé, you obviously look for skill match and relevant experience but what may be most important is to understand how the candidate presents her- or himself. If something is full of “fluff,” they may just be filling space rather than showing real experience. A great bullet point is a fact that goes something like, “Improved x by doing y which led to z” or in actual terms, “Improved ROI by reducing buying costs which led to 28% more cash.” All in all it comes down to asking if the résumé invites you to meet the candidate. If not, why? If so, invite them for an in-person or telephone interview!

3) The Cover Letter

The cover letter is a good opportunity for the applicant to express why they are a good fit for the position. Read these with an open mind and try to let them convince you. Pay attention to the spelling and grammar. This denotes an attention to detail of the candidate, and if they’re misspelling things, that is a red flag. The cover letter is also a good opportunity for the candidate to address why this position is a good fit for them. This helps you understand their intent and interest in the position.

3) References

This is a step to do after the interview (before extending an official offer) to understand more about the professional and character side of the candidate. To understand both sides, request a couple professional and one personal references. Here’s what Entrepreneur has to say about it:

“Be sure to keep your queries as objective as possible, and, if you're speaking to the professional references, make sure they relate directly to the candidate's job performance and duties and to the information provided on the application or resume, or to the information provided during the interview. Forms of discrimination that apply to interviewing and hiring are also applicable to reference checking, so be sure to avoid questions that involve race, age, disabilities, national origin, religion or marital status. For a personal reference, find out how long they've known the person and then ask about the person's character and work ethic…”

Obviously, analyzing these documents and calling references may take a bit of time, but it will be well worth it.

Once you analyze the cover letter and résumé for each candidate, invite your favorite candidates in for an in-person interview!

4) The Interviews

Yes, finally some face-to-face time with those who are interested in joining you!. This step is completely based on your style of interviewing. You can bring them into the office for a more professional setting, you can take them out to lunch for a more casual setting, or anywhere you think is appropriate.

As for the interview itself, it’s important to make the candidate feel comfortable so they can give their best answers in response to your questions. Consider making the conversation casual in the beginning, getting to know their personality a little bit. This will help you get a bigger picture anyway of who this person is and how they interact.

When deciding what questions to ask in the interview, there are two main buckets of questions: behavioral and case questions. Behavioral questions are questions that usually start with “tell me about a time when …” and are used to determine how the candidate has applied their skills in past experiences. Case questions are to test the analytical side of the candidate and show how they think through problems, like “how many gallons of gasoline does an average gas station in America on an average day?” Either type of question is fine (or use both!), but make sure to have some consistency between your interviews so you can evaluate them at the end.

5) The Selection

Sometimes a candidate stands out and it’s clear who your number one choice is. Other times, there are a couple or even a few candidates who seem to be too close to make a decision.

To help make this decision easier, it may be helpful to create a scoring rubric and score each candidate based on their answers to questions, they’re personality, and past experience. While some people prefer this, others like to go with their gut.

If a scoring rubric isn’t your style, then it’s time to whip out the references. In step three we specified a good way to approach this. Again, it’s a great way to learn beyond what you saw and heard in the interview and learn what other people have experienced with this candidate.

6) Wrapping Up

In conclusion, when you’re at the end of the selection process, go back to your company and really think about if this new person will fit in well. If they will, you’ve got your candidate.

In addition, if you’re ready to save a ton of time and gain control of your bookkeeping, let KPMG Spark help you out. Learn more here.

This blog article is not intended to address or provide advice concerning the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services.

Some or all of the services described herein may not be permissible for KPMG audit clients and their affiliates or related entities.

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