Small Business

When and how to hire your first HR person

Jan 11, 2024
min read

The crucial role of HR in a growing business

So, you've done it. You've started your own business and got it up and running – and things are going well. Really well. So well, in fact, that you can't do things alone and need to hire a few employees to keep things going. Business keeps getting better and you continue to expand until you find yourself with not just one or two employees, but a team of them. As your business takes flight, you'll soon realize that you need help to manage your growing team. Enter, your first HR professional.

Hiring your first HR professional is like adding a conductor to a growing orchestra. As your business grows, so does the complexity of the symphony you're trying to perform – in other words, your business operations become more complex. 

The conductor doesn't play an instrument themselves, but they understand each instrument's role and how to bring them together to create harmony. Similarly, an HR professional doesn't perform the tasks of your other employees, but they understand each role and how to manage them to create a harmonious and productive work environment. 

Hiring your first HR person is a significant milestone in your business journey. It's a sign that your business is growing and that you're ready to take the next step. This person will be instrumental in shaping your company's culture, managing employee relations, and ensuring that your business stays on the right side of the law.

So, how do you know when you've reached that milestone and are ready to hire your first HR person? And how do you go about finding the right person for the job? We'll dive into these questions and more in this blog!

Recognizing the need for an HR professional

There are a few signs that might indicate your business needs HR support. One of the more obvious ones is employee satisfaction. When employees are satisfied, they are more likely to be productive, committed, and loyal to your company. However, if you start noticing an increase in employee complaints, it could be a sign that there are underlying issues that need to be addressed. These complaints could range from concerns about work conditions and interpersonal conflicts to confusion about benefits or company policies. 

This is where an HR professional comes in. They can help identify and address these issues, improving employee satisfaction and overall business operations.

Another sign that you need HR support that may be more difficult to recognize is your time management as a business owner – if you find yourself spending more time on HR-related tasks than on strategic business activities, this can also mean it's time to bring an HR professional on board. This will allow you to focus on growing your business while ensuring that your employees are well-managed and your company remains compliant with employment laws.

The size of your company also significantly impacts your HR needs. As your business grows, so does the complexity of managing employees. To a small business owner, an HR person might seem like a luxury; but as your employee count increases, the need for an HR professional becomes more of a necessity. 

While there's no hard and fast rule about when to hire an HR person, a common benchmark is when your company reaches 50 employees. At this point, the administrative burden of managing employees often becomes too great for a business owner or manager to handle alone.

The costs and benefits of hiring an HR professional

Hiring an HR professional is an investment, and like any investment, it's essential to understand the costs and benefits. On the one hand, hiring an HR professional can be expensive, especially for small businesses. The costs involved are not just limited to the salary of the HR professional.

Additional costs can include recruitment expenses; that is, costs associated with advertising the job, conducting background checks, and time spent reviewing applications and interviewing. Once an HR professional is hired, there may also be costs associated with training and development.

On the other hand, the benefits of hiring an HR professional can far outweigh the costs. An HR professional can help reduce the risk of costly legal issues by ensuring your business complies with labour laws. This can save your business from expensive fines and legal fees, not to mention the potential damage to your business's reputation.

An HR professional can also improve employee satisfaction and retention by implementing effective HR policies, resolving employee issues, and creating a positive work environment. This can lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover, which can save your business money in the long run.

Hiring your first HR person

Once you've decided that it's time to hire an HR professional, the next thing to do is find the right person for the job.

Step 1: Identify your needs with a job analysis

Before you start the hiring process, conducting a job analysis can help you identify and understand the essential tasks, skills, knowledge, and responsibilities required for the HR professional. This job analysis will also help you write a thorough job description, which is key in hiring the ideal person for the role.

For an in-depth guide to conducting a job analysis, read our blog, What is a Job Analysis & 7 Steps to Conduct One.

Step 2: Create a job description

After pinpointing your needs, the next step is to craft a comprehensive job description. This will serve as a roadmap for potential candidates, outlining what the role entails and the qualifications required.

Firstly, the job description should clearly state the responsibilities that the HR professional will take on. Be specific wherever possible - for instance, if you mention recruitment, specify whether they'll be expected to handle everything from posting job ads to onboarding new hires.

In terms of qualifications, these should be aligned with the responsibilities. Typically, a degree in human resources or a related field is a baseline requirement. However, depending on the complexity of the role, you might also look for candidates with relevant HR experience. 

Something else to consider adding to your job description is 30-60-90-day expectations. This provides potential candidates with a clear roadmap of what is expected from them in the initial months. It sets clear goals for the immediate term, such as understanding company policies and procedures in the first 30 days, taking on initial projects in the following 30 days, and contributing to strategic initiatives by the end of 90 days. This not only helps candidates gauge the role's demands but also allows them to hit the ground running if hired.

Step 3: Advertise the job

After creating a job description, the next step is advertising the job. You can post the job on various job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn, and professional networking sites.

You could also consider reaching out to your network for recommendations. For example, if you're part of a local business association, you could let other members know that you're hiring an HR professional.

Step 4: Review applications

Once your job advertisement is live, you’ll start receiving applications. This is where the real work begins - sifting through these applications to find your ideal HR professional.

When reviewing applications, it's crucial to look for candidates with relevant experience and qualifications. But it's not just about who ticks off the most boxes. You need to dive deep into each application to understand the candidate's potential fit within your company.

Consider the candidate's HR experience. Have they worked in a similar industry or company size before? Do they have experience in the specific HR areas you identified as your needs?

Next, look at their qualifications. A degree in human resources or a related field is a good starting point, but also consider any additional certifications they might have. Certifications in areas like labour law, benefits administration, or conflict resolution can be a strong indicator of a candidate's expertise.

Thirdly, consider their soft skills. HR professionals need excellent communication and interpersonal skills, as they'll be dealing with people at all levels within your organization. Evidence of these skills might come from their cover letter, their references, or the way they've described their previous roles.

Step 5: Conduct interviews

After reviewing applications, the next step is to invite candidates to interview. When conducting interviews, consider using behavioural interview questions to assess how candidates would handle real-life HR scenarios. 

For instance, you might ask a candidate how they would handle a situation where an employee is not complying with company policies. It's also important to ask questions that assess their cultural fit (for tips on this, read our blog 12 Situational Interview Questions to Assess Culture Fit & What to Look for!).

Step 6: Trust your gut

Once you’ve wrapped up all the interviews, it's time to make a decision. This step isn't just about comparing resumes and interview performances, but also about trusting your instincts. The candidate's experience and qualifications are, of course, important factors – but also pay attention to how well they align with your company's culture and values.

Did the candidate show enthusiasm for your company's mission? Did they seem like they would fit into and enhance your team dynamics? These subjective factors can be just as important as their technical skills and qualifications – skills can be taught, but a cultural fit is often innate. Trust your gut feeling when making this crucial decision. After all, you know your business best!


Whether it's managing employee satisfaction, ensuring legal compliance, or freeing up your time to focus on strategic growth, an HR professional can bring immense value to your growing business. Remember, the goal is to find someone who not only has the necessary skills and experience but also aligns with your company's culture and values. With the right HR professional on board, your business is well-positioned to navigate the complexities of growth.

Not quite ready for your first HR person? Using a software solution is a good interim solution. These tools can help manage many HR tasks, providing you with more time to focus on your business.

You've got this – and happy hiring!

Looking for more help growing your company? Check out these resources:

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