Are you a startup founder making your first HR hire? Firstly congrats – it’s a great decision to add structure to your culture. I have written a comprehensive guide just for you. Right from why you may need an HR to how to write an apt job description, this blog will help you through the entire process.
When is the right time to hand over the HR function to your first HR employee? It cant be easy. But it also exciting to know that you have managed to grow your business to a point where you can bring on other people to manage your team. So, take it slow and be picky. Because at the end of it all, choosing the right person for the job is the most important.
In this blog, I have written about the following,
- Why do you need a full-time HR employee for your start-up?
- When is the right time to hire your very first full-time HR employee?
- Who should you hire to manage your startup’s entire HR function?
- How to hire your first HR employee?
- How to write a well-structured job description?
- What to include in a job description for an HR hire?
- What not to include while writing a job description
- Which channels can be used to promote a job vacancy?
- How to choose the right channels to promote the job vacancy for your company?
- How to screen candidates well before hiring?
- What interview questions should be asked to evaluate a candidate better?
- Why is important to onboard your startup’s very first HR employee?
- What should your onboarding process include?
Why do you need a full-time HR employee for your startup?
A startup with a full-time HR employee is best equipped to train and develop its employees. This in turn helps the business grow even more.
To protect the business from legal problems
Not following policies can lead to your startup falling into big trouble. An HR employee must know about legalities, policies and compliances that need to be followed while running a business. It is the responsibility of your newly hired HR employee or HR head of a company to ensure that these policies are followed to a Tee.
To help maintain the company’s work culture.
In any startup, employees should be allowed to ‘fail fast’. This means, the freedom to try out new things, learn from those mistakes and then move on. However, if the HR you hire is a person who does things strictly by the book, you might have a problem. It could lead to people being worried about what could happen if they made mistakes, hence leading them to be conservative in their approach towards their works. This could lead to stagnation.
Choosing the right person for the job is extremely crucial. The person needs to fit in well with your company’s culture and help your employees thrive. Choosing a person who doesn’t fit in with your company’s pre-existing work culture will only prove to be harmful in the long run.
To invest in a good HR software
The use of AI in HR is only growing with time. You need to hire someone who will be able to integrate HR software with the HR function of your company. Even if they don’t already have experience with any HR software, they should be quick learners who are willing to take the initiative to learn more about HR tech.
To manage all HR related responsibilities, so that you can focus on growing your business
One of the main reasons behind you hiring an HR is to focus on the business aspects of things, rather than worry about payroll management or company policies. The HR of your startup should be well aware of the different roles and responsibilities within HR. The sole HR employee of your company should be someone you trust. Because he or she will handle all employees’ personal and professional information. They must be aware of how to deal with sensitive information and manage employee grievances.
When is the right time to hire your very first full-time HR employee?
If you are the founder of a startup that has only 2-10 people, then you should be able to manage the HR responsibilities all by yourself. But as the number of employees increases, you realize the need to hire someone who is capable of handling all HR responsibilities. But when’s the right time to do so? Read on.
When your startup starts experiencing high levels of growth
When you see a quick growth in your startup’s employees, that’s when you need to hire a full-time HR employee. Say, for example, when your company moves towards 50 or more employees, it becomes difficult for the founder to manage. If you can afford to pay a full-time HR, you might want to hire a professional before things get way too difficult to handle.
When you need to spend time elsewhere
Once your business starts growing at a certain pace, you will notice that HR responsibilities are getting in the way of you focusing on business-related tasks. Many founders spend more than 35 hours a month doing HR work. This is a huge amount of time for someone who is already doing so many different things. If that’s your case, it’s time you hire someone to do it for you.
Who should be your start up’s first HR employee?
What are the characteristics you should look for while hiring your first HR? What should their employment background or work experience be? All these factors play a huge role in how the person takes on the roles and responsibilities of an HR employee.
What kind of skillsets should your first HR employee have?
Firstly, your HR employee must be proactive! While this is a personality trait rather than a skill, it can be developed over time. When an HR employee is proactive, they are able to foresee problems before they become bigger issues. This results in them dealing with the issue at an earlier stage too.
Another skill that you HR must have is the ability to give sound advice. An HR gives advice to many stakeholders, be it managers or even employees on personnel management. Hence, your HR should be able to assess situations and figure out the most efficient solution.
