Senior Portraits for Whiteville, Fayetteville, Lumberton, Bladenboro, NC {Tips for Hiring An Employee}

Senior Portraits season continues! Congratulations to all the new graduates, both college and high school. Keep an eye on our Seniors Page and our Instagram (@VanessaG_Photo) feed to see behind the scenes at our Senior Sessions. We provide Senior Portraits for Whiteville, Fayetteville, Lumberton, Bladenboro and for students all across Southeastern NC.

Hiring an employee for a small business.

In our last Business themed Blog Post we listed 4 great tips for those of you considering starting a business of your own. Today we expand on what to do when you are ready to hire help. There are a few insights here for those of you looking for a job and planning for interviews as well. Take notes on the employer’s prospective.

There will come a time when you’ve grown your small business to the point that you can no longer handle the day to day demands of the job by yourself. You must either scale down your services to a manageable one-woman job, or take a leap of faith and hire your first employee. When you’ve reached your breaking point, you’re overworked, and you’re overwhelmed, you’ll know it’s time to hire some help.


Featured in this post: Class of 2015 VGP Senior Model, Amanda

It’s hard to be prepared to be an employer. I am a professional photographer, and I needed to train someone to handle an office. Your personal work ethics will play a role in your expectations of an employee. If you’re an entrepreneur, then you’re somewhat driven and you’re dedicated to your work. Finding an employee to mirror those qualities is a pretty hard task. The following are a few tips and a few lessons I learned in hiring my first few employees.


Step 1 – Test the water

In the beginning, I started with a few part time people; like a high school student to perform only select tasks, and a fellow small business owner who needed some extra cash. The advantage of part time help is that they can work on “contract.” Meaning you don’t have to worry about taxes and paper work. They turn in a time sheet, and you hand over a check. Done deal. Part time help is a good way to start and it allows you to begin the process of designating which tasks you can trust and train someone else to do.

Step 2 – Talk with your accountant

When you are essentially working two full time jobs, it’s past time to hire full time help. Your revenue must be able to support a full time employee. Meet and talk with your accountant or CPA to review the financial standing of your business. Being busy doesn’t equal being profitable. You need a steady volume of income, and profit, to support additional staff. With professional guidance, I was able to determine what wage I could afford to pay. Hint – it costs you more than what you pay out to the employee. Payroll taxes are huge.

Step 3 – Define the job.

You cannot expect your employee to do their job well if they do not know what specific things the job requires. You must accurately define the job, every task your employee will need to be able to do. You must also provide one-on-one training for every task. You can’t expect someone to do a job you yourself don’t know how to do. I’ve always told my employees that I will never ask them to do any job I haven’t done myself and that therefore there is no mistake they can make that I haven’t already made. This isn’t the case with a large company! Small businesses are made up of people who’ve grown the business themselves and are very hands-on people. Over time the role of Office Assistant at Vanessa G. Photography has changed significantly. For the past two years there has been a task specific review at 30-60-90 days. Every single job expectation is written on this review and is provided prior to the job offer. This ensures there is no miscommunication of what the job entails. It literally includes everything from “Has a good attitude at work” to “Mails orders from the office on time”. You need a candidate with the right skill set, right personality, and true interest in the job. You might be looking for someone to take ownership in their role of responsibility and your interviewee may just be looking for a paycheck. Hiring the latter does not end well. As a small business owner, you will have to dig a lot harder to find an employee that will meet you needs.


Step 4 – Accept a lot of applications.

With my first few employees I cared more about the “trust” factor. I had a hard time trusting someone I didn’t know and had never met. I relied on friend referrals. While some employers find this method to work extremely well, I feel it depends greatly on the type of work you need from the employee. With 30 to 40 job applications to choose from, it’s easier to start weeding out the ones that probably aren’t a good fit for your job requirements. You’ll have options. Advertise everywhere.

Full time employees come with more paper work, more taxes to pay, more accounting fun, and need a lot of responsibilities to make their place in your business worth it. In my case, they must be trusted to handle confidential information, credit card numbers, and reliable to keep their Facebook crazy to a minimum because they represent something other than themselves. That adds a few more layers of complicated.


Here are my top tips for finding a great employee for your small business:


1-    Call all of their references and past employers first.

