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How To Hire Your First Employee

Written by:

Talia Knowles is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast, with over five years of experience in writing and editing.

Reviewed by:

Daniel Eisner is a payroll specialist with over a decade of practical experience in senior accounting positions.

How To Hire Your First Employee

How To Hire Your First Employee

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve just started your own business. Congratulations! 

At first, it might make sense to handle everything by yourself. You probably don’t have many customers yet, and you can easily manage aspects of the business. 

It may take some time to generate income, but if all goes well, growing demand will allow you to begin expanding your business. 

Somewhere along this journey, you’ll hit a point where you can no longer keep up with all the necessary tasks on your own. Or at least, you won’t be able to sustain the growth you’d like to see. 

If this situation sounds familiar, it may be time to hire your first employee. 

Especially if you’ve never hired someone before, it’s crucial to clearly understand the hiring process and the legal requirements it will entail. Luckily, this guide covers everything you’ll need to know to hire your first employee successfully. 

Preparing for Hiring

Before making your first hire, you must decide what you’re hiring for! If you’re suddenly overwhelmed by more business than you can handle, it may be tempting to hire the first person who walks through the door. 

However, hiring a quality first employee is critical to the overall health of your business. Even if it requires losing a few customers early on, waiting to hire the right person will help your business move in the right direction.

Legal and Administrative Considerations

1. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

When starting a business, one of the first things to tackle is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This unique identifier is essential for tax reporting and helps the government track your business’s financial activities.

You’ll need an EIN to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits, so it’s best to register for one right after establishing your business. 

2. Find Out Whether You Need State or Local Tax IDs

In addition to an EIN, you’ll need to determine whether your business requires state or local tax IDs in addition to a federal tax ID. The IRS will utilize your EIN to determine federal taxes, but you’ll need a separate ID from your state for state tax purposes. 

These identifiers are necessary to ensure that you’re meeting your tax obligations at different levels of government. Regulations differ from state to state, so confirm you’re meeting all legal requirements at a state and federal level. 

3. Decide Between an Independent Contractor or an Employee

As your business grows, you’ll likely need to bring on additional staff. When doing so, you’ll face the decision to classify these individuals as independent contractors or employees. 

This determination has significant implications for tax withholding and legal responsibilities, so it’s crucial to understand the distinctions between the two categories. 

Independent contractors are different from employees in that employers do not bear any legal responsibility for them. 

Organizations are not required to withhold taxes on behalf of independent contractors and exert less control over their schedules and output than they do for employees. 

Regular employees and independent contractors contribute unique benefits to your organization, but failing to distinguish them properly can lead to legal difficulties. 

When you’re just starting out, an independent contractor could be a good fit if you need help with a task outside your repertoire, such as developing a website. However, an employee is usually the better choice if you’re looking for someone to stick around and grow with the business. 

4. Ensure New Employees Return a Completed W-4 Form

Once you’ve hired employees, it’s important to ensure they complete a W-4 form. This form helps you calculate the correct amount of tax withholding from their paychecks. 

Coordinating pay periods is essential for accurately withholding taxes according to IRS guidelines. Thoughtfully planning your pay periods can simplify the tax process for both you and your employees.

5. Pay Periods and Minimum Wage

Creating a comprehensive compensation plan is another critical aspect of managing your workforce. 

Beyond payment structures and policies, this plan should consider holidays, vacations, and leaves of absence. By establishing clear practices for these situations, you can maintain a harmonious work environment and ensure your employees are fairly compensated.

It is also essential to comply with your state’s legal requirements around compensation (such as the hourly minimum wage) and working conditions. Following guidelines such as proper meal breaks and fair pay will help retain staff and keep you on the right side of the law. 

6. Create a Compensation Plan for Holidays, Vacations, and Leave

Managing payroll can be a complex task, and you’ll need to decide whether to handle it in-house or use an external service. 

Both options have their benefits, so consider your business’s unique needs when weighing the pros and cons of each.

7. Decide Who Will Manage Your Payroll System

As you navigate payroll and taxes, it’s crucial to understand which records must be kept on file and for how long

Compliance with record-keeping requirements ensures that you’re prepared for any audits or inquiries that may arise. Being diligent in this area can save you significant time and stress down the road.

Initially, it might be easier to hire an independent contractor or external organization to handle your payroll. 

Once your organization has grown, you can designate an employee to manage the payroll system. This individual will ensure that all employees are accurately compensated, and all tax-related matters are handled correctly. 

Their role is pivotal in maintaining your business’s financial well-being and keeping employees satisfied.

8. Know Which Records Must Stay on File and For How Long

Staying on top of payroll taxes is an ongoing responsibility. You’ll need to report these taxes as required on both a quarterly and annual basis. 

This regular reporting ensures that your business remains in good standing with tax authorities and avoids potential penalties.

9. Report Payroll Taxes as Needed on a Quarterly and Annual Basis

When you take on a new employee, it’s imperative to navigate the intricacies of payroll tax reporting on both a quarterly and annual basis. This process is a critical link between legal compliance and the financial health of your business. 

Each quarter, you’ll be tasked with submitting Form 941, which encapsulates an array of essential financial details, including wages, tips, federal income tax withholdings, and the contributions made by both employer and employee to Social Security and Medicare taxes. 

Timely and accurate submission of this form is paramount to avoid penalties and discrepancies that could hinder your business’s financial stability.

Annual reporting involves furnishing Form W-2 to employees, encapsulating their yearly earnings and corresponding tax withholdings. Simultaneously, you’ll need to file Form W-3, a compilation of all W-2s submitted to the Social Security Administration. 

