10 Steps to a Successful Hiring Process: A Hiring Process Checklist For Small Businesses

By PrismHR

Adhering to well-defined hiring process steps will help your business find, hire, and keep the best employees. Small and midsize businesses often struggle with how to hire new employees in today’s tight labor market. You’ll face tough odds when competing with larger competitors who wield deep recruiting budgets, well-honed hiring practices, and full-time recruiters working to find and secure top candidates.

Following this hiring process checklist will help your business to level the recruiting playing field. Here are ten key hiring process steps to follow:

  1. Develop a short- and long-term hiring strategy
  2. Write a supporting marketing strategy to reach your ideal candidate pool
  3. Create a winning job ad, as well as a clear, authentic portrayal of your company’s culture
  4. Follow protocol for initiating a new hire with a job requisition form or other set process
  5. Advertise your job on the right targeted sites and forums
  6. Utilize an Applicant Tracking System
  7. Build a library of templated recruiting forms
  8. Organize required new hire paperwork ahead of start date
  9. Store required employee documents in a secure location
  10. Begin the formal onboarding and training process

When your business is aware of essential hiring process steps, organized in the execution of each one, and utilizing the best technology to support the journey, you’ll not only secure the right candidates, but will retain your best employees longer than ever before.

Hiring process checklist for your business:

1. Develop a short- and long-term hiring strategy.

Before you do anything else, think strategy. Meet with relevant peers and managers to identify and solidify your business’s overall hiring strategy in the months and year ahead. Complete a universal hiring strategy document for your business, and within it, a departmental and individual hiring strategy.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) offers great resources to help you think through key components of your plan. Directly link it to your overall business’s growth and revenue goals. And then get sign-off from necessary stakeholders before the new hire process formally begins. Reference your hiring strategy and goals regularly as you hire each new employee. Modify your strategy as business goals evolve.

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2. Write a supporting marketing strategy to reach your ideal candidate pool.

Finding the right new hire requires not only looking in the right places, but also using the right language to attract the best candidates. Outline your job posting advertising schedule and strategy, response turnaround times, messaging and communications, screening parameters, and how quickly you’d like to move qualified applicants through the interview process.

Tap into your peer network or relevant online forums to learn what’s working for others, and consider talking with a professional recruiter for expert advice and perspective on current trends or tips.

3. Create a winning job ad, as well as a clear, authentic portrayal of your company’s culture.

Creating a high-quality job description is a critical step in the hiring process. Clearly articulate requirements for the role and the skills that an ideal candidate will need to succeed.

Do a little research to check out your competitor’s job ads for comparable roles, including the compensation offered, as well as benefits and perks. Consider how you are able to positively differentiate your posting, especially in communicating the unique brand and culture at your organization and the characteristics you value most in your employees and your workplace.

Take time to look at some of the overall top-rated job descriptions, and best practices as recommended by leading job search sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Before posting your job, proofread, proofread, and proofread once more. Ask multiple colleagues in different roles to review your ad, as well as a peer outside your industry and incorporate any valuable feedback or insight.

4. Follow protocol for initiating a new hire with a job requisition form or other set process.

If your business requires the use of a job requisition form to formally begin to hire new employees, complete the required documentation as soon as you’ve finalized your strategy and desired marketing plan, as well as the core components of your job description.

Many small to midsize businesses may not rely on such formal processes as a job requisition form, but it’s important to establish a uniform method of record-keeping as you progress through your hiring process steps, regardless of how large or small your organization may be. And remember, as your business grows, the more consistent you can be in adhering to your hiring process steps, the better.

Your hiring process should include posting your job and advertising on the right websites and job forums for your industry.

5. Advertise your job on the right targeted sites and forums.

Whether it’s Glassdoor, Indeed, ZipRecruiter or Monster, or social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, cast your net accordingly depending on the role you need to fill. Consider association job listings, or other niche job boards as part of your overall advertising strategy.

Ask candidates as part of the interview process what drew them to your job description, or if there wereelements of the ad they felt they needed to know more about, or other areas they would have liked to see included. Determining the best places to advertise your open positions is one of the most critical items on this hiring process checklist since it will help you reach the types of employees you’re looking to hire.

6. Utilize an Applicant Tracking System (part of a Talent Management Software solution).

Tired of sorting through tons of resumes from poorly matched candidates? Eliminate that stack of recruiting paperwork once and for all.

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can help your business simplify and streamline the entire hiring process from start to finish, while you attract and retain top talent faster than before. 

An ATS can automatically post jobs for you across top sites, help auto-screen candidates, send communications, including electronic offer letters, and also provide you with valuable tracking and analytics that show you how long your hiring process takes and what it costs per hire.

Automating your hiring process steps using software is a good option if you find that you’re spending more than an hour or two each week managing the hiring process. Learn more about what is an ATS?

