Hiring Your First Employee

If you are in the business of creating things and selling them, you may one day need to be in two places at once. Or you may be exhausted and can't get up at 8am because you were selling the night before until midnight. Or…well, you can imagine. Your business is expanding and it's time to bring on people who can help you grow the company. You need to hire an employee.

When that day comes, you will be terrified. Your business is like a newborn that no one seems responsible enough for you to entrust with its care. Running through your mind: They don't know the history of the company, they don't know how to handle that customer who wants to start a fight because you didn't give her a discount, they don't know what to do when it starts to rain. In essence, they are not you. And that's the problem.

So you go about trying to find a clone, and when you come to the realization that there are no clones of you, you put an ad on craigslist for $25. Then the fun begins. 

My daughter, the owner, wrote her ad based on her own resume (yes, still trying to clone) combined with the assistant manager job description from J.Crew, which we found on their web site. She figured out weekly shifts, how much she would pay, and how generous she could be. Here's where the owner's Boyfriend got involved. He did not think we were paying enough. 

One job applicant actually listed all the department stores and boutiques where she'd worked and included the pay she received at each. Not sure why she did this, but it was helpful to us. A major department store paid $7.25, the minimum wage. One top name store paid a little under $9 an hour. Bendel's paid the most at $11-14. The Boyfriend said we could not call our compensation, $10 an hour, "competitive." He deemed $15 to be competitive, but then he's in finance. 

We pointed out that we also paid a $10 lunch allowance, so if you wanted to bring your own lunch, you just gave yourself a raise to $12 an hour. And we were offering bonuses of jewelry for meeting sales goals. Of course, you can't use jewelry to pay your rent. 

In early June, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. wrote a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10, pointing out it might help the economy because it would "increase the purchasing power of millions of low income workers." An increase in the federal minimum wage was last approved in 2007, when Congress voted to raise it from to $7.25 from $5.15 over two years. Eighteen states now have minimum wages in place that exceed the federal minimum.

The night we reviewed our first resumes from craigslist, we decided to create cash bonuses for meeting sales goals as part of the compensation package. And we bumped the pay to $12 an hour.

"You'll get 100 resumes from craigslist and you'll interview two people," said our friend Julian, co-owner of Melt Bakery, which makes ice cream and cookies which become delicious ice cream sandwiches. Julian hired workers to sell ice cream all over town, and just opened a store on Orchard Street.

The first 100 resumes were a trial. Tempted to think that everyone has bought one of those books called How to Write a Resume? They have not. 

Rule #1: Set up a separate mailbox just to receive the resumes. Natasha used gmail. When you write each ad, code it by telling the applicants to use a certain word in the subject line. This showed her immediately which resumes were coming from Craig, a college board, iFreelance, the NY Etsy team, or our Facebok page.

Next, create folders in your email account so you can file the resumes. Every resume was read by both of us. Files were labeled "Interview," "Maybe Interview," and "Nah." "Nah" was one stop away from Trash, but until we actually hired two people we did not want to lose any resumes.  

Rule #2. You might want a stiff drink to go through 100 resumes. You have to ask yourself why someone without a single qualification you are looking for would bother to send a resume, but they do. 

The first person who scored an interview really stood out. She was the only one of 100 to write a cover letter! Hallelujah! She can follow directions. On the other hand, the person who sent, along with a resume, a one line question "How do I apply for this job?" seemed not to understand she just had.  

We never listed our address anywhere but we got up and checked the locks on the doors when we read the application that began with a threat. The entire preamble was in bold and stated that before we read his resume, we should know he did not want any "commission only," "fake personal assistant," "send me fake checks" job. I asked Natasha what that was about and she said there are scams on craigslist and this person had obviously had some experience with them. Given the current job market, the mother in me really felt for the raw frustration that came across from this young person looking for a chance to support himself, but his approach was alarming.

In general, the English on most resumes was atrocious, even among college students. Resumes often did not stress real accomplishments, but just listed job duties. It was clearly a challenge for young people to strike the right tone when writing about themselves. One promised to be able to revamp the whole company with her outstanding skills. Uh, well, we kind of like the company the way it is. 

Some candidates lived in nearby states but never said if they were in the city for the summer. It's  a tough commute from Chicago. And I hate to say this, but living outside the five boroughs was a negative; we are selling at a place that fines vendors $25 for every hour the shop is opened after 11 am. 

In the end, qualified candidates really stood out. On the bright side, there was one resume from a guy with his own magazine/website. He wasn't right for the job but his work was awesome. I know that some time in the future he will be famous, and we will be bragging that he once applied for a job with Wink and Flip. And our Most Favored Person, the one we were sure we'd hire? She texted two minutes before the actual interview that she was out of state, could not attend the interview and if offered, could not accept the job. Back to Craig.

Susan and Natasha