If you’re employee submits a letter of recommendation from their current or past employer, then you have a top candidate. If the person applying doesn’t want their current employer contacted, be cautious. They may be ready to bolt for any number of reasons and you may become the next place from which they bolt. Without contacting their past, and most recent employer you have no idea what to expect from them as an employee. I’ve learned to dig a little deeper. I’ve called a past employer, and asked the question “Would you hire this person again?” and when they said “No,” that application went into the trash. I’ve looked the applicant up on social media, knowing my business has a heavy social media component, and saw things that weren’t representative of me or my brand and was able to eliminate that applicant. Right or wrong, your social media representation of you IS a representation of you. It can reveal a lot.  This process narrows down the stack of applications to just a few.

This was a hard lesson learned. In the beginning, I felt it more important to like the candidate by phone and in person than to research their past employment. Wrong! A small business is a unique set up. In my case, I’m hiring a person to be responsible for a lot of tasks that I don’t have time for in my own work schedule. I must trust this person with doing their job fully and accurately. And if they fall too far below the expectations of the job, I myself have to take up the slack. There isn’t a staff of people to spread the work amongst. The same is true if they quit suddenly. I immediately take on two full time jobs for an indefinite period of time until their role is replaced. That is an enormous amount of strain on my business and everyone suffers, not just me and my clients, but my family as well because they completely loose me to my job until I can hire a replacement employee.

2-    Conduct a phone interview.

If the job requires customer service by phone, then I recommend you start with a phone interview. If your business clientele will experience their first interaction with this person by phone before they meet you or anyone else face to face, then the impression of that person by phone is important. They must have a voice you like to hear and enunciate their words. They need to speak clearly, confidently, and use proper grammar. This round of call conversations will again eliminate a few people. The candidate may be great on paper but comes across completely different by phone.


3-    Conduct an In-person interview.

I’m pretty sure most all businesses conduct an in-person interview. Everyone is on their best behavior. Most of us have been taught how to answer interview questions like “List 3 words to describe your personality.” To which most will answer, “I’m organized, friendly, and ….” These are fluff questions. Instead ask questions like “Give me an example of how you keep yourself organized.” Everyone thinks they are organized. Every person I’ve ever interviewed has said they are organized. Their example will reveal a lot.

Body language is important as well. If you’re looking for a professional presentation and your interviewee is slouching in the couch, that might be a sign they aren’t a good fit. Their tone, ability to carry a conversation, deal with a high stress situation, are all easily seen in an in-person interview. It can be deceptive though, because the more experienced interviewee will make a good interview impression, but could lack the other pieces of the puzzle, such as an ability to adapt or dedication to their work.

You can also ask about their availability to start work with your business. If they are not giving a two week notice to their current place of employment, then DO NOT hire this person. This is a strong indicator that they will do the same to you.

4-    Make a Job Offer.

After you’ve thought things through and decided on your top choice, you offer the job. The job offer should be an official one that spells out the rate of pay you’re offering them, the job expectations, benefits, and start date. This gives the potential employee the opportunity to turn down or negotiate your offer. For my business there is an office employee handbook, confidentiality agreements to sign, and a copy of that 30-60-90 day evaluation that spells out in detail all of the job expectations.


Hopefully you will have hired a great employee who loves their job and is a valuable team member. Your growth and sanity depends on it. If you hired the wrong one, you’ll soon know it. Ultimately if your employee is not happy with their job, they will leave. If you’ve given them the chance through your reviews to express any concerns, conflicts, or requests for change and they continue to say everything is great, then there is nothing you can do to make them happy. Prepare for them to leave. And start all over again.


Our next employment blog post will cover a few Tips For Protecting Your Small Business. Take the opportunity to save yourself some expenses and learn from my mistakes. Stay tuned!


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Vanessa G. Photography is a full time professional photography studio. All Senior Portrait sessions are customized. We operate by appointment only so that we can dedicate 100% of our time to you when you are here. Our photographer’s credentials include a minor in Photography, a Bachelor’s in Visual Communications, thousands of hours of hands on experience with lighting, posing, and lifestyle photography, a career dedicated to a full time photography studio, and a Certified Professional Photographer designation. We provide Senior Portraits for Whiteville, Fayetteville, Lumberton, Bladenboro and for students all across Southeastern NC.


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