Hiring your first employee is a huge step for your small business.
Startups usually begin to look for staff once workloads become too much to manage and the best way to grow is to get more people on board. Choosing the right employee is another question. Should you hire somebody who can bring expertise and knowledge to the table, or invest time training someone without any experience? Whoever you decide to hire, there a number of qualities that you should be looking out for and traits that should ring alarm bells in interviews.
Before you begin the search for your next employee, read through our essential guide to prepare for the recruitment process. Not only will you be better equipped to ask the right questions with our interview tips, but you’ll have a clearer understanding of where to look and the technicalities of hiring.
1) When to Hire
If you’re starting to turn work away as you’re struggling to meet current deadlines, or there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to complete work – it’s time to search for a new employee! Hiring essentially is a way for your business to grow. There will be more people to share the load, so more work can be taken on and eventually more profits can be made.
Also, if like lots of small businesses most of your time is taken up physically doing the work, there isn’t much time for marketing. Hiring someone to help along with the day to day tasks frees up your time to get promoting and secure more business.
2) Who to Hire
Startups.co.uk suggest measuring the suitability of a candidate by these six A’s:
Aptitude: Will they fit in well with your company culture? If you’re likely to disagree on fundamental aspects of how your business is run it won’t be a healthy or productive environment.
Attitude: Are they enthusiastic and motivated to succeed? As a small business, there won’t be many people to fall back on. Your first employee needs to show passion for the business and will it to thrive.
Ability: Will they be able to do the job? Of course, ability will be a result of the top two A’s plus the right training, so what you should look for instead is the potential to be able to do the job.
Aware: Are they self-aware? Can they admit weakness and take on board criticism?
Athletic: Not how physically fit they are, but their flexibility. Will they be able to go the extra mile and jump in when you need them? Small businesses may not follow the regular 9-5 routine, so you need to make sure they can work around your work schedule.
Authentic: This is about honesty and reliability, they must have a good work ethic and be transparent with you. You’ll be entrusting parts of the business you’ve built with your first employee, so trust is essential.
3) Interview Techniques
For sole traders and start-ups, it is absolutely vital you hire someone who will fit in with your culture. Chances are in a small team, you’ll be working for long stretches of time in close proximity. Look for someone you won’t clash with, and can work effectively with. The interview is a great chance to get a feel for their personality and how they work.
An interview doesn’t have to be a glorified interrogation either. Depending on the position, an informal chat to find out a little about the candidate and give them a flavour for the position is all you will need to determine their suitability. Suggest meeting at a coffee shop if you work from home or don’t have a suitable office.
The top things to talk about:
- Why they want to work with you
- Their past experiences and relevant skills
- Why they left their old position.
- Insight into your business and where you see the company heading.
- Payment. It’s best to manage expectations and be upfront about wages.
Think of it as a two-way conversation and make sure you prompt them to ask any questions they may have. If you’re warm and friendly, you’ll get much more out of the candidate as they’re able to relax and be themselves.
On the other hand, be aware of what you can’t legally ask in an interview:
- What religion they practice, or if they go to church.
- Their age
- If a woman is pregnant or is planning to start a family soon.
If you’re on the fence about a candidate – offer them a trial shift and measure their attitude in the workplace. Not everyone is great at interviews, and some people thrive better once they’re getting their hands in.
If you’re finding it tough to hire someone who has the necessary skills for your business, then apprenticeships can help bridge the skills gap. You’ll train them from scratch specifically for your role, which will eventually lead to a more able and productive staff member!
If you have the time to help train someone on the job, then consider hiring an apprentice. Apprenticeship schemes are increasing in popularity and small businesses are seeing the benefit. You’ll be getting someone with a fresh perspective and who’s committed; Populus researched that 80% of employers feel that apprenticeships reduce staff turnover, which suggests apprentices have loyalty to the business which trained them.
5) How to Hire
Once you’ve found the perfect employee, there are steps you need to take when getting them on board.
- How much shall I pay them?
Everyone must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, check out the Gov.uk website to find out how much the current figure is. However, you also need to consider the local ‘going rate’ – if you are offering substantially less money than your competitors, you won’t attract suitable candidates! Do some research to ensure you’re paying a fair wage.
- Do they have the legal right to work in the UK?
If they are not a UK Citizen, you need to check your staff’s passports, visas, proof of citizenship or immigration status documents to make sure you’re hiring someone legally. Hiring someone who doesn’t have the legal right to work in the UK can result in a fine of up to £20,000.
- Do I need a DBS (previously CRB) check?
If you work with vulnerable people, you and your employee need to apply for a DBS check. The full list of businesses which qualify can also be found on the Gov.co.uk website.
- Do I have employment insurance?
You need to get employers liability insurance as soon as someone starts working for you. Shop around online to see which policy best suits you.
- Have I written a statement of employment to send to my employee?
If someone will be working for you for longer than a month, you need give them a written statement of employment which includes the job details, holiday entitlement and how long the job will last for, hours, notice periods and overtime requirements.
- Have I told HMRC by registering as an employer?
You’re able to do this 4 weeks before you pay your employee.
- Do I need to automatically enrol my staff in a workplace pension scheme?
Staff qualify for a workplace pension if they’re over 22 and earn at least £10,000. Go onto the Gov.uk’s Pensions Regulator’s Duties Checker to see how to set this up.
- How do I pay them?
For a first time employer, processing payroll can be a bit of a minefield. You’ll be relieved to know you can outsource this task through online software services which calculate income and wages to help you sort out employer’s tax and National Insurance. It will give you much more to think about once you’re responsible for someone else’s wages, so keeping on top of their hours worked and money you bring in has to be at the forefront of your mind.
Following these steps should give you some solid foundations to your startup’s recruitment process. As long as you’re ready to take on the responsibilities that come with becoming an employer, your business will reap the benefits of an extra pair of hands. Happy Hiring!