The Ultimate Hiring Guide for US Employers

December 27th 2023

So, your company is ready to take on the search for a new team member. That’s great! An expanding team is a sign that business is doing good. But while that may be a positive indicator, hiring in the US isn’t the most straightforward task—it involves navigating a complex landscape of laws, regulations, and best practices. All of this can easily make anyone’s head spin, especially those new to the hiring process. But don’t worry; this is exactly why we made this guide.

This comprehensive hiring guide will walk you through each step of the hiring process, offering valuable insights and practical tips to ensure a smooth and successful recruitment journey. From defining your hiring objectives to extending an offer, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

This Article Covers:

Hiring vs. Recruiting: Is There a Difference?
Why Hiring the Right Person Matters
Are You Really Ready to Hire Someone New?
US Laws Related to Hiring
Step-by-Step Guide to an Effective Hiring Process
What Are the Different Types of Employment Contracts?
Mistakes You Should Avoid Making in a US Employment Contract
Are Unpaid Internships Legal in the US?
You’ve Hired a New Employee: What’s Next?
Final Thoughts

Hiring vs. Recruiting: Is There a Difference?

Let’s get this out of the way first. Before you start your hiring process, it’s important to understand the difference between hiring and recruiting. The two are often used interchangeably, but there is a clear difference between hiring and recruitment.

Recruiting refers to the process that takes place at the beginning of the hiring stage. It involves methods directed at discovering and attracting potential candidates for existing or future positions within the company. 

In contrast, hiring refers to the last step in the process, where a candidate is chosen and brought into the company for a particular role. This phase includes interviews, assessments, negotiating terms, and extending the job offer.

Both of these processes, recruiting, and hiring, play distinct yet interconnected roles in building a successful workforce. You can’t have one without the other.

Why Hiring the Right Person Matters

Hiring the right person is crucial for the success and growth of any organization. The individuals you bring into your team contribute not only to daily tasks but also to the workplace’s overall dynamics, productivity, and culture. The right person brings a combination of skills, expertise, and values that align with the goals and mission of the company. They also contribute to a positive work environment, fostering collaboration and innovation. 

Are You Really Ready to Hire Someone New?

Hiring a new team member isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. You want to make sure you really need those extra set of hands and assess how the new hire will contribute to the overall goals of the team and the company. There are clear signs that will indicate the need to hire new employees. These signs include:

  • Your Team is Overwhelmed: You and your team are consistently struggling to finish tasks because there’s too much work.
  • Consistent Business Growth: Your business keeps growing steadily, getting more clients or work.
  • Capacity Constraints: You often have to say no to projects or opportunities because your team is too small or lacks resources.
  • Plans to Expand: Your business plans to do new things like sell new products, go to new places or work on bigger projects.

A black gavel and block. Photo by Sora Shimazaki

US Laws Related to Hiring

In the United States, hiring practices are subject to various federal and state labor laws aimed at ensuring fairness, preventing discrimination, and protecting the rights of both employers and employees. So, before even starting your hiring process, understanding these laws is crucial so you can conduct ethical and legal hiring processes. Here are some key US laws that can affect hiring:

“Ban the Box” Laws

Over 35 states in the US have implemented “Ban the Box” laws, which prohibit employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history on job applications. In some cases, inquiries about criminal history are only allowed after the interview process and a conditional offer. These laws aim to provide candidates with a fair chance based on their skills and character while still permitting background checks during the final stages of hiring.

Pay Disclosure Laws

Present in 14 states, pay disclosure laws prevent employers from requesting a candidate’s pay history. Some state laws also restrict using pay history in determining a new employee’s compensation. Protecting pay discussions among employees, these laws aim to address pay disparities and prevent retaliation for discussing salaries.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants with disabilities, ensuring equal workplace opportunities. Employers cannot ask about disabilities before a job offer but can inquire about a candidate’s ability to perform job functions with or without accommodation.

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Aimed at eliminating gender pay gaps, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 targets gender discrimination in compensation. Employers must be vigilant about paying employees performing similar tasks equally, and failure to comply may result in legal consequences.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers aged 40 and older from age-based discrimination. Employers cannot inquire about an applicant’s age or use age unlawfully. Exceptions exist for valid reasons, such as background checks or verifying age for certain positions.

