Whether you realize it or not, your approach to hiring can make or break your organization.

While good employees can support your operations and contribute to what your business can accomplish, bad hires can do the opposite, increasing your expenses, reducing your profits, and ultimately put the success of your company in jeopardy.

In attracting successful individuals and appropriately completing the hiring process, it’s best to have a concrete plan in place. Yes, sometimes an impromptu job ad can net you a world-class employee, but your odds are best when you take a more tactical approach. That’s why we did the heavy lifting and created this hiring an employee checklist to ensure no stone goes unturned.

The First Steps: Making a Move Before Hiring Decisions

Before you start to fantasize about the benefits a great employee can offer, there are likely some housekeeping tasks you’ll need to accomplish in advance whether you’re hiring full-time employees, part-timers, or contractors. Everything from meeting legal requirements to crafting the perfect job description can increase your chances of a successful hire, so be sure you’re fully prepared to move forward.

1. Establish an EIN

An Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a tax ID number required by all companies operating in the United States for tax administration purposes. The EIN issued to you will be included on tax documents, including 1099s and W2s for income tax purposes. Establishing an identification number is an essential part of deducting the cost of wages paid, so be sure you have it before starting the hiring process. EINs are free and can be obtained instantly online.

2. Set Up Records for Withholding Taxes

Unless you plan on having a workforce made up entirely of independent contractors — a possibility, of course, you’ll need to set up the proper framework for withholding taxes.

All employees working for you will need to have federal, state and city if applicable, Medicare, and Social Security taxes withheld. This is done by having employees fill out a W4 form known as the Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

Also as an employer, you will have to pay a portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes on behalf of your employees, so take this into account as well. Most payroll programs are set up to accommodate these needs but do your homework to ensure you’re not missing any required withholdings or tax payments.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate List of Small Business Tax Deductions

3. Define the Job Position

In preparing to make hiring decisions, it’s important to answer one fundamental question: who do I want to hire? While a seemingly simple query, the answer to this question should be detailed and in-depth, going far beyond “server” or “retail associate.”

Start by considering the tasks you need to be covered as thoroughly as possible. For example, a server at a restaurant will need to be able to take orders, master a POS system, provide above average customer service, multi-task, expedite food orders, handle side work, and work long hours on their feet. If you need assistance in fully fleshing out positions, feel free to read over other companies’ postings for job duties and descriptions to help craft your own.

You’ll also need to consider prior experience or education, and do your best to be realistic. While it might be nice to have college grads working the floor at your retail store, this may not be realistic; instead, take time to consider industry norms.

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4. Determine Wages

Many employers want to believe their employees come to work because they love their jobs and are passionate about work, but at the end of the day, wages still make a huge difference. Most employees are working to feed their families, not out of the goodness of their hearts.

While you don’t need to break the bank issuing paychecks, you do need to come up with a reasonable number that falls into regional industry averages and is enough to keep employees content and dedicated without going over budget. If you’re committed to the idea of cutting costs and hovering around minimum wage, that may be okay, but be aware that paying too little can drive off good employees, increase turnover and, subsequently hiring costs. Therefore, offering low wages can potentially result in more expenses in the long run.

Instead of choosing a fixed dollar amount, determine the top and bottom of your range. If an applicant decides to negotiate, you’ll need to know your limits.

5. Post Your Job Description

Once you’ve created a job advertisement that meets your needs, it’s time to post. In general, it’s best to get as much visibility as possible, increasing the number of applications you receive and the pool of candidates you have available. Job boards exist in many shapes and sizes, including national listing options like Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor, in addition to more niche options, like Snagajob for hourly labor. You may also want to consider local boards and college job databases.

6. Review Area Labor Laws

As an employer, you don’t have free rein to treat your employees however you want. Numerous laws, at both the state and local level, exist to protect the rights of employees, including policies related to breaks, overtime, and discrimination. Before employing new members of your team, be sure you know the ins and outs of labor laws in your area, including any updates on the horizon, like potential changes to minimum wage. If you’re not a human resources expert, don’t be afraid to outsource some of those responsibilities to a company that specializes in HR.

