How to Hire Employees in 2023 (+ Video Guide)
This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Knowing how to hire employees for your small business is the key to growing your company. A good hiring process includes well-written job descriptions, effective recruitment ads, and strong interview processes—all of which should promote your culture and values and adhere to fair labor practices.
View our video guide and follow along with the steps below.
Step 1: Create a Detailed Job Description
The first step in the process to hire an employee is the job description. A detailed job description helps you connect with qualified applicants as well as clarify work expectations once they are hired. A great job description should include the educational and professional requirements and a preview of the company culture. Use our free template to get started.
Include the following in every job description:
Before the duties of the job are discussed, basic information is often shared at the top of the description. For example:
- Company logo
- Job title
- Status (full time, part time, temporary)
- Job location (remote, city/state)
- Salary range
A position summary can be added at the bottom of this section that gives a brief (four to six sentences) description of the position. This is where you let potential candidates know the basics of the position; greater detail can be given further down that outlines specific duties and responsibilities.
This is the area of the job description where you define the job’s duties and responsibilities in specific detail. It is not uncommon to highlight more than 10 primary features of the job, listed in order of importance. The more detailed a picture you paint of the position, the more qualified candidates you will attract.
Be sure to include all essential functions of the position. These are the duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) governs what is considered an essential function, partially through the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).
Some of these functions may include:
- Ability to sit or stand for long periods
- Able to lift a certain amount (i.e., 50 pounds)
- Languages required to be successful
- Required travel
- Ability to use general office equipment
When you create your job description, make sure you’re describing the skills necessary for a candidate to be successful in the role. These may be learned skills, like proficiency in certain computer software, or soft skills, like personal development.
Most business owners list a minimum educational requirement in their job description based on the job role when hiring employees. For example, a solar installation company may desire its workers to have at least a GED or high school degree to be able to read complex instructions. Meanwhile, a CPA firm might prefer its associates to have a business or accounting degree (bachelor’s or master’s), whereas a Biomed testing facility may need Ph.D. candidates for licensing purposes.
Before imposing an educational requirement, ask yourself whether a degree is really necessary to perform the job. If not, skip the college degree requirement on the job description and focus instead on skills-based hiring.
Think about the work experience a candidate must have. In addition to education and training, many skills are learned on the job. More often than not, it is best to clarify what is “required” and what is “preferred” in experience, education, and skills.
Here are some examples of the kind of “experience statements” that you might want to include in your job description:
- Four years of customer service experience in a fast-paced sales environment; two years in IT sales preferred.
- Five years of diesel mechanic experience or two years of experience if ASE certified.
- Ten years in multi-restaurant management or former GM managing at least $100K in sales each month.
- Three years of transportation dispatch experience with temperature-controlled carriers; food service transportation experience preferred.
- Six years of technical or supervisory experience in any construction trade; three years of solar panel installation preferred.
This is the section of your job description where you can let your business shine. Define the cultural and management values of your company. Explain how employees can benefit from working for you. Besides these, give some details of your employer branding; this highlights how your company is perceived by prospective and current employees. Positive employer branding can reduce hiring costs by attracting more candidates per job opening.
Federal labor laws enforced by the EEOC ensure fair labor practices across the employment spectrum, from job advertising and interviewing to hiring and employee development. Be sure to use language that is non-discriminatory when creating your job descriptions.
Step 2: Advertise & Recruit
Once you’ve created your job description, it’s time to advertise your job. Many businesses use job boards to find qualified employees and make recruitment easier. Job board services like ZipRecruiter will not only increase visibility and attract top-tier candidates but offer templates to assist you with crafting a job advertisement.
Click through the tabs below for steps to advertise your job:
The difference between the job description and a job ad is subtle. A job ad starts with a job description’s most critical details, but it also adds marketing details and a call to action to entice job seekers to apply. For example, it might include more about your company culture, showcase the benefits you offer, or include a hiring bonus. However, it is not necessary to list every single duty the job requires—this can be discussed during the interview.
Some states do not allow employers to ask certain things in the initial job application to determine eligibility for hire (known as Ban the Box). Factor this in when creating your application forms to avoid any legal complications.
You can post a sign at your business to attract walk-in applicants, but the most common means of finding qualified job candidates is to use an online job board for hiring employees. Once you post a job, you can share it on social media or email individuals you hope will apply. In addition, some employers prefer to use a free applicant tracking system to keep track of where their jobs are posted and who has applied to each job.
