Hiring and Growth

How to Hire Your First 5 Employees

Gusto Editors  

There’s a chameleon inside every small business owner. You morph into a million roles to get your company off the ground: CEO, designer, marketer extraordinaire. But after awhile, you’re ready to accomplish more and dream bigger.

Hiring your first few employees is an exhilarating place to be because it means you now have the resources to do greater things. The question is, where do you start?

You should first think about how your hiring plans fit within your larger goals for the future. Once you put a plan in place, knock out the fundamentals: you need to write a captivating job description, post that description, and start networking. Know that this stage is all-consuming, but once you find the right people, you’ll be grateful that you invested the time.

Steve Jobs once said that recruiting in a small company isn’t just part of your job — it’s “the most important job.” Take the time to do it right.

Go beyond the resume

“Hire character. Train skill.” — Peter Schutz

During each step of the process, everything should hinge on this goal: finding amazing people who believe in what your company stands for.

Even if you don’t have a formal list of values written up, we guarantee you already know them. They’re those unspoken beliefs that have guided you to where you are today. Write them down, so when you’re talking to people and reading resumes, you can keep an eye out for those shining qualities. The first few employees will undoubtedly shape your company culture, so it’s important that their values intertwine with yours.

Search for potential and adaptability

“Look for people who will aim for the remarkable.” — David Ogilvy

While it’s important that your employees are knowledgeable about their area of expertise, they also need to have the desire to grow and the flexibility to help out in areas that may be outside their comfort zone.

With a small team, everyone should be comfortable lending a hand whenever necessary. In addition to flexibility, search for promise. It doesn’t matter if your candidates have sky-high GPAs or eons of experience; you want the folks who aim for the stars.

Build a diverse team

“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” — Arabic proverb

Your first five employees should also be equipped to think cross-functionally. Hire people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, so the team can challenge each other to think deeper.

It’s important to build a team where everyone has a different lens through which they view the world.

Find passionate people

“Hire for passion and intensity; there is training for everything else.” – Nolan Bushnell

People who join you at this very early stage must possess a palpable enthusiasm for your mission — the kind of enthusiasm that you can almost feel.

When Steve Jobs hired people, he always asked himself, “Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.”

Your first group of employees should also have the desire to improve the quality of people’s lives. At Gusto, our team’s genuine concern for people is what encourages everyone to continually improve the experience our customers have with us.

Now that you have some guidance on how to choose the right candidates, don’t forget about the logistics related to employee onboarding. As soon as you’ve hired someone, be sure to obtain an employer identification number and fill out the appropriate documents, including the W-4 and I-9 forms.

When you build out an incredible early team, you’ll do more than work together—you’ll build something together. And once your team is formed, your business will fly higher than ever before.

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