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It's a major milestone in the life of a growing small business when you make the leap from solopreneur to boss. There's only so big your business can grow without bringing on a little help.
But hiring your first employee can be nerve-wracking.
After all, you're not a human-resource professional...you're an entrepreneur! You know your business, but hiring is a skill of its own.
Hiring the wrong person can be a costly mistake, too. I've spoken to entrepreneurs who hired neighbors or relatives just because they were handy, only to regret it later when they turned out to be work-shirkers. Others posted help-wanted ads on Craigslist, only to be overwhelmed with hundreds of applications from utterly unqualified candidates.
How can you avoid this kind of pain and make a smart hire? Hiring expert Rhonda Abrams, author of Hire Your First Employee, offers these tips for when you're ready to make that first hire:
1. Write a job description -- then, use it in interviews. Don't go into hiring with only a vague idea of what skills you want or what tasks you hope to offload onto this employee. Make a list of specific jobs they should do, and the qualifications for doing them. Then, when you sit down with applicants, ask them about their experience in the areas where you need help. Too many new bosses fritter away interview time just shooting the breeze and getting to know applicants on a personal level, instead of learning whether the person is really a fit for their job.
2. Hire a contractor first. Big companies are all doing this since the downturn, and you should do it, too. Find a good temporary hire and bring them on for an initial project or set timeframe. Let them know when you interview that you're looking to take the right person on as a permanent hire. Then, hire one of the people who had an enthusiastic response to that news.
3. Find candidates through the grapevine. Before you consider placing a job ad, be sure everyone you know is aware of your interest in making a hire. Tap family and friends, your online social networks such as LinkedIn, and any in-person networking groups where you're active. It's always better to interview candidates who have been recommended to you by someone you know and trust than to interview strangers you met through an ad.
4, Know what to pay. As a new employer, pay rates may be baffling to you. You want to pay appropriately, but not overpay. Before you start interviewing, learn what going rates are for the job you want to fill. Scan competitors' 'help wanted' posts, or do a search for your job title on Indeed, which compiles job listings from many sources. You can also check with your state employment department to see what rates their job listings carry. Note the mix of perks involved, too -- you may be able to offer a lower pay rate if you can throw in a bus pass, gym membership, healthcare or other fringe benefits.
5. Know what candidates want. When you interview, get a sense of the candidate's own goals. Are they just desperately grabbing for any job they can find, or are they genuinely interested in your type of business and eager to learn? Abrams says to look for a "will do" attitude. You can teach a hire new skills, but if they are the type of person who would rather hold up a wall and stare into space than push a broom, that attitude probably won't change.
Have you recently made a hire? Tell us how you found your new worker.
Photo: stock.xchng user acerin