A new hire checklist ensures you don’t miss important steps when adding new employees to your team. If it’s your first time hiring, you may be unsure of what’s required. It is common for many small employers to unintentionally omit crucial on-boarding steps such as completing the Form I9 or acquiring workers’ compensation insurance and so on. These can be costly errors so we have created a free downloadable checklist that’s customizable.
Task management and collaboration software like Zenefits.com can align your HR team and managers around common new hire onboarding activities. Maintaining your checklist keeps you on top of critical tasks like collecting I-9 and W-4 forms, scheduling manager orientation, setting up personnel files, providing badges or keys, and more. Zenefits comes with customizable HR templates and customizable workflows. Sign up to get a free seven-day trial to try it out with no commitment.
Free Downloadable New Hire Checklist
Using the 10 steps in our new hire checklist below, we’ve created a simple one-page template you can download and customize—either a DOC or PDF file. Once you’ve set up your employer identification number (EIN), taxes, and workers’ compensation insurance (steps one through five below), you are ready to proceed with the remaining action items on the list. The remaining items of this checklist are focused on the new hire. That is, these steps provide resources to your new team members that will help them launch successfully.
Steps Before Hiring Any Employees
Steps one through five of the new hire checklist ensures you’re prepared for your first employee. The rest of the one-page template can be customized and used for each additional new hire to make sure you don’t miss a critical hiring step.
If you’re hiring a 1099 contractor versus a W2 employee, consider using an independent-contractor employment contract instead of following the steps in the checklist we’ve provided. Tasks like state registration, workers comp, and other activities may not be required for you to hire a freelancer or gig worker that’s not an employee.
1. Obtain an Employer ID Number
Employer ID Numbers (EINs) are 9-digit numbers assigned and used by the IRS to track business tax information. You probably obtained one when you started your business. If not, before you hire your first employee, you need to apply for an EIN on the IRS website. That allows you to set up your payroll with correct tax information about your business.
2. Register for State & Local Taxes
If not completed already, make sure your business is registered for state and local taxes. Each state will provide you with an ID or number that you will need to set up your payroll processing. This information is also used to notify the state when you hire each new employee so that they can manage business and employee payroll taxes, as well as monitor state employment and unemployment rates.
3. Purchase Workers’ Comp Insurance
Most US states require businesses with one or more employees (besides owners) to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to protect their business and employees. This can typically be purchased through a state fund or a private carrier. To find your state’s policy and agency, check out the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). Most payroll software can help you set up a workers’ compensation plan.
Gusto is an example of an affordable small business payroll service that offers workers’ comp. You can use Gusto to set up payroll for your first (and all subsequent) new hires. It provides online forms and e-signatures to ensure you complete critical onboarding tasks correctly like storing employee data online. Gusto lets you run your first payroll for free and offers a free 30-day trial.
4. Post State & Federal Labor Law Posters
Depending on the state you’re located in and your industry, you’ll likely be required to post labor law notices around the workplace. These are called labor law posters and include information such as at-will employment, minimum wage rates, and anti-discrimination laws. Most federal and state agencies will provide these posters for free (or at least give you links to PDF versions of the posters to print out).
The United States Department of Labor has an interactive questionnaire that will help you figure out which federal poster you need. You’ll also want to check with your state office for other required notices. In addition, many payroll services offer a poster service for a small fee.
5. Determine What Your State Unemployment Tax Rate Is
Your state unemployment insurance (SUI) tax rate often varies from year to year, depending on salaries or wages. You should be given your SUI tax rate each year in the mail, or log in to your state tax registration website to find it. New businesses will use a default rate, since they won’t have had any unemployment claims. This data is used when setting up your payroll process.
New Hire Checklist Steps for Established Employers
6. Document Pre-screening, Employment Verification & Background Checks
While not required for most jobs, it’s a solid practice to ensure the employee you’re hiring has been truthful during the application and interview process. Therefore, consider conducting post-offer tests, pre-hire background tests, employment verifications, or drug screening (if legal in your state), so there are no surprises. It’s best to maintain a confidential file folder to store this data.
