Hiring your first employee- A Complete Guide

Hiring your first employee is a big milestone as a business owner. It validates the growth of your business and also provides an extra push to succeed because you are now responsible for another person.

However, without the budget and perks of a big company, attracting the talent that your business needs can be tough. To support your expansion plans, we have created a guide to help you hire your first employee. Even better we spoke to business owners like you who have taken this path and their experiences are incredibly beneficial.

Be clear about the job requirements

Before you start the hiring process, be clear about what qualifications and skills you are looking for in a candidate. Having a clear job description and list of requirements will make it easier to attract the right candidates. While you can get job requirements or descriptions online, don't copy and paste blindly. Instead, edit it based on the unique needs of your business asking critical questions like; What areas do I need support in? What complementary skills does my hire need to have? What level of qualification does the role require e.t.c will help you put together a great job description.

Be clear about what you are offering

Resist the temptation to not include a pay range in your job description. Being clear about compensation, the location of the job and benefits helps you weed out candidates who are not a great fit and saves you time.

Be straightforward with compensation- Elizabeth, Design Studio owner

Be straightforward with the salary conversation. Let them know what you can afford to pay consistently. Talk about the pay and their expectations. Will there be lunch and airtime allowance or just lunch and transport fare daily? Have the hard conversation!

Look for a good culture fit

When interviewing candidates, look for a good fit for your culture. A candidate's skills and qualifications are important, but it's also essential to find someone who has the same values. Design your assessments to test for the values that are important to your business.

I was looking for a sense of responsibility - Elizabeth, Design Studio Owner

In looking out for my first employee, I wanted to see how they handle responsibility. I gave the shortlisted candidates a test to find out something and was looking out for someone who was going to be proactive in following up and providing a response.  

Leverage your network

To help you get great candidates, share the role with your network. People who understand your values and work ethic are likely to refer candidates who they believe will be a great fit.

I leveraged my network - Adeola, Etsebox

I was very fortunate while making my first hire. It was a referral. I was talking to someone about my concerns about being overworked and needing someone to handle administrative tasks. The friend I was talking to referred someone who was a pleasure to work with.  

Build on previous relationships

An easy way to hire your first employee is to formalize an existing relationship with a contractor. The benefit of this is that such an individual already understands your culture, the requirements of the role and has the necessary qualifications.

It was a no-brainer to hire someone I had worked with- Amaka, Brick Media Productions

I run a media production company and I recently hired an editor to edit a video campaign. We have worked together before so it was a no-brainer to get him on my project because I trusted him and his work ethic.
I was looking for someone that could do the work with almost an equal sense of urgency as myself. That was the major thing- then flexibility in letting go of ideas- and bringing them back; we needed to make the campaign have punch- from scripting to shooting to editing.

Plug into communities

If you are unsure about the salary range to fix for a role, then you can get answers by sending your job advert to communities that are related to your opening. The salary expectations that you receive will provide guidance on how you approach compensation and other benefits.

We wanted to understand how potential hires thought about compensation- Seun, Tactica Zone
Recently, I hired for the role of a junior brand designer. We had a salary range for the role but we still wanted to know what the potential candidates thought about compensation. So we put out an ad in design groups and communities. Interestingly, the majority of them fit our salary expectations. It gave us some perspective about how much the role should be.

Check their history and references

Before making a job offer, be sure to check the candidate's work history and get a better sense of their qualifications. You can go a step further by calling the references they provide to understand their previous role, competence and abilities.

Formalize the relationship

After hiring the employee, put this new relationship into writing by providing them with a contract alongside documentation of their duties. This helps prevent future conflict if you need to relieve them of their job duties in the future.

Once you have done the hard work of hiring, your responsibility as an employer does not stop. You have to ensure that they have the right environment to thrive and learn.

Provide training and development opportunities

Once you have hired employees, it's essential to provide them with the training and development opportunities they need to succeed in their roles. This can include on-the-job training, mentoring, and formal training programs.

Set clear expectations

Be sure to set clear expectations for your employees regarding their roles and responsibilities. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

Communicate effectively

Effective communication is key to managing employees. Be sure to communicate regularly with your team and make sure everyone is aware of what is happening within the company.

Provide feedback and recognition

Providing feedback and recognition for a job well done is important for employee motivation and engagement. Be sure to provide regular feedback and recognition for a job well done.

Be flexible

Be flexible with your employees when it comes to scheduling and work arrangements. This can help to increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Be a good leader

As a small business owner, you are the leader of your company. Be a good leader by setting a positive example, being approachable, and leading by example.


Hiring your first employee is a big step. But it is essential to deliver growth for your business. You will spend more time explaining and teaching but the results will be absolutely worth it!

Solomon Nzere

Solomon Nzere