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Top tips for a first hire

Lynne Rawlinson

Strategic importance

Remember that your first hire is the most strategically important hire you will ever make.  You become an employer.  That changes things for you.  It creates expectations in the mind of the recruit; if you grow your business they will often expect to be promoted as the company grows.   Will they be good enough?  It’s not enough to recruit the friend of a friend who just happens to be available.  You need the best person for the job and this means checking to see what the market has to offer. 

Is this a real job?

A real priority is to ensure that you know what you want the new hire to do; what job are you hiring them for?  Is it a stopgap to help you deal with lots of random “stuff” that’s distracting you? If it is, hire a temp or a contractor; sort the “stuff” out and then identify what you need on a long-term basis.

So, it’s a proper job …

So, you’ve worked out that it’s a proper job.  What next?  Write a Job Description and a Person Specification.  It may take you time, it may be a challenge if you are busy and stressed, but this is your sense check both for the role and the person, so find the time and make it count. 

Focus on what you need, not what you want

It’s not enough to download a Job Description or Person Specification from the internet, do a tweak or two and wash your hands of it.  This is where you work out what you want and it’s an area of high risk for a first hire.  We all tend to recruit in our own likeness, find someone we are comfortable with, but this can be dangerous.  Do you need someone to do the stuff you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at?  Someone to bounce ideas around with?  If you aren’t great at admin but need someone to cover that, bear in mind that someone with great admin skills may not be a great ideas person.  You may not be natural soul-mates but they will be what you need. 

Job Description and Performance Management

A good JD needs careful construction; think about the content.    The JD will set out what you want your hire to do; you will use it to manage their performance.  If you can’t be clear about what you expect, how can they be clear about what they must do?  Performance management is a struggle for many employers. How can you manage your hire’s performance if there is a lack of clarity in the JD? 

Person Specification, Culture and Values

The PS sets out the personal qualities, experience and qualifications you are looking for and this is important.  Avoid the box-ticking mentality that so often prevails.  Challenge your own thinking or get someone else to.  Does the new hire really need a degree?  An MBA? A professional qualification?  Are you looking for competence and trainability rather than qualifications?    It’s where you look for the cultural match that will help to ensure that the new hire fits your business.  It’s where your values are exposed to the public gaze. 

Think long term

All this may take you out of your comfort zone but it’s part of your personal development as a business person.  You can never repeat the process of recruiting your first hire so be intelligent about it – it needs to be effective.