Check out our free resources for posting jobs online.
Employee referral programs are a great way to find job talent, as your employees may know of qualified candidates to join your company. If you post your job on an online job posting site, you can share the link and job description with existing employees and ask them to help you recruit their next co-worker.
Here are some tips on making the most of employee referrals:
- Be a company of choice: That’ll make your existing team members more likely to recommend jobs to people within their network.
- Communicate your enthusiasm: When talking about open roles and opportunities, share your enthusiasm, which can help engage and attract employees’ friends and family to apply.
- Focus on the opportunity: Emphasize what a great opportunity the role is and the importance of the position to the company.
- Reward employees: When you hire an employee referred to you by an existing team member, consider offering your team member a referral bonus.
Another popular option is to work with a recruiter or recruitment firm with expertise in sourcing candidates. Typically a recruiter will charge you a percentage (ranging anywhere from 20%–35%) of the new hire’s first-year salary. For example, if you are looking to fill a position at a salary of $40,000, it would typically cost around $8,000 in fees. But, that may be worth it to get a top-notch candidate you may not have found on your own.
Step 3: Evaluate Resumes
Once you begin receiving job applications, you’ll have to screen job applicants to find qualified ones to take to the next step. If you’re using a job posting site like ZipRecruiter, you’ll have access to online tools that assess job applicant qualifications in advance; otherwise, you’ll start by reading applications and resumes to determine which candidates to interview.
Pick a time during the day when you can fully concentrate on the resumes. Give them a thoughtful read-through and look for any skills or experience the candidate has that aligns with your job description. You should be looking for past job experience similar to the role, skills the candidate possesses that can help them perform the job, and anything “extra” that the candidate might bring to the table (i.e., certifications).
You’ll find that a large percentage of job seekers fire off resumes with no regard for whether their skills match the ad posting. It’s easiest to set those aside into a “no” or “not qualified” pile once you recognize that candidates do not qualify for your role.
Sorting your resumes into three groupings is a great way to get a handle on which candidates you may want to follow up with. Oftentimes you have a “Qualified—Interview” pile, a “Qualified—Maybe” pile, and a “Not Qualified—No” pile. The “No” pile will typically be your largest, followed by your “Maybe” pile and then your “Interview” pile. Your end goal is to have a short stack of three to five individuals to interview.
Step 4: Interview Candidates
Once you’re done sorting, it’s time to schedule interviews. Be certain you have a good interviewing process established, which should always include more than the hiring manager or the HR representative.
Knowing what you can and cannot ask in interviews is essential. Use caution when interviewing as there are labor laws at the federal and state level that may restrict the kind of questions you can ask (i.e., criminal background and salary history).
Set up an interview schedule with your top candidates. Although this can be done via email, we suggest doing so through a phone call to assess each job seeker’s interest before committing yourself or your managers to the full interview process. Some applicants may have already accepted a job with another firm, while others may not be as good a fit as they appear to be on paper, so this could be another layer of screening before settling on one candidate.
The most common forms of interviews include
- Phone Interviews: A phone interview is generally brief. You contact the candidate, thank them for applying, and ask if they would mind answering a few questions. How they react will tell you much about their true interest in the role.
- Video Interviews: Video interviews are great for team interviews (with more than one of your managers) or remote and work-from-home candidates. Don’t worry if you don’t already have video conferencing software as many are free.
- In-person Interviews: In-person interviews are the most common interview type managers think of when they imagine interviewing a new hire. But in-person interviews are notoriously inefficient and may result in you selecting a candidate based on how similar they are to you (affinity bias) rather than how qualified they are.
A best business practice is to acknowledge those candidates that took the time to apply to your open position. Remember to communicate just as promptly with those who didn’t make the cut as those who did. For those you’re going to be turning down, you can send rejection letters or use a job board, like ZipRecruiter, that will allow you to send bulk emails to candidates, including interview requests and rejection letters.
The best candidate for the job is the individual who most closely fits the job requirements and has the highest likelihood to succeed in the role within your organization. If the candidate will be working in a specific department, it’s recommended for direct supervisors to have a say in which candidate is right for the job.
It’s also a good idea to contact prior employers and check the candidate’s references to get insight into the candidate’s strengths. Take a look at your candidate’s LinkedIn profile to be sure it matches the attributes listed in their resume.
