7 characteristics of a new employee for SMEs

7 characteristics of a new employee for SMEs


7 Characteristics of a New Employee for SMEs scaled - Your People Partners

Last updated: 27th October 22

Applies to: SME Business Owners and Hiring Managers


Hiring your first employee or expanding your team?

Don’t know where to start? 

Worried about getting it wrong?

You are not alone!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to the hiring process, especially for small businesses.

In terms of looking for what you need, start with these 7 core questions every time you hire. 

As a business owner, can you afford to go wrong when hiring your first employee or adding to your small team? 

You’d like to think these 7 core questions would be used every time any business owner, team leader or huge corporate hire new staff but as a company gets bigger, the risk of a poor hire is less stressful (you can always hide a poor hire or if they leave, it doesn’t leave as much of a gap).

Anyone you bring into your business, in any capacity, must all of these seven core characteristics:


1. Your new employee must buy into you as the business owner. And your company’s vision.

They’ve got to be passionate about what you’re doing, and how you plan to do it. Your employees need to really believe in your abilities to do what you’re doing for your customers.

It is vital to realise and appreciate that an employee may never be as passionate as you (it’s your business, after all) but they still need to buy into your passion and be easily excited by what you’re doing.


2. They must buy into your company vision

They need to believe in your products and/or service offering. They have got to firmly believe that what you are offering your customers is providing value for money as well as solving a problem. You can’t expect to get 100% out of a new team member if they don’t honestly feel your tea bags are really rather special/different / good quality/value for money (delete as appropriate).


3. Are they like-minded?

Your new employee won’t be like you in every way because if they were, they’d have their own business. However, they have to feel and be capable of sharing what you’re doing in what they’re doing.

Do not mistake this characteristic for needing to find another you when you first hire a member of staff or even as you grow. Your company needs a mix of skills and personalities, not five of you!


4. They have to be able to be clear in what your role is

If you’re hiring for the first time, this is an absolutely crucial characteristic. Just because they’re the first person to join your company, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a director or senior leader in the future. There is still a hierarchy, even if it’s nearly flat. It’s your business, after all, even if they’re there to develop cool sales and marketing strategies or transform the customer journey.  

5. You and they must be clear on what their role is.

Unless you both know what is expected of them in their role, you risk them drifting. It’s a fool’s game to hire someone without defining exactly what they need to deliver.

The employee needs to have a good understanding of how important it is for you to have them on board and they have a job to do today. Yes, their job may change and they may take on more responsibilities such as people management, but for now, if they have to clean the toilet and answer the phone, then that’s what they need to do.

This is one of the most important characteristics of a small but growing team. Everyone makes the tea. Everyone empties the bins. Everyone does what it takes. This is part of everyone’s role. Do what it takes to make the business work well and do more for your customers.

Most small companies don’t have a daily cleaner, so it is everyone’s responsibility to wash up. Ensure you test this characteristic at interview by asking what they feel is one of the most important aspects of a small team and getting the most out of everyone.


6. Must be able to roll up their sleeves

Are they able to get down and dirty? Anyone you bring in as your first employee or expanding your team must be able to do just about everything that they need to do to make your life easier. That’s the key thing with these first few people you bring into your business. By the tenth person on board, this is not as important, but the first, second, third employee on board needs to be able to roll up their sleeves and do anything.

They must have the intention and willingness to be able to do anything it takes. They will be well aware that regardless of their job title, they step up and help every single time their assistance is needed.

They have to buy in to the degree that they know if there’s a deadline for 5pm to not be clock watching and then garbing their coat to leave just as the clock ticks over at 4.59.59. This characteristic can be shown by those who ask ‘how can I help’ or ‘shall I do that for you’?


7. They have to be able to feel that they’re improving the current team dynamic with new and varied skills

They have to be able to be capable of knowing that what they’re doing is so vital to you that, without them there, your business would still be surviving but it may not be growing. They need to understand their importance and really get off on that, that has to excite them. It’s key to know that this is not an ego thing.

This is a vital characteristic whether you have 2 staff or 202. They all need to be aware that they are a major part of the machine which helps push your business on towards your vision. It doesn’t matter if it’s a receptionist or admin role or a sales director role.

This characteristic is all about knowing within themselves that what they bring to your business is gratefully received and as a result, the team, the department, the business is better for it.

Those are the key characteristics that I would say your first employee into your business has to have. 

You have to have a tick against every single one of those five. Indeed, it is safe to say that all ten to twenty of your first employees need to have all of these characteristics also.


Check out our related articles:


Still need help?

Could still use some help with the hiring process? Get in touch with the team at Your People Partners. Let us help you help your business thriv

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Helen Sanders Managing Director and Chief People Partner
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