What is the level of experience your first HR must have?
The average experience level of a startup Human Resources head is around 7-10 years.
The most important thing to look for while screening candidates is that your potential HR employee is a generalist. This means that they have knowledge of all the sub-roles within HR rather than being specialized only in one. Hiring multiple specialized HR employees at such an early stage is a luxury you probably do not have.
If in a worst-case scenario, where none of your applicants are generalists, try getting someone who has specialized in recruiting. This is because, for any fast-growing startup, hiring the right employees is extremely important. Other things like training employees, employee engagement, even payroll management etc. can be learnt over time or managed with the right HR software.
How to make your first HR hire?
Now that you’ve understood the why and when of it all, it’s time to go step by step and understand how to go about hiring your HR employee. I will give you a detailed understanding, right from choosing the right job title to choosing the right promotion platforms right down to how to screen or evaluate the candidates thoroughly.
How to write a good job description (JD)
The job description could be the make or break in your process of hiring a new HR employee. Many times while employers write a JD, they don’t realize the kind of words they use subconsciously. They could end up being misleading vague or even bias. When this happens, you reduce the number of applicants and get practically zero diversity in your candidate pool. So how do you write a job description that is concise and apt? What are the points that need to be included? Where to begin?
Conduct a job analysis
This basically means, write down a detailed report about the job. Right from a possible job title, to day-to-day tasks to the salary you are willing to offer.
This step is essential because you don’t already have someone in this position. You are forming a new role or job within your company. So there isn’t any past employee you could walk up to and ask what they did or didn’t do. Once you have done a deep dive into the kind of role you are opening, you will find it easier to structure the information and present it in the form of a well-written job description.
Choose a job title correctly
Choosing the right job title is very important. Don’t be vague while doing this. Keep it short, simple and use common words. People normally search for jobs by job title. Since you need a general HR head and not someone with any particular specialization, don’t add any specialization related words in the title because it will only prove to be misleading. You could try but not restrict yourself to titles like General HR head, CHRO or maybe be HR lead.
Divide the job description into subtopics to add structure
Very often while making a detailed job description, employers end up making it look messy. This can be avoided when you add subtopics. It will make the JD a lot more presentable. You may also add some colour (preferably your brand colours) to the job description to make it look attractive and help your potential applicants remember your company or brand.
Create a certain urgency for this position
You may have the luxury of time and can wait for a while before you actually hire someone. But, creating a certain urgency will ensure that applicants apply for the role. However, keep in mind that you don’t need to show panic or stress while doing so.
When you act with urgency during the hiring process, it brands you a certain way. The potential employee will realize that people in this company don’t waste time and fool around. On the other hand, not creating urgency can often come across as extremely unprofessional or laid back.
What to include in a job description when making an HR hire?
Some of the subheads that you could use are-
- About the company/job role
- Day to day tasks
- Skills required
- Salaries, compensations, benefits and perks
- Information about the company’s work culture
- Travel necessities (if applicable to your company)
- Who should apply
Be specific about job requirements and job details
The more specific you are with the responsibilities or job requirements, the more likely are people to apply for the role.
While adding information within the above-mentioned subheadings, be as specific and articulate as possible. If one of the responsibilities of the HR employee would include managing payroll, then specify ‘Manage payroll for all 62 employees’ as opposed to just saying ‘Payroll management’. If you need your HR employee to integrate payroll software, then in the skills required section of the JD specify ‘Should be well-versed with a Payroll software‘.
Write about salary, compensation and benefits
I think one of the most efficient ways of mentioning salaries is in a job description is by mentioning a specific range rather than exact figures. This helps in giving you space to get to know the candidate and decide the exact salary you wish to offer. There are multiple ways of mentioning salary in the JD other than this.
You could mention a slightly lower salary or even not mention anything at all. If you have competitors putting out job offers at the same time, you could even mention the highest possible offer, so as to get an edge above your competitor. However in this case it is very important that you mention clearly in the JD that this is the highest offer/ salary up to. This is to avoid an upset candidate if and when you make a lower offer. On average, the salary for the role of an HR head at a startup is around 20-30LPA depending on the responsibilities and job requirements.
