After actually doing what many only dream about (starting a company), you're finally ready to expand beyond the founder’s circle and hire your first employee. It’s a huge step, fraught with both excitement and risk. After all, at this stage in your company's lifecycle, a new hire could either help propel your business to a new level or drain your time and resources if the person is not a fit. Here are three things to check before you dive in.
Make sure the time is right
Hiring your first employee too soon can be just as detrimental to your startup as hiring too late. Employees cost money, so it’s generally advisable to wait until your business has a positive cashflow (or has an ample supply of money tucked away specifically for employees’ salaries). A good indication that you’re ready to hire is that you turn down work. When it's so busy that you’re unable to take on new projects or meet current demand, it’s time to hire. Just make sure you’ll be bringing in enough new work to keep them busy. Otherwise, consider hiring someone part-time or on a contract basis..
Make sure their vision matches yours
Every employee contributes directly to the culture of a company, and this is especially true for startups. Your first hire is crucial because that person will effectively set the standard for every subsequent employee. Because of this, it’s vital to ensure that they understand and buy into the core values and mission of your company. Defining those values and drafting a vision statement will give you something tangible to use when evaluating potential hires.
Make sure to look past their resume
Certain interview questions have become so commonplace that job applicants already know they’re likely to be asked, which means many candidates have rehearsed their responses over and over. This makes it difficult to truly get a feel for a candidate’s competence. Having candidates actually demonstrate their skills will help you to separate the truly proficient from those who simply talk a big game. If you’re hiring someone to do marketing, have them draft a compelling blog post with your target audience in mind. Looking for a sales leader? Simulate a call with both an easy and hard prospect and watch how they work. Many people have impressive résumés, but in the startup game, it’s real world skills that make the difference between an indispensable hire and a drain on your resources.
Building a business from the ground up is an exciting and impressive accomplishment that not many get to experience. Hiring the right first employee is crucial in your quest to successfully continue on that journey.
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