By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville

“We are about to hire several employees. Any advice?”

Start with written job descriptions. Include requirements for applicants, employee responsibilities, and a broad, non-specific statement allowing for “other tasks as requested by management” since job duties evolve over time.

Your company culture determines the type of person you want to hire. Will your culture be hierarchal, team-based or involve internal competiveness? Do you favor “smooth and steady” or do you like to take risks? Employees must understand and embrace your culture.

Know what motivates potential employees. Is it money, recognition, opportunity for advancement, or something else? Determine if you can offer what the applicant wants. If money is the prime motivator, will the employee jump at the first opportunity earn an extra buck?

Are technical skills and education necessary for success? Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue says he finds attitude far exceeds experience when deciding whom to hire in non-technical positions. If you are hiring for a technical position, expertise and education might be important, but I’d rather have a 3.5 student with a great attitude than a 4.0 scholar with ego issues.

Assessments are objective ways of evaluating everything from personality, to interests, to aptitude. Most interviewers form an opinion in the first few minutes of an interview and spend the rest of the time justifying that opinion. Few people are skilled enough at interviewing to hire the best candidate based on a resume and a face-to-face meeting. Assessments help uncover applicants that stretch the truth in interviews and, if you know what results will make a great employee, help remove subjectivity. But what if the assessment finds the “perfect” employee and your personalities clash or his/her personal hygiene is unacceptable? A combination of personal interviews and assessments is best.   

Legal issues are important. Know what you can and can’t ask in an interview. Things that seem totally innocuous like “tell me about your family” can lead to lawsuits. Know the differences between employees and independent contractors, exempt and non-exempt employees, and understand the requirements for workers compensation insurance and follow the rules!

Consider an employee handbook. Include rules against harassment and discrimination and describe your drug and alcohol policies. Employee expectations and disciplinary procedures can be included but anything in the manual can be turned against you if you don’t follow the policy consistently. Look in the library or on-line for help, then review final draft with an attorney.

Finally, be very careful in hiring family or friends. It totally changes relationships when someone close to you is working for you. Many larger companies have anti-nepotism policies. 

Congratulations on your growth. Seek advice from people with hiring (and firing) experience; it can be invaluable.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at