Once you have selected the candidate you want to hire, consider conducting a background check and/or a pre-employment drug screen. A background check can verify a candidate’s employment history, experience, and education, and may shed light on any criminal activity. This is especially important for certain roles, such as finance, accounting, and jobs that include driving.
A background check company will verify the candidate’s information and report any issues directly to your business. The best companies are compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), offer transparent pricing, and provide you with a quick response.
Step 5: Craft a Job Offer
Your final step in hiring a new employee is to write a formal job offer letter. This letter should outline what the role is, when it starts, and what it pays. Additionally, include a benefits statement, contingencies, and an offer timeframe that the candidate must respond by to accept the offer.
When describing your company and the position being offered, make sure the personality and culture of your company come through. Include benefits as well as your company’s unique mission. It’s also a good idea to make the job offer contingent upon a successful background check, required physicals, drug tests, or any other pre-hire requirements.
Don’t be surprised if your job candidate doesn’t accept your first job offer. Be willing to negotiate unless you simply can’t pay a penny more. Many new hires are open to receiving off-site training, getting a few more days of paid time off (PTO), or working remotely in exchange for a lower-than-desired salary.
Once your new hire has agreed to your job offer, it’s time to plan their onboarding. Additionally, when you take into account recruiting expenses and new employee training costs, retaining good employees is the most profitable way to keep your business fully staffed.
- Before the First Day: It’s a good idea to stay in touch. Let them know where to show up, what time, how to dress, where to park, and what to bring. For example, paperwork is often the priority on their first day so ensure they’re set up in your HR software platform and can receive direct deposit on payday.
- Employee’s First Day: Use a new hire checklist to ensure you give the new hire a solid welcome and get them off to a good start. The checklist will remind you of all the things you need to do on the employee’s first day. Read our New Employee Forms Guide for all paperwork required to set up your new hire.
- Orientation and Training: Employee orientation is more than handing the new staff member an employee handbook to read. It may include going over company policies, teaching the new hires how to use your software, or answering process and procedure questions. A great orientation and onboarding approach increases the chance of your new hire being successful on the job.
To properly and quickly onboard new hires, consider using small business payroll software; it helps in filling out new hire paperwork, adding employees to payroll process, and signing up for employee benefits. Top software also calculates employee wages and deductions and pays and files payroll taxes automatically.
- Share Frequent Employee Feedback: Employees value receiving personalized feedback on their strengths and growth opportunities. A strong performance management process with 360 performance reviews can help them feel more secure and happier in the long run, ultimately leading them to staying longer. Performance management software can make it easier for you to keep employees motivated and engaged at peak performance.
- Promote Employee Training: Employees value relevant, high-quality training. It increases their chances for success and shows that you care about their professional growth. And, some training requirements are mandated at the state level, such as anti-discrimination training in New York and Delaware and anti-harassment training for supervisors in California.
- Let Employees Know They’re Appreciated: One thing that can demotivate employees is not being appreciated for their hard work. Have a program that provides employee recognition when appropriate.
- Make Sure Employees are Engaged and Motivated: A more engaged employee is a happier employee. Have programs in place to facilitate this engagement, such as volunteer opportunities for growth, culture-building team events, and/or peer praise apps.
According to an employee well-being mindset study, when it comes to creating a desirable work environment, businesses that offer a good work/life balance rank among the top places to work.
How to Hire Employees Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I hire an employee for the first time?
To hire an employee make sure you register as an employer in your state, set up payroll, set up workers’ compensation, and post required labor law posters. Additionally, you will want to post your open position on either a job board or by putting a help wanted sign at your business. From there, conduct interviews and choose the best candidate for the position.
What do you need to hire employees?
When hiring employees be sure you have the following in place:
- Collect I-9 form
- Collect W-4 form
- Collect other new hire forms
- Follow the steps above for finding your first employee
Hiring employees to grow your business and promote your brand is a huge building block in your company’s foundation for sustained success. Take your time to find the person most likely to be successful in the job based on the candidate’s resume, interviews, and employment references. Maintain a clear vision when recruiting and selecting your new team member.
Consider using ZipRecruiter to find your next top employee. It can assist with the entire hiring process—job description templates, job posting to over 100 sites, interviewing, tracking, and hiring. Plus get an exclusive free “Highlight” Enhancement to make your job stand out.