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7. Build a library of templated recruiting forms.

Take stock of your current library of essential new hire documents. Your job application should follow all guidelines as set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Additionally, The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) provides an overview of these guidelines to help you better understand and follow current laws and protections surrounding both the employment application and the interview process.

Polish up your job offer letter template, and be sure it contains the correct start date and personalized details about the role and its expectations for your prospective new hire before it goes out the door. You should also include information regarding line of reporting, type of contract or full-time vs. part-time, expected work hours, PTO, applicable benefits and other important details your business determines are necessary. Ask your new hire to sign the offer letter and return it to you as soon as possible.

A background check authorization form is typically completed by final candidates just before a formal offer, but some states requires that it follows the offer. Consult the EEOC website or a licensed legal professional for more information about conducting and using background checks as part of your new hire process.

To simplify how you manage recruiting forms and new hire paperwork, consider using HR software that will help you keep all employee documentation in one place.

8. Organize required new hire paperwork ahead of start date.

You’ve just found the right hire and they’ve accepted your offer. Time to get organized and gather all required new hire forms.

This typically includes an employment contract, employee information form, employee handbook, direct deposit form, I-9, Form W-4, and any benefits-related paperwork for insurance or retirement programs, as well as documents for enrolling in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or other similar program. Have documents set aside and ready to go for your new employee, along with a cover sheet checklist that outlines what they need to complete and when.

You may consider sending some of the paperwork in advance of their first day provided they have signed a formal offer letter to help expedite the process. Learn more about other new employee paperwork that is required in the hiring process.

9. Store all required completed employee documents in a secure location.

Employer record-keeping is critical to managing a successful hiring process. When done incorrectly, it can result in costly fines.

For example, I-9s must be kept on file with an employer for three years following start date, or for one year following employee termination, and are subject to investigation at any time by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It’s critical that employers are aware of what they’re required to keep, how, and for what length of time. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sites provide detailed information for employers regarding record-keeping requirements and how to adhere to them.

Storing new employee documents is an important step in your hiring process checklist. Consider an online storage system to replace outdated metal filing cabinets.

Consult with a licensed legal professional about required record-keeping for your business. Another option is to work with an HR service provider such as a PEO to manage compliance issues. Learn more about working with a PEO here: What is a PEO?

And if your company is still relying on old-school metal file cabinets as part of your hiring process, it’s time for an update. Electronic document storage provides an added layer of security for sensitive information, saves costs through the reduction of physical equipment, and provides a backup in preventing document damage or loss. It also enables you to organize, process, and track documents more efficiently as you hire new employees – all from one easy, online, point of access.

10. Begin the formal onboarding and training process.

Once your new hire has completed their required forms and documentation, you can begin the formal onboarding process.

Schedule meetings well in advance of the start date with relevant peers and managers, as well as provide introductions to core departments and their functions within your business. Identify which training materials (written, video or audio) are essential to your new employee’s training. SHRM provides excellent resources and tips about successful onboarding. And remember, the best onboarding practices include layering training and development over days, weeks, and months for your new hire so they’re not overwhelmed.

Consider investing in Talent Management Software to help better facilitate new employee onboarding as part of providing a comprehensive employee experience that will help you retain your best employees. This software provides employees access to online training tools, including videos, presentations, and organizational charts.

Talent Management Software can also enable you to assign tasks to relevant peers in your company related to a new hire’s onboarding, while giving your employee access to a centralized online portal where they can access all related resources from one easy-to-use interface.


A successful hiring process includes many steps along the way. And each one plays an essential role in finding and securing the right new employees for your organization.

In today’s tight labor market where small businesses struggle to compete against larger organizations for the best employees, adhering to a hiring process checklist and utilizing the right technology can help give your small or midsize business an edge of competitors. Combined with the right expertise from a trusted human resources partner, you’ll have a strategy in place that not only ups your recruiting game but enables you to win it.

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Hiring Process FAQs:

What steps should I follow in the hiring process as an employer?

Your hiring process should follow a series of comprehensive steps including developing a hiring strategy as well as job marketing strategy, writing a winning job description, opening a job requisition, targeting relevant job sites, utilizing an Applicant Tracking System, building a library of templated recruiting forms, gathering required new hire forms, storing employee documents in a secure location and formally starting the onboarding process.

How do I hire new employees?

The hiring process steps outlined here can help help you identify and complete each aspect of a successful recruiting program. Follow this hiring process checklist to strategize and further define the role you need to fill, target the right job sites, track your applicants, complete required recruiting and new hire forms, and begin the onboarding process.

Where do I go for help with hiring process?

There are many online resources available to help you with your hiring process, including The Society for Human Resources Management. Many small businesses choose to get help with the hiring process by partnering with HR service providers such as a PEO (professional employer organization) or other human resources outsourcing options.

