New hire checklist for startups

New Hire Checklist for Startups

Your startup has great buzz,¬†you’ve got some funding and now you have been able attract serious talent. The problem is, you’ve never had to hire anyone before. Yes, you have some employees, but they joined as founders or close-to founders. Historically, there has been¬†no expectations of a formal hiring process.

Now though, you are hiring players, specialists Рpeople who have made careers doing what you are hiring them to do. You want to look good, you want to impress them and you want to set an expectation on their first day. I say this from experience; I overseen some poorly planned first days and I have also had more than one very uncomfortable first day at a new job.

What follows¬†is a list of things that I’ve discovered I need to prep in advance or do on an employee’s first day. I encourage you to take the notes below, paste them into a Google doc, use the tiny square checkboxes as your bullet point of choice, customize things and then save it for future hires.

New Hire Checklist

  • Sign a Contract: Get a real contract. Not a few paragraphs you typed out in an offer letter. Once it is signed, scan it and store it away. If someone is looking at acquiring you they may ask to see contracts. In particular, they may want to know if those contracts include information about disclosures (or lack thereof) of prior patents etc.
  • Non disclosure form (NDA): As above, not only is this important for the obvious reasons, it is something a potential acquirer might request. They may be interested in acquiring you, your product, or your team, but they are also worried about liabilities and reducing risk.
  • Seating space: Have a seat for them. Have the desk cleaned off and have a few implements already on it (pen, mug, t-shirt, whatever). Don’t vaguely wave them into a space and ask them to chose one – or worse, say the desk and chair will be there at the end of the week.
  • Computer: My computer is my one and only physical work implement. For most hires, if you don’t have a computer for them on day one, they can’t do their job. Also be sure it comes with what they need:
    • Monitor and peripherals if required
    • Office suite if required
    • Antivirus and Prey
    • Have it connected to wifi and the office printer
  • Hardware sign-sheet: Simple document that says I (insert name) have taken possession of a (insert computer type, memory, model etc), these peripherals and so on. Also have them sign for their office key.
  • Key to office:¬†Not providing a key, keycard or some other form of access is basically saying we don’t care if you show up early or late. 9-5 is fine with us.
  • Email address:¬†Without an email address,¬†a new employee can’t access anything or sign up for any of the SaaS services they may need. Be sure to also send an email asking them to copy and customize your signature for themselves.
  • Calendars: Add them to any shared calendars and email aliases (i.e. “”)¬†that are applicable.
  • Phone number: This doesn’t apply to all staff, but if you are hiring a sales person, make sure they have a phone number on day one. If they need them (many don’t), have a proof of their business cards for them to view as well. You may also need to provide (again, especially for sales people):
    • Conference call ID
    • or other video demo/conferencing platform ID
    • Updates to the¬†phone directory
  • Slack, Chatter, Yammer: Whatever you use to keep your team talking and in the loop, have their account set up and their invite in their email inbox. This is also your opportunity to welcome them to the team and introduce them to remote employees.
  • Other SaaS tools: Have a CRM? Marketing Automation? CMS? Expensify? A demo account on whatever SaaS product you sell? Are they a developer who needs access to Jira? Should they be logging into Basecamp? Whatever these tools are, make sure that you have created their accounts.
  • Employee file: Physical, digital (or both), have a secure place to put their hardware sign sheet, their new hire checklist, contract and so on. This is important if acquirers request documents. Also if you have to lay someone off, you want to know if they have a key, monitor or other items that need to be returned.
  • Tax and Other Payroll Forms: Good times. Almost any jurisdiction is going to require paperwork that you, your accountant, someone will require to determine how much in taxes need to be deducted and how much a person gets paid. In addition, ask in advance for them to bring in a void blank check.
  • Insurance form:¬†If you have a group insurance plan, have the booklet and form for them on day one. It is too late for them to sign up in two months when they actually need a prescription.
  • Provide Staff Manual:¬†Making one isn’t hard. I use a shared Google doc that all employees have read-only access to. It contains obvious things like: do we have a health plan, what does it cover, what holidays do we get, what is it ok to wear to work, how do I file expenses and so on. These are questions new employees want to know, but may not want to ask. Writing this stuff down is part of formalizing your fledgling company’s culture. And perhaps most importantly, it makes you think about these things. The document should be organic; when I get a good question from an employee, I go in and update the Staff Manual with the answer.
  • Emergency Contact information:¬†Create a Google form and have every employee complete it. Ask:
    • After hours cellphone
    • Home address
    • Emergency contact person, relationship to employee and phone number
    • Allergies or other medical conditions we should know about (e.g. peanut allergy, diabetes)
    • Do you carry emergency medication we should know about (EpiPen, insulin etc)
  • Bring them up to speed:¬†Make them feel welcome. The first day at a new job can be intimidating.
    • Provide a tour of the office
    • Book 1 hour and provide them a status overview of the company (I adapt/recycle my latest board presentation)
    • Give them a $20 gift card to the nearest coffee shop and have them take out a seasoned employee they can ask questions that they don’t want to ask you
    • Introduce them to key members they’ll be working with and have each of those members schedule a one hour meeting over the next week to tell them more about their role

Wrap Up

I don’t have an HR degree, but I’ve interviewed a lot of people, hired more than a few, and had some great and not-so-great first days on the job. Whether you use this list or another doesn’t matter. Just have a plan and a checklist, because things will be forgotten. Hiring someone is a huge responsibility. The last thing you want is that you that find out you forgot to register someone for health insurance and now their child is sick (I’ve seen this happen). Having employees is a grown up thing and you have to treat the process with a grown up level of respect.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. If you are still small, this is a person who is going to have a big impact on your organization. Show them the courtesy and respect of being prepared for their arrival and set the tone for their time on your team.

Think I missed something? I am pretty sure I must have. Drop me a line or let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the post.


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