You’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t manage the growth of your business without some help. You’ve been putting off the question of how to hire your first employee and have been trying to juggle all the demands of a small business on your own for too long.  Maybe you need to bring in specialist skills or you’ve discovered that simply putting in more hours produces diminishing returns and you don’t have the human capacity to service new customers or maybe even risk a reduced service to existing clients.

Even if you have managed and recruited people in a previous life with a larger organisation, you may find that how you employ someone in a small business has different challenges.  Hiring your first employee is an exciting time but how you find staff for your business requires serious thought and often means acquiring new knowledge and skills. In our experience, there are no ‘born’ or naturally good recruiters. It takes both an investment of money and time if you are going to find the right staff for your business.

Get recruitment right and the dreams for the future growth of your business can be realised.  Getting it wrong can be a nightmare for you and your employees.  Sadly, too often we see more effort put into selecting a new piece of plant or machinery than employing someone for the first time.

1. Where do I start?

Start with the financials.  This might seem obvious but your new member of staff will be relying on you to pay their salary, on time and in full every month.  Do you have the forecast cash flow to be able to meet all your financial commitments as an employer?  Financial factors to take into consideration include:

• Basic pay
• Commission or bonus
• National Insurance
• Pension contributions
• Training

2. Creating a job description

You might be surprised how often we get feedback from people that the job they thought they were applying for was very different from the requirements made of them once they had started. This mismatch between the expectation of the job and the reality is often why new recruits leave after a few week or months.  It’s an expensive lesson to learn and so easily avoided.

Make sure you are absolutely clear about the job you want your first employee to do,  what type of person you want to hire and what skills are required – but don’t only consider skills.  Think about what type of culture you are trying to develop. What type of behaviours do you want from your first employee?  Getting this right with your first member of staff will make it so much easier to achieve the culture you want when you grow your team.

Right now, we have a high employment economy and many skills are in high demand.  Consider whether recruiting someone with the right attitude and transferable skills will work or whether someone who is fast to learn new skills could be the right fit for your business.

Finally, consider whether the role is full time, part-time or whether a temporary member of staff would work  better for you.

3. Who will do the recruiting?

Do you have the time and experience to carry out all the elements involved in successfully hiring your first member of staff?  Things you need to consider include:

• producing a job description
• creating a person profile
• advertising the role (using on and offline tools)
• communicating with potential candidates
• answering questions about the job and your business
• screening CV’s
• interviewing
• following up
• communicating with unsuccessful candidates

As someone seeking to employ staff for the first time, you may not have an established employer ‘brand’ and good candidates will want to know what it’s like to work for you as an employee.  As you won’t have an existing reputation as an employer it is even more important to get the recruitment stage right.  It’s the only measure that a candidate can use to judge whether you are the right fit for them.  Remember that hiring is a two-way street, a candidate is assessing you, just as much as you are assessing them.

If you don’t have the time or skills to do all of this. It might be more effective to consider outsourcing this to someone you know or to partner with a professional recruitment consultancy.

4. The legal stuff

• Register with HMRC as an employer and set up PAYE
• Take out employer’s liability insurance
• Comply with equal opportunities legislation
• Check employees right to work in the UK
• Is a DBS (criminal background) check needed and do you have an ex-offender’s policy?
• Will the workplace pension scheme be applicable?
• What Health and safety legislation, policy and requirements are applicable?

5. Screening and Interviewing

Once you’ve received some applications, you’ll need to start shortlisting candidates that you’d like to interview.

Out of the initial pool of applicants that you feel have potential, you might want to consider holding telephone interviews before committing to inviting them to a face-to-face interview.

Use this as an opportunity to find out a little more about their experience and why they’re interested in the role.

Next, hold face-to-face interviews with the most promising applicants using a competency-based interviewing style and any appropriate skills testing. Use a broad set of the same questions for all candidates so that it’s easier to compare them against each other.  It will also ensure that your recruitment process is fair and non- discriminatory.

6. Make an offer

Once you have made a decision BE DECISIVE! Good people have options and won’t wait around if you dither about making an offer.  Whether the offer is made face-to-face or over the phone, you will need to confirm details in writing.

Don’t forget to communicate with those candidates that haven’t been successful. Better that they are telling their network of contacts that they were impressed by you and your business than they are glad they weren’t offered a job!

Recruiting good people is key to the future success of any business.  Happy employees lead to happy customers and a healthy growing business. Never be caught in the trap of hiring the best of a bad bunch – take your time and plan to find the best possible fit.

If you would like to know more about how the First Base team can help you to recruit staff for your business call Tricia Hay on 01453 755330 or email