How to Hire Employees Safely

2009 | Feb 4 in Guest Contributor , Home Page News , Management

By Erin Duckhorn

Much of your business growth depends on finding the right people to staff your expanding organization, but in most companies much more time and money is devoted to choosing and purchasing equipment than to preparing for the hiring process. Something about the price and mass of a turbine engine or a computer terminal makes the results and the risks of your decision-making seem more important. But you will make no more important expenditure than the time and money you spend recruiting the right people. If the growth of your business depends on innovation, and it's your people who are its source, the hiring of new staff is about the most important "purchase" you can make.

So take the time to first develop a hiring strategy. Which position do you want to hire next? Why that one? Do you have the cash flow to handle the additional load on your finances? What attitudes and skills would be the right matches with your needs for the position? There are a lot of factors to consider in choosing the right players for your "team," and Nina's article discusses a few of them.

How to Hire Employees Safely

By Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

For many business owners, the thought of hiring employees is scarier than the latest Halloween horror flick. And yet think of the alternative (the boon to your business!). Can your company afford to stay where it is?

Chances are, you recognize it can't . . . which is why you're connected to the E-Myth. Hiring employees can create a paradigm shift for your company, if done carefully and with advance planning. Here are a handful of areas that you'll want to address in your hiring process:

Job descriptions. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, your job description needs to tread a fine line. You want them narrow enough so that not "just anyone" can apply. For many positions, you need a certain level of talent and expertise. However, they need to be flexible enough so that you don't pigeon-hole your workforce too tightly. A clear job description can also help you steer clear of various discrimination laws. If a position requires heavy physical work, or absolutely requires an employee's office presence on the Sabbath (for example, in the wedding planning business), you can avoid claims that you discriminated in hiring under the American with Disabilities Act or other discrimination statutes.

Interview manners. Interviewing employees is part science and part art - all of which can be learned, but virtually little of which comes naturally. For example, interviewing a noticeably pregnant woman and asking her due date/how many children she hopes to have might arise out of innate curiosity, but is a minefield for a sex discrimination claim. "How old are you?" and "Are you married?' can also get you into hot water. It helps to have coaching through this process, or hiring a firm to handle it for you. In addition, employers get into trouble when they talk too much. It's tough. We like to talk about ourselves it's human nature. The point of the interview is for the employee to sell you on him/her not for you to sell the employee on the company.

Background checks. What do you really know about the candidate sitting in the chair across the table from you? In many situations, only what she tells you. As a business owner, that's not enough. "Trust, but verify," as Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying. You want to check all references. Background checks are crucial. For example, you'll definitely want to do a credit check if you're a financial services firm; a criminal convictions check if you're in the security business. Make sure you're up front with the candidates that these checks are required as a matter of course. Also, all employees need to fill out Form I-9 required by the Department of Homeland Security. Do not hire undocumented workers.

Employee handbooks. Small companies may want to provide a "kinder, gentler" culture, with abundant vacation and personal days, but that can really cost you in the long run. Even costlier is being generous with Employee #1, recognizing the costs, and then being less generous with Employee #2. Especially if Employee #1 is a 20-something white male and Employee #2 is a 43-year-old African-American female. With an employee handbook, you have an opportunity to determine the policies and procedures that apply objectively to all employees. When you're consistent, you can deflect many claims of unfair treatment.

Employees can be a skyrocket or a torpedo for your business. Before you step into this thorny area, engage good employment attorneys to help you navigate it safely. They can guide you on the right way to hire that both streamlines the process and ensures you comply with federal and state law.

Want more information on employee behavior guidelines? Visit our website, to get your free copy of our special report, Top 10 Reasons Employees Get Fired.

2009 Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, edutainer, and Entrepreneur Magazine online columnist and blogger. Under her Ask The Business LawyerSM umbrella, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. For more information, visit