Step-by-Step Guide to an Effective Hiring Process

1. Analyze Your Hiring Needs

Start the hiring process by thoroughly analyzing your company’s staffing requirements. Identify the skills, experience, and qualifications needed for the vacant position. You should also determine potential future needs, whether they are expertise in e-commerce site development or experience in content marketing. Gather information on existing skill sets from team leaders, managers, employee surveys, and performance reviews.

Once you’ve identified skills gaps, prioritize them. Some gaps can be addressed through training existing employees, while others may require the creation of new roles within the organization.

Understanding your hiring needs will guide you in crafting an effective job description, which is going to be our next step.

2. Create a Compelling Job Description

Creating a compelling job description is a crucial step in the hiring process as it serves as the foundation for attracting the right candidates. To make your job description stand out, consider various elements that provide a clear and detailed overview of the position.

  • Write a Clear Job Title and Summary: Create a concise, attention-grabbing job title. Provide a brief yet impactful overview highlighting the role’s importance within the company.
  • Introduce Your Company: Offer a brief insight into your company, including its mission, values, and unique culture. Emphasize what makes your workplace appealing.
  • Outline the Job Description: Clearly lay out the role’s responsibilities, objectives, and specific expectations. Specify required skills, qualifications, and any preferred experience.
  • Highlight Perks and Benefits: Attract potential candidates by showcasing unique company perks, benefits, work culture, growth opportunities, and other enticing factors.
  • Contact Information: Provide contact details for inquiries or submissions and mention a point of contact for further information.
  • Keep it Brief: Your potential candidates don’t want to go through a tedious job post; you only have a short amount of time to convince job seekers to apply for the position. Shorter job posts receive more applications than lengthy posts. Job ads need to be clear and concise. The intricate details about your company can be reserved for the interview.

When creating the description for your job ad, keep in mind the applicable pay transparency laws in your state. Some states, like California and Washington, require employers to disclose a pay scale or wage range in all job postings.

3. Select the Right Recruitment Tools

Now that you’ve created an enticing job description to attract the right applicants, it’s time to choose the right recruitment tools to reach potential candidates. And given the rise of online job platforms, social media, and professional networking sites, you have a plethora of recruitment tools at your disposal. You can also go through the traditional route of referral programs and direct outreaches.

Let’s take a further look at some of the most popular recruitment tools you can utilize to find the best candidates for your job opening.


Sometimes referred to as Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn boasts 1 billion members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. This extensive user base increases your chances of reaching a diverse pool of qualified candidates. Every year, there are over three million new hires through LinkedIn, making it a top choice for employers looking to connect with potential candidates.

There are plenty of ways you can leverage LinkedIn for your recruitment and hiring process; one way is to post job ads. You can post job ads and refine your audience by specifying location, industry, and job function. You can also set a budget and choose the duration for the job ad, tailoring it to your hiring needs. To increase visibility, LinkedIn has options to promote your job to a larger pool of target-specific candidates.

Another way to recruit through LinkedIn is by sending out direct messages to invite select candidates for your job post. It’s important to note that you need to be connected with someone before you can send them a message unless they’ve enabled Open Profile, of course.

LinkedIn also allows employers to search to find potential candidates based on skills and job titles. Being active by uploading original posts and engaging with other members on LinkedIn allows you to build connections with a network of professionals who might refer your potential candidates to you. 


Another platform that’s teeming with talents is Upwork. In 2023 alone, 38% of the American workforce, equivalent to 64 million individuals, engaged in freelance work through the platform. If you need to recruit and hire freelance professionals or independent agencies, Upwork is definitely worth looking into.

To start recruiting on Upwork, you’ll need to create a job post and specify the skills you’re looking for, how many hours the job demands, how much you’re willing to pay, payment terms, a quick job description, and so on. You can even list a series of questions that interested applicants will be required to answer; this makes the proposal screening process much easier.

To help you find the exact people you need, Upwork also gives you a list of talent suggestions that match the skills required in your job post. You can then send them an invite to apply to your job post.