7. Fine-Tune Your Hiring Techniques

Once your job ad is posted and you’re fully prepared for the position to come, it’s time to focus on the next major hurdle: hiring. A lot goes into the vetting process, far beyond the time it takes to review resumes, so the more you prepare now, the better chances you have to hire and keep the best employees for your business.

8. Evaluate Available Candidates

Once resumes start pouring in, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the options you suddenly have available. With potentially hundreds of applicants for a single posting, you very likely will have plenty of excellent candidates at your fingertips. If you’re struggling to narrow it down, these tips and tricks may help.

  • Create three categories: yes, no, and maybe. Put applications in their applicable stacks as you read, helping you to stay organized when reviewing resumes.
  • Search keywords. If you need particular skills, education, experience, or other qualifications, screen for these primarily. Any applicant who doesn’t fit your base expectations can be put aside.
  • Set up a point system. If you’re genuinely inundated with options, consider assigning a points system. For example, if you’re hiring a manager for your retail store, specific retail management experience may be worth five points, while a more general management background is worth three points and no experience is worth zero. A business or management degree may also be worth five points, while a degree, in general, is worth three. Those with the highest totals will likely be the best fit for your position.
  • Hone in. Once you’ve narrowed your options substantially, start to focus in on the assets and attributes that set applicants apart. For example, some may have more relevant experience or degrees than others. These kinds of details can help you make your final decisions.


SEE ALSO: Find the Employee of Your Dreams: Top Eight Ways to Weed Through Resumes

9. Schedule Interviews

Once you have three to 10 potential candidates, it’s time to start setting up interviews. Start with the ones you’re most excited about, and work backward from there. You can schedule all interviews at once, or stagger in hopes that early candidates are a good fit.

You can handle interviews in two different ways: scheduling in-person meetings first, or beginning with phone screenings. For unskilled labor jobs, in-person interviews are often a fine first step since these candidates don’t have significant employment histories or notable skills that may warrant further discussion.

Candidates for higher level service jobs or specialized roles, however, are usually a better fit for a phone screen. A 15 to 20 minutes phone interview provides an opportunity to ensure candidates seem professional, qualified, and able to discuss experience and career background in a coherent way.

When interviewing, look for the following traits:

  • Confidence in abilities
  • A positive attitude
  • An affinity for teamwork and flexibility in a group environment
  • Dependability
  • Integrity
  • A lack of red flags, like excessive excuses for performance at previous jobs, unexplained employment gaps, or unusually short job stints


During interviews, going with your instincts can be very important. If you get a negative vibe from a candidate, they likely don’t have a place in your establishment. A candidate on paper can be very different from a candidate in person.

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10. Verify Eligibility, Employment, and History

Perhaps, over the course of your initial interviews, you find a good fit. After another meeting or two, you become more convinced – this is the employee for you. Great! But you’re not done yet.

Before having an employee sign paperwork or get started, you’ll want to verify a few details, both personally and legally. Most recruiters recommend a background check, including both job history and criminal history, to ensure employees are who they say they are, especially for those entering management or senior positions. While interviews are an excellent way to assess character, not everyone is honest.

Also, you need to be sure your prospective employee is eligible to work in the United States by providing an Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9. As a part of your screening, you’ll want to request proof of U.S. citizenship, like a birth certificate or passport. If you are hiring someone not native to the U.S., immigration paperwork can provide the assurance you need.

11. Reject or Accept: Making Your Final Choice

After resume screening, interviews, and employment eligibility verification, it’s time for one last step: making an offer. This is often done by phone or email, with contract paperwork to follow.

When you contact an applicant to offer a position, don’t be surprised if they attempt to negotiate. Conventional hiring wisdom dictates salary negotiations, especially for skilled jobs. If you have wiggle room and your candidate is worth it, consider acquiescing to demands or meeting in the middle. If not, don’t be afraid to be firm, especially for hourly associates. If your candidate agrees to your terms, send over contract paperwork and establish a start date.

