4 Tips for Small Business Owners Hiring a New Employee


Need to hire a new full-time employee?

SMBs (small-to-medium business owners) are often new and less experienced with hiring, so it’s easy to overlook something important. Here are some tips and legal considerations when you’re hiring a new employee. 

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s when it comes to federal and state regulations for hiring full-time employees.

“Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” —EEOC

#1. Write a legal and effective job description

So much of your recruiting success depends on an effective job description. Of course you need to communicate your expectations to job seekers by including a comprehensive—yet manageable—list of skills, responsibilities, qualifications, and soft skills. Careful. Don’t let this list turn into an exhausting laundry list. No one likes to do laundry.

And don’t forget, this is an advertisement. How can you entice job seekers—and even qualified applicants with jobs already—to apply for this position? Clearly address what employees are seeking from an employer: benefits, salary, perks, job title, and job significance.

Millennials increasingly place value on the difference their company makes, so emphasize your company’s purpose and values. And don’t forget to highlight the flexibility and opportunities for growth in SMB companies.

As you list skills, responsibilities, and qualifications, be careful to avoid any discriminatory language such as emphasizing personal characteristics like race, age, or sex. It’s easy to spot and be offended by blatant discriminatory language, but sometimes businesses will unintentionally use phrases that are legally discriminatory.

Here are some examples:

  • “Use gender-neutral job titles. For example, you shouldn’t specify you’re looking for a new ‘salesman,’ but, rather, a ‘sales representative.’ ‘Waitress’ would imply a preference for a female candidate whereas ‘wait staff’ shows no gender preference.” (ComplyRight).
  • “‘3-5 years of related experience in Human Resources and Payroll.’ This implies that someone with more experience, such as an older candidate with more than 5 years of experience would not be welcome” (Smartrecruiters). Instead, state “at least 3 years of related experience.”
  • “Avoid any age-related terms in your job listings. You can look for applicants with a ‘youthful outlook’ or who are ‘energetic,’ but you can’t specify ‘young people.’ Advertise your ‘entry level’ jobs, but don’t use the words ‘recent graduate.’ The words ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ should only be used if they’re part of the job title” (ComplyRight).
  • “Never use the terms ‘able-bodied,’ ‘strong’ or ‘healthy.’ State the exact tasks required, such as needing to move up to 50 pounds or being capable of traveling to multiple locations for inspections. Make sure to include all of the job’s essential functions” (ComplyRight).
  • “If you’re a conservative company, be extra cautious . . . . ‘Christian values’ is obviously off-limits, but terms like ‘traditional,’ ‘wholesome,’ or ‘family values’ can be tricky, too . . . Different religions have rules that may require accommodations to your dress code or grooming standards. Stating in a job posting that the job requires someone ‘clean shaven,’ for example, could be seen as religious discrimination since some religions require men to maintain some kind of facial hair.” (ComplyRight).

We also recommend including a statement about equal employment opportunities in your job posting.

Hiring for SMBs: The Perfect Hire in 11 Steps

#2. Conduct a face-to-face interview by asking effective and appropriate questions

It may not be an exciting answer, but the best practice for face-to-face interviews is generic, open-ended questions. Don’t ask candidates to name their spirit animal. Just ask honest-to-goodness questions and pose the same questions to every candidate. Consistency in your questions allows for a fair and comparable interview process.

But don’t let those list of questions stifle any creativity and flexibility. If a candidate provides an interesting or vague answer, take the opportunity to ask a followup question. This is the time to evaluate if a candidate fits culturally into the workplace, so follow up questions are key.

Here are some of the guidelines and examples we use at Jive:

Examples of Inappropriate job interview questions

#3. Screen Candidates

If a third party isn’t performing screening tests for your company, consider running these pre-employment tests and checks before extending a formal offer: a drug test, a background check, a reference check, and the simple “Google” and / or social media check.

But don’t screen candidates too early! There are several reasons to conduct a background check at the end of the hiring process.

  • Background checks conducted before a face-to-face interview are far more litigious.
  • Screenings can be expensive and time consuming, so it makes the most financial sense to screen your final candidates.
  • There is nothing more disconcerting than asking for a candidate’s social security number with their resume.

If you’re going to use background checks as part of your hiring process, especially financial, criminal, medical, and employment reports, we highly recommend exploring the ECCO’s website.

Check state laws too. For example, you may have heard of Ban the Box; Ban the Box is a civil rights movement that works towards passing legislation that restricts the use of criminal records in the hiring process. Some states have passed “ban the box” legislation, but other states have not passed it.

So if you want to incorporate background checks into your hiring process, research your state’s regulations in obtaining and/or using financial, medical, criminal, and employment background checks/information.

#4. Send a Formal Offer

Even if you make a verbal offer to a candidate, always send a formal document over in writing. The formal document must include specifics on job title, salary, benefits, and beginning date of employment. Most important of all, include a space for the candidate’s signature to make it official!

Take advantage of templates and examples of formal offers online. 

Hiring for SMBs: The Perfect Hire in 11 Steps

We’ve shared 4 of the 11 steps and tips from our ebook, Hiring for SMBs: The Perfect Hire in 11 Steps. If you want to learn about the other 7 steps in the hiring process, please download our ebook!

Jive is a Hosted VoIP phone service provider that, over the past decade, has grown from a start-up, to a small business, to a medium-sized business with over 500 employees. As Jive experienced/experiences and overcame/is overcoming the common issues and growing pains SMBs face, our company wants to share our insights with other small to-medium businesses.

We collaborated with Jive’s HR Department, Jive’s graphic designer, BambooHR, and excellent source materials to create a resource that will help SMBs maximize their time, digital resources, and money during the hiring process.