HR providers can help your business implement a formal hiring process. They can also answer questions you may have about hiring and onboarding, as well as helping you spend less time dealing with payroll, compliance, and managing employee benefits. Get help finding the best HR Service Provider for your business.

How do I start the process of finding and hiring new employees?

Use our hiring process checklist to keep you organized and make sure you’re not missing any critical steps in the process. Taking the time up front to fully understand the process will give you the best chance of competing for employees against larger competitors. Make sure that you’re familiar with the required new hire forms so that you’re prepared once you’ve selected your new employees.

How do I store my employees’ forms securely online?

HR software for small business can help you organize and store sensitive employee forms securely online, while following requirements as set forth by the EEOC and IRS for electronic storage.

What is employee onboarding?

Onboarding is the process through which you introduce and acclimate your new employee to your organization. Onboarding is more than just “orientation.” As defined by The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), “onboarding should acclimate the new employee to allow him or her to become a contributing member of the staff in the briefest period possible, while engaging the employee to enhance productivity and improve the opportunity for the company to retain the employee.”

Proper onboarding is important since it will ramp up new employees faster and also let you keep them longer. This will help you have a more satisfied workforce with increased employee retention. What is employee retention?

Your hiring process steps should include a list of websites to post jobs for new employees.

Which websites should I use to post jobs?

Glassdoor, Indeed, ZipRecruiter or Monster, or social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are all great sites to post your jobs. Consider association job listings, or other niche job boards as part of your overall advertising strategy. Talent Management Software can help post your job listings automatically across all major job sites.

How do I write a successful job description?

The best way to write a job description is to very carefully consider the criteria for success in the role you’re hiring for, and to make sure that your description clearly conveys this to potential employees.

Look carefully at descriptions for similar roles from other companies. This will help you understand your competition and also help you look for ways to differentiate your company to make the job seem more attractive to applicants.

Be very clear about what is expected in the new role, what skills and experience are required, and what the criteria for success will be for potential candidates. Use the description to clarify what you’re looking for. This will weed out unqualified candidates and discourage them from applying, that will ensure you don’t have to spend endless time sorting through junk resumes to find qualified candidates that actually are a match for the role.

Consider improving your job descriptions by including performance profiles that focus on activities and results that will determine success in the role. This will further reduce the amount of unqualified applicants and will also set expectations for what the role requires. Learn more about how to write performance profiles.

What new hire paperwork am I required to have completed as an employer?

Employers must have new employees complete an I-9 and W-4. Many employers will also have their employees complete an employment contract, employee identification form, background check authorization form, direct deposit form, employee handbook acknowledgement form, and other forms related to enrollment in benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.

Your company may have additional, required new employee paperwork or additional authorizations that it may need to include in the onboarding process.

Which new hire paperwork does an employer need to file with which U.S. agencies and when?

Employers aren’t required to file a new employee’s I-9 with the USCIS, but they must have the completed I-9 on file within their own recordkeeping system within three business days of the date of hire (first day of work that would be paid). An employee’s I-9 must be stored for three years from the date of hire, or for one year after the date of termination. I-9s should be stored separately from an employee’s personnel file and must be made available for inspection by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The W-4 must be completed and kept on file with the employer before the employee receives his/her first paycheck. Employers are not required to file W-4s with the IRS, but most keep them on record. Please note that IRS has published important information regarding changes to the 2020 W-4 form, and how this impacts employers and their employees. 

Please note that employers are required to file a W-2 by January 31st for the previous year (ending December 31st) for each employee they paid wages to and withheld tax from, along with sending a copy of individual W-2s to employees by January 31st.

Where do I find information about current federal employment laws?

Visit the United State Department of Labor website for more information on current employement laws. You may also consult with a licensed legal professional, or your Human Resources Outsourcing partner such a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), who can help keep your business informed and compliant with required Federal laws, regulations, and policies.

Where do I find information about state employment laws?

Contact your state or local labor office for more information or guidance. The United States Department of Labor provides a detailed list of contact information by state for commissioners, directors and secretaries of state labor departments and their websites.

You may also consult with a licensed legal professional or your Human Resources Outsourcing partner to keep your business informed and compliant with required state laws, regulations and policies.

Need help sorting through the complexities of federal and state employment laws?

Our nationwide network of HR Service Providers can help ensure that your business is in compliance with labor laws. We can match you with an HR provider who will make the process easy.

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How long should an employer keep employee records?

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to retain all personnel or employment records for at least one year. Employers must also keep all payroll records for three years. I-9s must be kept on file for three years following start date, or one year following termination.

Additional requirements and record-keeping minimums are outlined in detail on the EEOC website. If your business is not currently utilizing HR software to assist with the facilitation and secure storage of new employee forms, it may be the right solution to ensure you are following current record-keeping laws and requirements forms, it may be the right solution to ensure you are following current record-keeping laws and requirements.