Maintaining precise records and leveraging dedicated accounting software or payroll services is highly recommended to simplify these processes and mitigate potential errors. 

By diligently fulfilling these payroll tax reporting obligations, you’re not only upholding legal standards but also nurturing a robust foundation for both your business’s financial well-being and the contentment of your workforce.

Recruitment and Selection

1. Crafting a Job Description

You’ll also need to develop a job description. Begin by assessing your business needs and identifying the tasks you’ll need your new hire to handle. 

In most situations, it will benefit your business most to hire someone who shares your vision and expertise in your industry. When you’re just starting off, you don’t want to spend your limited time training a beginner. 

Your new hire should have a similar skill set to your own, but don’t look for your doppelganger! Bringing a new person on board is an opportunity to close any skill gaps you may have noticed in yourself and open the door to invaluable fresh perspectives. 

In light of this, it may be beneficial to create a slightly vaguer job description that outlines the traits you seek in a collaborator rather than a strict list of necessary qualifications.

2. Creating a Candidate Screening Process

Once you’ve received some applications, complete an initial screening process and select a few candidates you’d like to learn more about. Schedule a quick phone call with them to explain the position and assess whether they might be a good fit. 

This step can quickly weed out unsuitable candidates while saving time for a more formal interview. 

3. Conducting In-Depth Interviews

Now it’s time to schedule interviews with your top candidates. Brainstorm some behavioral and situational questions to demonstrate each candidate’s work style, expertise, and ability to think on their feet. 

Typically, assessing cultural fit would also be a significant aspect of this stage of hiring. However, if this is your first employee, the only person they have to get along with is you. 

It’s important to take your time with the hiring decision to maximize your chances of finding a person you work well with, is invested in the organization’s future, and will help you attract top talent in the years to come. 

4. Practical Skills Assessment

If relevant to the position, a practical skills assessment can also come in handy. This could be a writing or design assignment, a written quiz, or even an invitation to a trial shift. 

These assessments are an effective tool for determining if your hiring decision will be a success before you formally hire someone. 

Onboarding and Training

For more established companies, the process of onboarding and training new employees should run like a well-oiled machine. When you’re just starting out, it’s critical to incorporate some intentionality into the onboarding process. 

Your first hire will set the tone for your organization’s growth, so ensuring they have a smooth onboarding process can significantly impact their ability to contribute. Collaborate with your new employee to initiate an onboarding process that will fully equip new hires to succeed. 

If you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to designate your company mission and values and instill the kind of corporate culture you’d like to see enacted. 

Setting Up Compensation and Benefits

When embarking on the journey of hiring your first employee, establishing a comprehensive compensation and benefits package is paramount. 

This multifaceted process involves carefully considering various factors to attract and retain top talent while ensuring the company’s financial sustainability. 

Initially, it’s crucial to conduct market research to understand industry standards and competitor practices, aiding in creating a competitive salary structure. 

Alongside the base salary, crafting a benefits package that aligns with the needs and expectations of the potential employee is vital. 

This could encompass health and dental insurance, retirement plans, flexible work schedules, paid time off, and professional development opportunities. Striking a balance between offering appealing benefits and managing costs is essential. 

Moreover, clear communication of these compensation and benefits components is necessary to set expectations and foster transparency during the hiring process. 

As your first employee can significantly impact your company’s growth trajectory, investing time and effort in designing a well-structured compensation and benefits setup will provide a solid foundation for future expansion and success.

Building a Strong Employer-Employee Relationship

Making your first hire marks the beginning of your broader talent acquisition process. Therefore, building a positive employer-employee relationship will impact the success of your first hiring decision and the more comprehensive hiring process you’ll develop over time. 

Build a strong employer-employee relationship by establishing open communication channels through which you can share encouragement and feedback and receive any questions or suggestions from employees. 

Another critical aspect of a strong employee relationship is recognizing and rewarding performance. Implement an incentive program that will ensure employees know their efforts are appreciated and reassure them of their potential to grow within the company. 


Hiring your first employee is a pivotal step that marks a significant milestone in the growth of your business. It’s a process that demands careful consideration, strategic planning, and a clear understanding of your company’s needs and values. 

You can navigate this transition successfully by following the guidelines outlined in this article, from defining the role and responsibilities to crafting a compelling job description, conducting thorough interviews, and adhering to legal requirements. 

Remember that your first employee brings skills to the table and contributes to shaping your company culture. Approach the hiring process with patience, diligence, and a commitment to finding the best fit for your team. 

As you welcome new talent on board, you’re expanding your workforce and setting the stage for your business’s continued growth and success in the competitive landscape.


What legal obligations do I have when hiring an employee?

You must adhere to employment laws, create an employment contract, determine wages, handle taxes, and provide workers’ compensation and benefits. Be sure to check both state and federal legal requirements to ensure compliance.

How do I find the right candidate for my business?

Post job listings on online job boards, network within your industry, utilize social media and consider asking for referrals from your professional contacts.

What's the best way to conduct interviews and assess candidates?

Conduct structured interviews with a mix of technical and behavioral questions. Focus on skills, cultural fit, and the candidate’s potential contributions to your business.

How do I onboard my first employee effectively?

Provide a detailed orientation about your company, its values, and expectations. Offer clear training on their role and provide necessary tools and resources.

What factors should I consider when determining their salary?

Research industry standards, evaluate their experience and qualifications, and consider your budget and the cost of living in your area.

How do I provide feedback and manage their performance?

Set clear goals and expectations, provide regular feedback through one-on-one meetings, and offer guidance on improvement areas.

How can I create a positive work environment for my first employee?

Foster open communication, lead by example, recognize and reward their efforts, and provide opportunities for professional growth within the company.