If you receive some great proposals, you can further screen applicants by looking at their profile, where you’ll find their client and project history. Each freelancer also has a job success rating, which provides valuable insights into their performance with previous clients. Some past clients might have even left reviews on the freelancer, giving you easy access to first-hand experiences of working with them.

Social Media

Social media isn’t just for sharing memes and vacation photos anymore; it can also be used to find top talent for your team! It’s not conventional, but many employers have taken to popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to display their job posts because of these platforms’ sheer extensive reach.

To make the most of social media recruiting, it’s essential to be strategic. You can start by creating engaging and visually appealing job posts that stand out in users’ feeds. Take it a step further by utilizing the platform’s features, such as sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram, to increase visibility. Facebook even has some job-hunting groups in specific areas where you can find a host of active job seekers.

Another great social platform where you can post your job openings is Twitter. On Twitter, employers can quickly share short but effective job posts with relevant hashtags. They can also join industry chats and use Twitter’s search features to find and connect with potential hires.

Beyond just posting those job ads, social media can be pretty powerful in building a strong employer brand and increasing your talent pool. 

You can share your company culture through behind-the-scenes content, post fun reels about employee experiences, and highlight any awards or recognition your company has received. This not only attracts potential candidates but also gives them a glimpse into the positive and vibrant atmosphere of your workplace.

A word of caution for using social media for your recruitment, though: be wary of inaccurate candidate information and other potential online scams. You need to be strategic and cautious when harnessing social media for recruitment.

Referral Programs

Over two-thirds of companies use employee referral programs, and it’s no surprise why: 82% of employers believe that employee referrals provide the highest return on investment, and 88% think they result in the best quality hires. Leveraging your existing employees’ networks and referral programs can be a highly effective strategy to bring in candidates who are not only skilled but also culturally aligned with your organization.

The way referral programs work is fairly simple: Employees recommend someone they know for a job within their company. If that person gets hired, the referring employee often receives a reward, like a bonus or other incentives. This creates a win-win situation – the company gains a potential new valuable team member, and the referring employee is recognized for their contribution.


WhatsApp is a powerful recruiting tool, leveraging its popularity as a global messaging platform to streamline outreach and communication in the hiring process. 

Employers can recruit candidates for hiring on WhatsApp by following these steps:

  • Create a Professional Group: Get a dedicated WhatsApp group set up for recruitment. Keep it polished, maybe something like “Company Name – Hiring” for a clear focus.
  • Share Job Openings: Drop in job descriptions, details, and how to apply. Make it easy for candidates by including links or documents right in the chat.
  • Coordinate Seamlessly: Use WhatsApp to schedule interviews, align schedules, and send gentle reminders. It’s a smooth way to keep everyone on track.
  • Maintain WhatsApp Etiquette: Respect privacy and etiquette. Don’t dish out personal numbers without permission, and keep the chat professional with the right tone and language.

4. Screen Resumes and Applications

Now, it’s time to screen the candidates you think will be a good fit for the company. 

From the CV and cover letter alone you can get valuable insights into a candidates’ expertise and whether or not they’ll be a good fit for the role. But employers should look beyond the experiences listed on a CV. When you’re evaluating a CV, scrutinize for consistency, skills relevant to the role, and the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively. A well-crafted cover letter shouldn’t be generic and should be specific to the role. Cover letters also often showcase motivation, communication skills, and alignment with the company’s values.

Narrow down the candidate pool based on their strengths, experiences, and the job requirements. Focus on candidates whose skill sets and experiences strongly resonate with the role, ensuring that their addition to the company would add value.

When screening candidates, be mindful of unintentional biases that might influence your decisions. It’s crucial to maintain a fair and objective evaluation process to ensure you’re selecting the best candidates for the job.

How Can You Screen Candidates For a Remote Job?

When hiring for remote positions, confirming an applicant’s identity becomes crucial due to the lack of face-to-face interactions. In a survey by JOBVITE involving 200 participants, it was found that 61% of employees use video in their screening process, while 80% utilize video for conducting interviews. 

Look for candidates with excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, as remote work heavily relies on effective digital communication. Assess their ability to manage time efficiently and stay organized, as remote employees need to be self-disciplined. Consider candidates who have experience with remote tools and technologies, showcasing adaptability in a virtual work environment.