Talk about company culture
This is an important part of a JD for any kind of role but most important an HR employee. Go back to your startup’s core values and objectives or focus on your mission statement. HR plays a huge role in maintaining the work culture of the company. So adding work culture in the JD makes a huge difference. Don’t add too much information in this part of the JD, rather, keep it crisp and concise.
Sell the role and your company
Yes, employer reputation is a thing! This is just like in an interview, when you ask a candidate a question- why should we choose you over other candidates. The candidate also needs to know why they should choose you over other employers or companies. Give them a good reason to either leave their old job or choose you over other recruiters. You could get an edge either by giving a better salary, offering more perks like flexible work hours or providing a quality work from home policy.
How else can you build employer branding? Provide quality training and learning opportunities to existing employees, maintain a strong and consistent social media presence or integrate HR software tools.
What not to do while writing a job description?
There are few things you shouldn’t do while writing a job description no matter what.
- Use heavy jargon or misleading terms.
- Use negative words.
- Use subjective words like some, many etc.
- Make the JD inflexible (because as companies grow, roles change along with them).
- Overstate job requirements or qualifications- This will lead to overqualified candidates, who if selected will get bored of the job soon and leave at the first chance they get.
- The use of unconsciously biased wordings can lead to the elimination of women candidates or minorities.
Which channels can be used to promote the job vacancy?
Using the right channels to promote a job vacancy can be crucial with respect to the quantity as well as the quality of candidates that apply. But what are the available channels?
Job posting websites
There are many job posting websites out there. Right from Glassdoor to naukri.com Some of them are even free and are great places for you to start hiring from. Glassdoor even offers you options to build a profile for our company. You can get your current or past employees to add reviews as well. These reviews will help you better your employer reputation because the reviews are coming straight from employees who work for you.
Social media platforms
LinkedIn is by far the most commonly used social media platform on which you post job vacancies and advertisements. You can view applicants’ profiles and get a deeper understanding of their experience or academic background.
Another place you could check out is Facebook. It’s really simple actually. Create a business account, create a job post, add details about the job which can edit at any given time and close the job post once you have selected a candidate.
Did you know that 85% of the jobs today are filled via networking? As the founder of a startup, you need to ensure that when you make your first HR hire, you trust the person completely. It might be easier to do so when you get this employee through referrals. Just ask your current employee to talk about the open role to their friends or networking circles. If you treat your employees right, they will prove to be the perfect advocates for your company.
How to choose the right channels to promote a vacancy
More than the effectiveness of choosing the right channels, the consequences of making the wrong choice are damaging. Below I have listed a few metrics that you can use while checking to see which channels are the most useful for you-
- Volume of applicants
- Number of qualified applicants (there’s no point of 100 applicants for a job if none of them are qualified)
- Success for new recruiters
- Cost per hire
- Time per hire
How to screen candidates well before hiring?
This step not only talks about making sure you don’t hire the wrong person but also that all the candidates are screened fairly. Very often while going through resumes, people tend to have an unconscious bias against women or minorities.
Since this person will single-handedly take on all the HR responsibilities of your company, a detailed, foolproof evaluation process is of utmost importance.
Pre-screen candidates and shortlist them without any bias
Very often when 100s of candidates apply for a single role and employers tend to look at only 10% or 20% of applicants. These are usually those who have been to top colleges or are shifting out of big firms. But this results in almost no diversity in your applicant pool. You may even lose out on star candidates this way.
But, with the help of AI, screening can be done based on unbiased pre-set criteria and chatbots. This entire process can be made efficient, ethical and fair. Think of the positive impression you would make on the candidates if you used HR software to hire your first HR employee.
Verify the shortlisted candidates
Before you spend time interviewing each of the shortlisted candidates, it is important to verify the data they have provided. You don’t want to hire someone and later realize that they falsified their degrees or past employment details.
What interview questions should be asked to evaluate a candidate better?
Hiring the wrong HR employee can be fatal for your company. You could conduct multiple interview rounds to evaluate the candidates better. Include,
- Group interviews (could be a part of round one in case there are many candidates)
- Telephonic interviews
- Face-to-face interviews (incase of covid restrictions, use zoom or google meet)
Very often interviewers have a fixed set of questions which they use for every interview. Instead, think of a list of behaviours, traits and characteristics that you want in your employee. Form questions in such a way so as to understand if candidates have these traits or not. Visit our blog on HR job interview questions to understand what kind of questions you need to ask.
