Archive for the ‘Forms & Paperwork’ Category

I Need to Hire An Employee—Now What?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Congratulations—your business not only survived the economic downturn, but it’s growing—and now you need to hire your first employee. You might be a great pastry chef, shoe shop owner, or candlestick maker—but if you don’t know a W-2 form from a can of WD40, you might have a big problem.

Relax—hiring your first employee is not as tough as you think. There are plenty of resources on the web, as well as at your nearest state and federal tax offices, where the staff will supply all the proper paperwork and manuals. They want to make sure you are completely compliant with all the taxes you’ll be responsible for.

You’ll need to obtain an Employer Identification Number, set up a payroll system, file withholding taxes, and report the new employee to the federal government. You’ll also need to register with your state employee office for their disability or worker’s compensation program, or obtain your own disability insurance.

But first, you need to get through the hiring process. Determine exactly what you need from your employee. Make a list of every single task you want the employee to perform. Write down all the things that are not being done well—or at all—because you cannot get to them. The list may be longer than any single employee could take on—but write them down anyway. You’re going to cut the list to a manageable number.

Write a quick job description, based on the list. Think of it as the goals you need help reaching and the tasks required to meet them. Keep the job description flexible enough to change it to fit your needs and the employee’s skills after he or she has been in place for a month or so.

Think about the education and skills needed to perform the job you’ve just described. Don’t forget physical requirements, like standing for several hours, reaching, bending, or lifting 25 pounds. These are all important aspects of your job listing.

Next, determine pay and benefits. Your local Economic Development Office and Small Business Administration are great places to research local pay rates. Or, check a site like, and you can find out what your job title average pay is, nationwide, or narrow your search by geographical location.

Now you’re ready to advertise. Most employers advertise online through local newspapers and or use large online job boards like and Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter are also great ways to get the word out that you’re hiring. And don’t forget word of mouth—you’re more likely to find a great employee through someone you already know.

Once the resumes start coming in, weed out those that don’t meet your qualifications. Of the qualified applicants, some may no longer be interested (if they accepted another job, for example) and others may expect a higher wage than you can pay. How to find out? Conduct a telephone interview, and ask a few pointed questions about availability, ability to perform the job, and interest in the position at a certain wage range.

Call in the finalists for in-person interviews and have them fill out applications. You can find templates online or create your own. Be sure to have a separate permissions page for background screening and credit check. Pre-employment screening should be part of your new hire process. You don’t want to subject your business to an employee with an arrest record for embezzlement or who lies about her employment record.

The last step is to choose the best-fit employee, based on background screening results, your impressions, and qualifications. Personality has a lot to do with choosing the right employee, but don’t let emotions get in the way. Even if you really like a person, it doesn’t mean they’re the best employee for you!

Employee Handbook Tips

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

happy-employeesNo matter what size company you own or lead, an employee handbook is always a good idea. Everyone benefits from fewer misunderstanding and clear expectations. With a handbook, employees know exactly what they can and cannot do, and management has clear guidelines to follow for managing staff. In addition, employee handbooks can help your company avoid lawsuits by clearly stating company procedures.

Here are a few tips for creating an employee handbook for your company:

  • Include a Statement of Company Culture. An introduction of the company, its history, mission, and values can create a culture statement to help new employees begin to assimilate into the company
  • Keep the language simple and direct. Using legal terms and twenty-five dollar words could be confusing to employees.
  • Cover the basics. Include the company’s compliance with discrimination laws, what constitutes full- or part-time employment, how and when employees are paid, and where employees are to park. Include employee background screening policies. Consider including standards of conduct, any dress code requirements, where to address complaints, how disciplinary action is handled, and vacation, family leave, and sick leave policies.
  • Beyond the basics: Be sure to cover your company’s cell phone policy. Are staff members allowed to accept personal calls during working hours? What about when driving company vehicles?
  • What are the company’s policies on company vehicles? How will you cover military leave? Violence or sexual harassment? Drug and alcohol use? What about staff visitors during work hours? How should employees notify management when late for work or ill?
  • Have an attorney review the handbook: An employment-law attorney is equipped to advise on legality of the employee handbook. The only thing worse than no handbook is one that is not enforceable—and the only thing worse than that is a handbook that could spark a lawsuit!

Employee handbooks vary in size, scope, and detail, depending on the size and culture of the company. The important thing to remember is that even a basic handbook is a must-have for every company with employees!

Painless Job Descriptions

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Are you a small business owner who does not currently offer written job descriptions? Then it’s time for you to take a page from the big guys’ employee manuals and get started! Most large companies provide written job descriptions to all employees upon hiring.  If they’re smart, they also update them frequently as each position’s requirements and responsibilities change. Here’s a good rule to follow: if large employers are doing it, I probably should, too. 


Let’s see how we can make this less painful! 


There are lots of online resources you can check out. But essentially, the steps are pretty clear. Before you sit down to write, think about the skills each of your employees already bring to their positions. What is Joe’s best skill? Communication?  How about Lindy—she’s great at following up with customers.  And Gary is a top-notch web designer.  Include any required education level, experience, or certifications for each position. 


List all the specific skills that keep your company running at its best—whether or not all of your current staff possesses them. See where we’re going? Job descriptions can give everyone something to shoot for—and help you hire the best new employees, too.   


Now think of the tasks each person performs, and how often.  Here’s where specificity is important.  Does Jamie need to lift 50 pounds occasionally, or frequently? Does Matt stand on his feet for four hours every day?  Don’t forget you asked Nicole to expand her customer service duties to include sales calls once a week. 


Being specific when writing job descriptions will ensure that each current and potential employee knows exactly what his or her position requires—no surprises! This could prove vital if an injury occurs, or an employee files a complaint.  


Now, just make a list of each position in your company. Match the skills required and the tasks performed to each position, and you’re done!  Provide each employee with their written job description—you’ll probably receive many grateful replies. Employees work best when they know what is expected of them—and they appreciate you letting them know. Ask for their feedback in case you overlooked anything, and revise accordingly.   


Once you’ve written job descriptions, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them!  


Don’t forget to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Increase your peace of mind and save training costs by hiring smart.

 Next post: 8 Inteview Mistakes Employers Make

Before Background Checking on Potential Employees, Get a Signed Disclosure

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

According to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), you must have an employee sign a disclosure authorizing a background check prior to performing that check. All consumer reports, not just credit reports, are subject to the regulations of the FCRA, as well as the varying local and state laws that apply. Employers need to consult an attorney, or hire an experienced screening company, in order to comply with the specific laws in their own state.