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Updated May 09, 2024

Guide to Hiring Employees

A thoughtful, thorough hiring process can ensure you recruit and hire top talent to help grow your business.

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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The employee hiring and recruitment process can be lengthy and detailed. If you do it right, you’ll find and hire high-quality candidates who stick around and represent your business professionally and competently. However, many small business owners lack HR experience and aren’t sure how to create and execute a high-level hiring process. Fortunately, hiring employees and enjoying excellent outcomes requires straightforward preparation and steps. We’ll explain what small business owners must do to grow their workforce and strengthen their teams with successful hiring.

Preparing your business for hiring employees

Whether you’re hiring your first or thousandth employee, preparing your business for their arrival is one of the best ways to improve the hiring and recruitment process. Follow these steps to prepare your business for new employees:

1. Research current trends in your industry and market.

Rich Deosingh suggests researching the local market, including employee salary ranges and competitors’ activities, before considering open roles within your company.

“Research who is hiring, what the economic landscape is in your region and review other job postings,” Deosingh, district president for staffing firm Robert Half in New York, advised. “It will give you an idea of things like salary and competition in the market — who else is looking for someone with these particular skill sets?”

Once you understand the current hiring market and conditions, you can tailor the rest of your hiring process to match the competition or adjust it to stand out and grab job candidates’ attention.

2. Get your hiring and payroll paperwork in order.

Bringing on new employees requires a plethora of HR and payroll paperwork, including the following:

  • W-4: W-4 forms help you determine the correct amount of payroll taxes to withhold from each paycheck.
  • I-9: I-9 forms verify your new hires’ employment eligibility.
  • Direct deposit form: Direct deposit forms provide an employee’s banking information for convenient direct deposit payments.
  • Noncompete agreement: A noncompete agreement typically specifies a period in which an employee is barred from working for, becoming a business consultant for or otherwise conducting activities for companies similar to your business.
  • Employee handbook: An employee handbook lays out the company’s mission, vision, policies, dress code, code of conduct and more.
  • Acknowledgment form: On this form, new employees confirm that they’ve read and understood all the necessary documents, including company policies.
  • Consent to drug testing: Some companies require new hires to consent to drug testing before employment and to agree to random drug testing for the duration of their employment.
  • Miscellaneous paperwork: Depending on your business or industry, you may require employees to complete a home network security checklist (if they’ll work remotely) and a contact information form. You may also need to provide them with paperwork detailing their network login information and instructions for appropriate hardware and software usage.

Fortunately, tech tools can organize new hire paperwork and streamline its completion. Many companies use a human resources information system (HRIS) or HR software to organize all this data in a single location.

“Use an HRIS like Gusto, ADP or Paycom that provides the HR back-end paperwork to the employee in a self-service mode,” recommended Laura Handrick, HR professional at Choosing Therapy. “There’s no reason a human should be shuffling paper these days. Online systems with e-signatures streamline the paperwork for you, ensuring data is captured accurately, and saving everyone (including the new hire) time.”

No matter how you gather and store hiring and onboarding paperwork, the key is having it ready before you start the hiring process.

“All of these items should be prepared beforehand and easily accessible online,” Deosingh advised. “Communication before the first day is key — if you need the new hire to provide paperwork or identification, it should be noted ahead of time.”

Matthew Dailly, managing director of Tiger Financial, recommends using past paperwork to update future requirements. “Using previous hires as a template, look over all the information gathered from them, and then update or add more important documents that have been implemented since,” Dailly suggested.

FYIDid you know
The best HR software will help you organize employee paperwork. Read our review of Gusto and our Paychex Flex review to learn about two platforms that can help you get new hires into your system quickly so they can hit the ground running.

3. Consider outsourcing hiring tasks and HR processes.

Not every small business has an internal HR department or staff member familiar with HR processes — and that’s OK. Outsourcing HR functions like recruiting, benefits administration, payroll and more can be a cost-effective solution that improves the hiring process.

“For businesses that have an HR department of one, utilizing outsourced resources for recruiting, payroll, benefits administration, etc., can be very helpful to handle the heavy lifting of compliance and reporting requirements for new employees, as well as the current employee base of the company,” noted Karen L. Roberts, SHRM-SCP and director of human resources at Flaster Greenberg PC.

The best HR outsourcing companies can ensure HR compliance while handling crucial hiring functions that can strengthen and grow your business. “Don’t delegate hiring to an untrained supervisor,” Handrick warned. “Interviewing and being able to discern talent is a skill.”

Step-by-step process to hire employees

With your organization prepared to welcome new team members, follow these steps for an effective hiring process and successful onboarding. Over time, as you gain experience, you can tweak your hiring process to better suit your needs.

1. Evaluate which positions you must fill.

Sonya Schwartz, founder of Her Norm, says carefully evaluating the jobs you need to fill is crucial to prevent position redundancy in the company.