Your interview questions could cover a wide range of topics to include-
- Questions on HR software
- Interview questions based on Talent acquisition
- Questions on engagement and retention
- Learning and Development interview questions
- Interview questions based on payroll, compensation and benefits
- HR policy based interview questions
- Interview questions based on management/leadership
- Culture fit interview questions
- You should also ask them if they have thought of a good 30 60 90 day plan. This is something any HR head must be prepared with when going in for an interview
When listening to the answers, focus more on the logic behind the answer and why the interviewee gave that particular answer rather than on what the answer was. This will help you get a better understanding of the candidate.
Why is it important to onboard your newly hired HR employee
Now that you’ve selected your candidate, you need to ensure that you onboard them well. Hiring the perfect all-around HR employee is difficult as it is, inefficient onboarding can lead to an employee not being about to do their job well (for lack of understanding the requirements of the job or the company).
What is HR employee onboarding?
Onboarding is a process of integrating a new employee with the company and its culture. It also focuses on giving the new employee all the tools necessary to carry on their job. A good onboarding process will help the new employee get acquainted with the social and professional norms of a company, helping them function smoothly in a well-adjusted manner.
Why is it important?
In simple words, an onboarding process sets the tone for any employees overall experience with the company. It is critical when it comes to employee retention. An efficient onboarding process can help an employee feel welcome and important.
For an HR employee, who eventually will go on to onboard your future hires, they are more likely to pass on their onboarding experience to those they hire. Hence, when you hire your new HR employee, you should have a strategic plan on how to go about the onboarding process.
Orientating your HR employee to the company’s vision, culture and strategy is also extremely important. Because they will be interviewing future candidates, and they need to keep the company’s vision and culture in mind while doing so. At the end of the day, your HR will play a huge role in the growth of your company. Hence they need to be the person you turn to for advice.
What should your onboarding process include?
Your onboarding process must include at least the following,
- A warm welcome and an offer letter
- Formal introduction with the other team members (maybe like a team lunch or given the covid situation, a zoom call)
- An orientation program with information about the company, departments, stakeholders within the company etc.
- Prepare an employee handbook that mentions company rules and regulations, policies etc.
- A mentor program (since there is no other HR employee in your startup, the responsibility to mentor the new HR, in the beginning, is on you)
- One-on-one meetings to help build trust and serve as a feedback mechanism at least over the span of the first few months
- Set clear goals, both short term and long term (could include a hiring strategy or formulation of a new company policy. Walk them through a detailed roadmap for any projects that assigned
- Over time, ask them for their thoughts on your company culture, projects etc. and how they think things can be improved.
How to use AI to streamline onboarding
With the help of AI, the new employee can directly upload relevant documents to the software, where you can download them. You can keep track of the tasks of the new employees. Offering instant responses to any queries and FAQs with the help of chatbots also simplifies your job as an employer. System generated offer letters can also be sent to new employees. The integration of AI for HR functions is not restricted to the onboarding process. Other HR functions also use AI and hence, make it so much more efficient.
So now, you need to take into consideration the various factors like
- When is the right time to hire your very first full-time HR employee
- Why do you need a full-time HR employee for your start-up
- Who should you hire to manage your startup’s entire HR function?
- How to hire your first HR employee?
At the end of the day, your company’s welfare and that of all your employees will lie in the hands of the HR you hire. So feel free to be picky and choose the right candidate. Follow through all the steps mentioned in the blog and that should simplify the entire process for you!
While hiring your first HR employee, you need to write a good job description, choose the right channel to promote the job vacancy, evaluate the candidates well and also onboard then smoothly. All these four steps play a huge role in making sure your new HR employee has a positive experience as they begin their job with you.
For a startup, reaching the 50 employees mark is a good place for you to start thinking about hiring your first HR employee. At this point you will also realize that you as a founder are spending way too much time on HR jobs, maybe even up to 40 hours a month. That too is a good indicator that you need to hire a your first HR employee.
When hiring your first HR employee you need to
1. Write a good job description
2. Evaluate candidates well through thorough interview processes
3. Onboard the newly hired employee