7. Obtain the Employee Signed Federal W-4 Form
Have your employee fill out and sign a Federal W-4 form on or before his or her first day of work. The W-4 is where an employee specifies his or her tax withholding preferences. You can find the form on the IRS website. You do not have to submit a copy of it to the IRS but should keep the original on file.
8. Request a Signed State W-4 Form
Some states use the federal W-4 form. Other states don’t collect state taxes. Therefore, this task is relevant only to states that require you to use their own version of a W-4. You can find your state’s W-4 form or its equivalent on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Like the federal W-4, obtain this on Day One (if your state requires it).
9. Have Employee Complete Form I-9
The I-9 Form verifies an employee’s eligibility to work in the US and must be completed within the employee’s first three days on the job. You do not have to submit a copy of it to the government, although you do have to keep the original payroll records on file for three years after the date of hire (or one year after an employee’s termination, whichever is later).
10. Register Employee With New Hire Reporting Program
Businesses need to report every new employee to their state’s new hire reporting program within 20 days of their start date. The purpose of this registry is to help the government enforce child support payments, track employment stats, and more. Each state has its own new hire reporting program center, which you can find on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website.
How the New Hire Checklist Works
You can use the new hire checklist for two purposes: your first new hire and all subsequent ones. You can print it out to make sure all the steps are completed in order to hire your first new employee. If you work with others to complete the tasks, consider saving it as a shared document so they can mark items complete, or, you can print out copies to give to managers so they can see progress.
Then, once you begin to add additional employees, you can customize the editable version of the new hire checklist template to add anything unique to your business. For example, you may need new drivers to provide a copy of their most recent physical, child care workers to have proof of a tuberculosis test, or new restaurant workers to complete a food safety course as part of your hiring process. You can also delete any tasks you no longer need.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Due to all the federal and state labor laws, those hiring employees for the first time (and even those of us who have been recruiting and hiring for years) often have questions. We have addressed some of these questions that we hear from people most often on this topic.
Is there a complete list of all the forms I might need for new hires?
Yes, there are many lists of new hire forms online. They should all include forms commonly used when hiring employees like W-4s, I-9s, and job applications. Some even offer customizable templates so that you can add your business logo or tailor them to your industry.
Is there a checklist that provides additional information for onboarding a new hire?
Yes, once you’ve mastered the basic hiring tasks, you’ll want to up your game with a new hire orientation checklist or employee onboarding checklist. These should give you best-practice suggestions for creating your own onboarding and orientation program for new hires. Quality checklists will include reminders to do important tasks like setting up the employee’s new office and introducing them to the team.
What is the best software to use for keeping track of and paying employees?
Businesses have numerous options for managing employee data and processing payroll. Some use HR Software, others outsource HR activities like payroll processing to an external firm. To save money while ensuring federal and state labor and tax law compliance, we recommend using online payroll software.
Are there other resources needed once we start hiring?
As your business grows, you may want to consider looking at a few other employee-oriented resources in our HR section, including:
- Non-disclosure Agreements
- Non-compete Agreements
- Employee Handbook Samples
- Employment Agreement Templates
What should be included in the new hire offer letter?
An offer letter can be as simple as an email sent to your new hire with information about the job start date, pay rate, and any documents they’ll need to bring. Using an offer letter template can assist you in creating an offer letter you can customize to support your employment brand.
The steps above may feel overwhelming for the small business owner who is just beginning to hire employees. Our checklist makes it easy for you to keep track of what’s needed. Please go through the steps in sequence to reduce any opportunities of violating state or federal labor laws or missing critical steps that will assist your new team member with their on-boarding. Once the employee is hired, you can move forward with extended onboarding and training that will further integrate your new team member with their new team and company.