“The best thing you can do is approach the process with the mindset of filling needs, not desks,” Deosingh advised. “You are looking for the best person to fill a specific need, not just getting someone in and calling it a day.”

2. Figure out your recruiting strategy.

When it comes to recruiting, businesses have several options. For example, you can turn to recruiting firms. However, Dailly said if you decide not to go this route, state “no agencies, please” on all job recruitment forms. “This will save a ton of incoming sales calls,” he noted.

Businesses can also focus on internal hires or have current employees tap into their networks.

However you decide to approach recruiting, it’s critical to remember that you’re hiring the right candidate for a specific job — not necessarily choosing the best candidate overall.

“Recruiters and hiring managers should take their time to find the best candidate for the role and not settle for the best candidate in the applicant pool,” warned Lori Rassas, HR consultant, executive coach and author of The Perpetual Paycheck. “If you interview 10 candidates and none are a fit to their role, there will likely be pressure to just pick the best candidate. Hiring managers should resist this pressure and go back to the hiring pool to secure other candidates.”

3. Write the job description.

Before posting a job or listing it internally, confer with your team managers about the ideal candidate to understand precisely what you need. Write a job description that matches what you’re seeking, including details like job requirements, responsibilities and expectations. Include information regarding your core values and company culture so you can find the right cultural fit.

Additionally, predetermine the salary you’ll offer and include it in the job description. This will help you avoid recruiting underqualified and overqualified candidates.

“In some situations, hiring managers are less than upfront about exactly what challenges the candidate will face, and this leads to mistrust, high turnover and an overall negative impact on workplace culture,” Rassas cautioned. “But that can be prevented by being explicit with what is expected of the person filling the role and making sure the candidates you’ve chosen can fulfill it.”

4. Post your job opening.

While many businesses advertise job openings on their websites, online job resources are a major factor in the modern hiring process. They often let you target individuals with the specific skill sets you want. Consider posting open positions on the following job sites:

  • CareerBuilder: CareerBuilder provides resources for employees and employers, including localized searches. The site advertises to more than 80 million job seekers worldwide who use its database to search for positions. The posting price is low and based on the number of positions you are hiring for your company.
  • Monster: On Monster, job seekers can search by location, skill set, keywords and job title. Video features can make your listing stand out. Pricing varies by hiring needs and company size.
  • ZipRecruiter: ZipRecruiter allows you to create a free hiring account and provides innovative matching tools to help you find the right talent for your job posting. The platform manages all communications.
  • LinkedIn: With 1 billion members, LinkedIn has a massive candidate base. Job postings are free, but the site charges you to use more comprehensive recruiting tools.
FYIDid you know
Beyond hiring, many companies use LinkedIn business features to publish and share content and promote their products and services.

5. Sift through applicants.

You’ll likely receive an influx of applications from your job postings. Ideally, most are suitable candidates. However, you’ll have to sift through applications and resumés to eliminate those who don’t appear to be qualified or who aren’t quite what you’re seeking. Cover letters, portfolios and any additional materials you requested can help you narrow your candidate pool.

If you can’t find the right candidate for your job opening from the current applicant pool, you may need to revisit your job description.

“If you are not seeing the right type of candidate, pivot so you do see the best candidates,” Rassas suggested. “Yes, work is probably piling up, and yes, you want to get a candidate in the role right away, but a bit more effort on the hiring process before extending the offer is going to save you a lot of time in the long run.”

6. Interview the most qualified candidates.

Create a shortlist of top candidates to advance to the interview stage. Before interviewing candidates, give them ample notice to allow them to prepare adequately.

“Inform the applicant about the interview ahead of time so [they can] prepare more,” Schwartz advised. “This will allow you to know the applicant better and to know if they are a perfect fit for the role because you have given them the time to prepare.”

After the first round of interviews, you may decide to narrow your applicant pool and proceed with a more thorough interview of candidates who advance to the second round.

“Whether it is in person or virtual, [the interview] remains the most important part of the hiring journey,” Deosingh noted. “It is when you get to ask the necessary questions and ideally form a bond with the candidate.”

Did You Know?Did you know
Some interview questions are illegal. Before conducting interviews, ensure hiring managers understand what is and isn't allowed.

7. Follow up with the interviewees.

Follow-up can take many forms. It might be as simple as a thank-you letter for the interviewee’s time or as formal as a job offer letter.

However, this stage isn’t just for calling or emailing the applicants. According to Deosingh, a post-interview evaluation is crucial.

“Don’t fall victim to the halo effect and be blinded by any potential weaknesses,” Deosingh warned. “Maintain perspective and take everything into account — not just the interview or resumé but the totality of what you’ve seen. Get input from others, but limit it to a small group to avoid brain drain.”

8. Extend the job offer.

If you’ve interviewed many people and found high-quality candidates for the position, it’s essential to move quickly.