When you have a signed agreement in hand and a start date on the calendar, it’s time to let other candidates down gently. This is routinely done via email to minimize awkwardness. Simply let unsuccessful applicants know that while you were impressed by their credentials, you chose to go in another direction but will keep their information on file.

12. Master the Art of the Onboarding Process

After hiring is complete, it’s time to start the employee onboarding process. This refers to the process of getting employees acclimated to your workplace such as new employee orientation. Onboarding can be formal or casual but should be inclusive of everything a new employee needs to know.

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13. Report Your New Hire

When you hire a new team member, the first thing you need to do is report your hire to the proper authorities. In most areas, this includes both the state employment agency and the IRS. When your new hire signs their paperwork, they’ll have to fill out a Form W-4, or Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. This paperwork denotes tax withholding information for you to use in your payroll and provide the IRS as evidence of employment.

14. Create a Handbook

An employee handbook is a valuable tool for your business, providing essential information about working at your company, conditions of employment, and important policies. While your handbook can be as in-depth or high level as you’d like, it should include information including:

  • Anti-discrimination laws
  • Workers’ compensation laws
  • Unemployment insurance benefits
  • At-will employment rules, if applicable
  • A Non-compete agreement, if applicable
  • Code of conduct rules
  • Safety and security practices
  • Pay policies, including pay schedules, timekeeping rules, and break times
  • Benefits details, like insurance providers
  • PTO and vacation policies, including holiday schedules
  • Sick leave, family leave, parental leave, and bereavement leave policies
  • Assessment procedures for promotions or raises


All employees should have access to a handbook at the start of employment. If changes are made, be sure to notify your team accordingly.

SEE ALSO: A 6 Step Guide For Deciding How Much to Pay Your Staff

15. Tackle Payroll

You definitely don’t want to be writing checks by hand on payday, so a payroll service is essential. Your payroll provider can take the stress out of paycheck generation, including calculating income tax withholdings, staying up to date on changes in compensation and tax laws, and ensuring checks are always on time.

As a part of your payroll process, it’s important to choose a provider that can offer direct deposit to your employees. Direct deposit can be a significant asset, providing paychecks in a matter of seconds as opposed to the time, effort, and cost it can take to generate paper checks. When you offer onboarding paperwork, request direct deposit information as well, including bank account and routing numbers.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Payroll Record Retention

16. Make Training a Success

Once your new employee has completed all of the previous steps and is ready to work, you’re almost there, but there’s one big step left: training. Virtually no one you hire will be ready to go without training, so you’ll need a process in place.

While training will vary from one company and industry to another, these best practices can ensure employees learn all they need to know.

  • Set guidelines. Training shouldn’t be spontaneous, so know exactly what you want to show and when. Structure job tasks in a controlled manner, scaling up from the most basic duties so that new candidates aren’t overwhelmed.
  • Know when to be hands-on, and when not to be. Some training can be done independently, like video training, while some must be guided. Determine which tasks fit which categories, and plan accordingly.
  • Utilize shadowing. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what you know from what an employee doesn’t know. By allowing new team members to shadow you or others in the same position, they’ll get a better perspective on exactly what is expected.
  • Be patient. Not everyone learns at the same speed. Instead of expecting newcomers to be pros after day one, understand that mastering new skills can take time. It’s true that some employees may never learn and ultimately won’t work out, but others will need a little more time.


17. Display Posters

Hanging posters in your workplace may sound a little strange, but it some cases it is a legal requirement. Many locations require information regarding confidential reporting, labor laws, and union laws to be displayed for clear employee access. If you live in one of these regions, you’ll need to understand area rulings and comply accordingly.

Setting Up for Small Business Success

Launching a small business can be a challenge, but the right approach to talent acquisition can be the difference between success and failure. With this hiring an employee checklist, it’s possible to elevate your hiring practices and increase your odds of finding the perfect fit.

Nicole Walters

Nicole Walters

As Content Writer at ShopKeep, the number #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Nicole Walters leverages her background in communications and her extensive experience in the payment and POS industry to create valuable content that addresses real problems and solutions for small business owners.