The 8 Most Common Pitfalls New Employers Should Avoid When Hiring Their First Employee

You don’t know what you don’t know, so we’re here to help make your hiring process as clear and productive as possible.

Keely Teynor

August 26, 2021

Stressed female business owner looking to hire a new employee

Congratulations! You’re a successful solopreneur, and your business has grown to the point where you are going to be hiring your first employee. Where do you start? What do you need to know? How do you find employees to hire? How do you hire employees for a small business? This exciting step in your business’s development is, unfortunately, riddled with snags that many new businesses fall victim to. Don’t get us wrong: we aren’t judging! Not everyone has the years experience our Hiring Specialists have earned through working with hundreds of small businesses like yours. Many of these pitfalls have become so ubiquitous to the hiring process, many don’t even realize they are problematic, or even illegal! You can’t know everything, but you can be prepared for these common traps other new employers like you don’t see coming.

Follow this list step by step, and we’re sure your hiring process will be constructive and gratifying for you and your business .

Not Knowing Who You Need

Before you even write a job posting, it’s important to access exactly what your business needs in its first employee. We put this snare at the top of the list because it ends up being at the root of many first time employer’s woes. You might know you need a “Jane or Jack of All Trades”, but you’ll just figure out the responsibilities and requirements as you go along. Not taking the time to plan for what you need will generally ensure you aren’t hiring the right person for the job. More often than not, this leads to disappointment from you or the employee, and they will not stay long.

The Unconscious Danger of Affinity Bias

Furthermore, you might just want to hire another person like you. Affinity Bias is defined as,

the unconscious tendency to get along with others who are like us. It is easy to socialize and spend time with others who are not different. It requires more effort to bridge differences when diversity is present.”

This bias creeps into many parts of modern life, and especially during the hiring process. When someone’s business and livelihood is on the line, people will confuse familiarity with what will lead their business to success. The key is to not only have the skills to do what you need them to do, but find someone who can compliment you and your strengths. new perspectives can bring strengths. Otherwise, you’ll be back to the same place you started, just like Groundhog’s Day.

Taboo & Illegal Questions

  • “What kind of car do you drive?”
  • “You don’t look like you’re 18, how old are you?”
  • “Tell me about your family.”
  • “Will you need Sundays off to go to church?”

All four of these questions are illegal to ask in an interview. They may sound benign, but these questions (and many more) can leave you and your business in danger of being sued. Taking the time to research hiring practices in your state could ultimately save a lot of money and heartbreak. On a positive note, many times, questions like these are a waste of time to begin with! So, focus on questions that will assess what kind of worker your business needs. If you don’t ask productive interview questions, you risk not finding the best candidate and will be back at square one sooner rather than later. You need to be asking more than, “Why are you the right person for the job?”

Paying the Bare Minimum

It might feel insane to pay someone more than the least you can get away with, but that is just not the right decision. First, you will get lower caliber candidates that probably won’t meet the requirements you have for them. Second, you are going to have a much higher turnover rate. That employee will leave as soon as they can find something that will pay $1 more an hour. That will cost you much more than the $2080 that $1 represents for a 40 hour per week, full-time employee. You will have lost all of the training time, your previous recruiting budget, and have to start all over again. Do your research on salary ranges for the role you need to hire for, and pay at or above market, based on experience.

Setting Vague Expectations

Just like doing inventory to know who you really need, you need to:

  1. Do your research
  2. Clearly outlined the responsibilities and requirements of the job
  3. Ensure your new hire knows all of this.

Then, you give that employee all the tools and training in order to be successful, and hold them accountable to those expectations. If you don’t, and this usually happens when you don’t plan accordingly from the get go, you will find that the employee isn’t a great fit and not performing well. You don’t want to be in a situation of putting someone on a performance improvement plan (or firing them without having done this) when they haven’t been clearly given their expectations or haven’t been trained appropriately.

Tax & Compensation Issues

You may be deciding you’ll pay this person as a 1099 Independent Contractor, just because it’s easier, but when the working environment doesn’t warrant it. Or paying your employee a straight salary without doing the research to know if their job meets the requirements of being exempt versus non-exempt. You don’t get to choose how you pay someone. You figure out what is needed, how much responsibility and oversight they will have, and do the research to know if you can pay them as an Independent Contractor OR an employee. Then you determine if this role should be exempt versus non-exempt. If you don’t, you could risk fines. And more fines.

Our advice? Start with number 1 (figuring out who your business really needs), and then research the laws in your state to determine how you need to classify.

Ignoring Employment Laws

First time employers take their experience of being hired for granted. There are a lot of moving cogs behind the scenes making sure every document is signed and employment law is accounted for. Do you know what Ban the Box Laws that have gone into effect in many states across the US mean? Are you actively incorporating diverse hiring practices? Do you understand all EEOC laws as they pertain to hiring?

In Colorado, for example, you now must list a range of pay and summary of benefits to all job postings? There are a lot of laws you have to follow, or again, you could get into big trouble.

Unclear Document Deadlines

Getting proper documentation during the correct window of time and recording and storing that information accurately is really important. You cannot tell a new hire (if they are a W2 employee) to bring the above forms of identification. You technically can’t even say, “Bring two forms of ID.” There is a right way to ask for appropriate documentation authorizing them to work in the US. Without researching the employment documentation laws in your state, or asking for professional help, you set you and your business up for avoidable liabilities.

Paying for Job Boards

Many clients have tried to hire on their own before coming to us. I hear story upon story of clients spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on recruitment advertising that isn’t effective. Many don’t have an appropriate, engaging and accurate job posting to attract the right and best applicants. Until you take time to write a clear and accurate job ad, you are throwing money away

AI Hiring Descrimination

A common mistake first time employers make is trusting that the algorithms used on Job Boards are infallible. It’s great to be given a smaller batch of the “best” candidates, but AI is only as productive as the information we use to train it. So, biased data sets will inevitably yield biased out outcomes.

One study showed that, because of the data given, facial recognition software used by Microsoft, IBM, and Face++ more were recognizing white male employees more accurately than darker skinned female employees. Furthermore, if a potential star employee doesn’t use the exact language dictated on a resume, they might not show up on a search within the job board’s database. First time employers who assume the computers know everything, end up wasting their money and time.

We hope this list will empower you to go into your first hiring process as confident and productive as possible. If any of these common pitfalls feel even more intimidating than before, our dedicated hiring partners at Hire With Ease can help you avoid all of these pitfalls.

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