“Don’t delay in making a decision,” Deosingh advised. “Make sure all the stakeholders (if applicable) are available to interview and give feedback in a timely fashion. The demand for skilled employees is still high, and you can lose a potential hire to other opportunities if you delay.”

The exact offer you extend also matters.

“Make sure to give an irresistible job offer,” Schwartz recommended. “Most high-quality employees demand higher pay and good benefits.”

TipTip
A competitive employee benefits package will help you attract top talent and increase employee retention.

9. Conduct a background check.

As a final step, consider conducting a background check to ensure no significant red flags exist before bringing the person into your workplace.

“If you think the prospective applicant suits the position you require, you can do a background check,” Schwartz said. “This will confirm the decision you made.”

Hiring remote employees

According to Statista, 28 percent of global workers worked remotely in 2023. Because managing a remote workforce is commonplace today, many hiring managers must evaluate candidates for work-from-home positions. However, hiring and onboarding remote employees presents unique challenges. When funneling remote candidates through the hiring process, you must make a few adjustments.

“While the core principles of onboarding remain the same, there are differences,” Deosingh noted. “They cannot see your physical space. Much of the onboarding process [typically] includes the opportunity to see the space and get acclimated to the physical location.”

Here are a few ways to adapt the hiring and onboarding process to help keep remote workers engaged and set them up for success:

  • Set up the remote employees before their first day. Setting up remote employees means ensuring they have the technology they need, including equipment, credentials and logins.
  • Give remote employees an enthusiastic welcome. It’s essential to help remote employees feel like part of the team. To get them off on the right foot, set up a video introduction with their co-workers. Be sensitive to their situation and make them feel welcome even if you can’t be in the same physical location.
  • Be available to remote employees. Your remote new hire will undoubtedly have questions. Since they can’t walk to your office or lean over and ask their teammates, they must feel comfortable reaching out via remote working tools and communication channels. Check in frequently to ensure remote new hires have the resources they need; plus, create a comprehensive online guide with all policies and employee handbook information.

Onboarding your new employee

Ensure the following action items are on your onboarding checklist to set up your new hires for success:

  1. Provide an orientation. Whether remote or in-person, new hires need a broad overview of the company via a detailed orientation.
  2. Explain your company’s core values and expectations. This is always crucial when embarking on a journey with a new hire. The sooner you set expectations, the better off your company and new employees will be.
  3. Review job responsibilities. You likely covered much of this information during the interview process, but it’s helpful to go into more detail and set clear employee expectations now that they have the job.
  4. Give them a starting project. Many new hires are eager to get started. Instead of having them sit through multiple orientations and company overviews, give them something to sink their teeth into right away.
  5. Assign a mentor. Find a mentor in a similar position to the new employee’s role so they have someone who can answer their questions and steer them in the right direction.

Our experts provided a few more onboarding tips:

  • Provide a welcome package. Roberts said her company’s onboarding process starts with a welcome package that includes an offer letter, new-hire paperwork, benefits information and the employee handbook. “[The welcome package] should include introductions to key staff members, employer resources, office tours, etc. — [anything] that will help a new hire assimilate to their new role as a member of your team,” Roberts shared.
  • Provide information specific to your business. Your industry or business type will dictate additional information your new hires need. According to Schwartz, onboarding may also consist of any necessary personal data encoding, explaining your company’s mission and vision, training on your standard operating procedures, and issuing supplies and uniforms.
  • Engage the new hire. Handrick says onboarding is about more than paperwork — making a good first impression and engaging the new hire to solidify their commitment to your business is crucial. Handrick recommends mapping out, in a checklist format, every task and activity necessary to help the new hire feel welcome, be productive, and want to stay. Handrick also noted that, while first-week activities tend to focus on paperwork, the real value of onboarding is what happens in the first 30-90 days and its effects going forward.
Key TakeawayKey takeaway
The hiring process doesn't stop once an offer has been accepted. You must spend time successfully onboarding and training new employees to help them hit the ground running.

Take time to hire the right employees

Hiring the right employees is a crucial part of growing a successful business, but finding the right fit can be a challenge. Working through each of the steps outlined above will help ensure you find people who are a cultural fit and skilled in the areas you need most.

Casey Conway contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Jennifer Post has spent nearly 10 years advising small business owners on best practices for human resources, marketing, funding and more. She devotes her time to ensuring entrepreneurs are equipped with not only the knowledge necessary to launch and grow a successful business but also the software products and tools that are essential for everyday operations. These range from CRM and credit card processing solutions to legal services and email marketing platforms. Post, who has a bachelor's degree in journalism, has shared her expertise through Fundera, The Motley Fool, HowStuffWorks and more. Most recently, she has focused on risk management and insurance, two key areas business owners must understand to sustain their enterprises.
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