A Guide to Hiring Your First Employee

When starting an ecommerce business, the possibilities appear to be endless. It’s an exciting journey—and when you hit those first few major milestones, you know that you’re on the right track.

Whether it be the achievement of your first large wholesale order or the need to hire your first employee, these “firsts” help drive the motivated business owner within you.

Speaking of your first hire, this is not exactly a simple process. This guide will support you as you seek and hire the best possible candidate to grow your small (yet growing) ecommerce team.

How to Make Your First Hire: Tips and Tricks to Find the Best Fit

If you've never hired anyone before, it's a rather daunting process. How do you find someone who will truly understand your business and evolving objectives?

Although each scenario is unique, as an ecommerce business grows, help is needed to ensure greater productivity and, in turn, high revenue. Once you reach this point, the range of fulfillments will begin to increase—and without a staffing plan, you could quickly fall behind.

Unfortunately, this could impact your reputation. A recent survey revealed that online reviews have been shown to impact 93% of purchasing decisions. So you can imagine how a couple of bad reviews will impact your business.

This brings us to the first step: deciding what you need to delegate and how often. By determining what you need to delegate, you can define the qualifications required, as well as your intended budget. More often than not, the first employee hired by an ecommerce business is someone who helps get products to customers while supporting growth (i.e. a marketing expert or a customer service/sales rep).

If you require 10-30 hours per week, it may be ideal to invest in an independent contractor or third-party vendor. This will help you save on certain salary obligations and benefits.

Overall, you need to sit down and ask yourself:

  • Where is my attention needed and what are my weaknesses?
  • What areas of my business require attention to grow this year?
  • What can I afford in terms of current cash flow?

Before you even begin to look for your first hire, you need to have clear goals in mind. That way, you can find the best possible person to help you achieve those goals.

How will I find my first employee?

If you often collaborate with other ecommerce business owners, reach out and ask if they can recommend anyone to assist you. Word-of-mouth is often the best approach. You can also post on a job offering on your social media accounts. This can be effective as your audience may not only be qualified, but will already be familiar with your brand.

However, if you can't find an employee using this approach, simply head to professional forums, online classifieds, or even employee websites (think LinkedIn). After you post an ad, you may find that you have hundreds of responses. At this point, you should know exactly what you’re looking for. Narrow it down to 3-4 candidates, and then proceed to ask relevant questions.

What types of questions do I ask?

Once again, this will vary from one business to the next. In your case, you need to decide on who your ideal candidate would be. What types of experience and skills would these have? Do they need to be knowledgeable in x, y, and z? If you have a rough “profile” in mind, this will make the interview process much easier.

You need to craft questions that are 100% relevant to you and your company. However, the following sample questions will help you get the ol’ wheels turning:

  • Over the past few years, ecommerce has evolved—where do you see trends moving and how will this support [your company]?
  • Off the top of your head, what are 2-3 approaches we may be able to use to increase customer retention?
  • List three of your favorite ecommerce companies and why you chose them. What is it that sets them apart?
  • What is it that you like about [your company]? What is it that you don’t like—and what changes would you make to improve what you’re not fond of?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of, within your career or otherwise?
  • What do you do for fun, and how do your interests impact your professional life?

Although the possible questions are endless, never doubt your gut feeling. If you don’t find the right fit immediately, don’t rush it. Hire short-term help for simple tasks that you would like to delegate while you continue searching for the “perfect” hire.

What is the "perfect" hire anyways?

The answer to this question is not black and white. Although you may be looking for specific characteristics, overall, you will want to hire someone who:

  • Is aligned with your vision and overall mission. If you sell eco-friendly beauty supplies, for instance, it's important to hire someone who is passionate about sustainable living and the beauty industry as a whole. If your employee is passionate about pushing your products, this will help you achieve greater growth.
  • Is accountable—mainly in the sense that they take pride and ownership in the work they complete.
  • Is innovative, yet eager to learn. Remember, the ecommerce space is constantly evolving, so you need to hire someone who is adaptable and detail-oriented.

At the end of the day, you'll want someone who is at least somewhat tech-savvy, highly passionate, enthusiastic, creative, and reliable. Once you find that ideal candidate, actively work towards being the best possible leader and teacher.

After all, Tammy Cohen said it best: "A great employee is like a four leaf clover—hard to find and lucky to have."