Two women interviewing an applicant in the office. Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

5. Conduct Interviews

Ah, yes, interviews. This exciting step is where you finally get to meet the candidates face-to-face, whether in person or virtually. The purpose of interviews is to dive deeper into a candidate’s qualifications, skills, and personality.

Prepare a set of questions that assess their ability to handle the job, problem-solving skills, and cultural fit within your company. It’s a two-way street – while you evaluate them, candidates are also evaluating your company. Keep the conversation friendly and professional. Be sure to explore not just their technical skills but also their soft skills and how well they align with your company’s values.

What CAN’T You Ask During Interviews?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines the types of questions that employers aren’t allowed to ask. Before a job offer is made, employers are prohibited from asking questions that may reveal that a candidate has a disability. These questions include:

  • Do you have a disability?
  • What medications are you currently taking?
  • Have you filed any workers’ compensation claims?
  • Have any of your close relatives had a heart attack or been diagnosed with a heart condition?
  • Do mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia run in your family?
  • Have you had genetic tests to determine whether you are at risk for cancer?

Remember, these rules apply to various interactions, including application forms, interviews, and reference checks, and they cover inquiries made directly to the applicant or to third parties such as doctors, former employers, friends, or family. Additional questions that employers in the US are prohibited from asking include:

  • Questions about race, ethnicity, or religion.
  • Questions about age, unless required to verify legal job requirements.
  • Questions about an applicant’s pregnancy or family plans

Choosing the Correct Interview Format

There’s a variety of interview formats available to employers, each catering to specific needs and objectives of the hiring process. Here’s an expanded overview of various interview options:

  • One-on-One Interviews: Involves a single interviewer from the organization engaging with the candidate, offering a more personal interaction that allows for a deeper exploration of the candidate’s qualifications and fit within the company culture.
  • Panel Interviews: Suitable for roles requiring collaboration or multiple perspectives. It involves several interviewers assessing the candidate concurrently, offering diverse viewpoints, and evaluating teamwork potential.
  • Behavioral Interviews: This technique focuses on understanding a candidate’s past behaviors and experiences by prompting them to share specific examples. It assesses their problem-solving abilities and decision-making process based on previous scenarios.
  • Case Interviews: Predominantly used in analytical or consulting roles. Candidates are presented with real or hypothetical business challenges to showcase their problem-solving skills and analytical thinking.
  • Group Interviews: Particularly useful for roles emphasizing teamwork. Candidates interact in a group setting, allowing employers to observe collaborative dynamics, communication skills, and how they contribute within a team.
  • Virtual Meetings: Essential for remote positions or when geographical distance is a barrier. These resemble in-person interviews but are conducted via digital platforms, assessing communication skills and adaptability to technology.
  • Structured Interviews: Involves a consistent set of questions asked to all candidates. This method ensures fairness and comparability as each candidate responds to the same inquiries, aiding objective evaluations.

Employers can opt for a singular or combination of interview formats tailored to the role, organizational culture, and specific job requirements. Selecting the most suitable format or a blend of formats can significantly contribute to making informed hiring decisions and identifying the best candidates for the role.

5 Red Flags to Look Out For in Candidates

When you’re interviewing potential employees, it’s important to keep an eye out for certain red flags during interviews. Here are five to watch for:

  • Lack of Preparation: When candidates seem unprepared or unfamiliar with the job description or company details, it might indicate a lack of genuine interest in the role.
  • Negative Attitude: Consistently negative remarks about previous employers or colleagues could hint at potential issues with teamwork or adaptability in a new environment.
  • Limited Engagement: Candidates showing disinterest in asking questions about the role, company culture, or their potential responsibilities may not be fully engaged or motivated.
  • Lack of Professionalism: Candidates who show up late, are inappropriately dressed, or conduct themselves in an unprofessional manner could indicate that they may not take this role seriously and will most likely have similar issues within the company.
  • Inconsistent Information: Discrepancies between a candidate’s resume and their interview responses could raise concerns about honesty or the accuracy of their qualifications.

6. Evaluate Candidates and Make the Final Selection

Now that you’ve gathered resumes, conducted interviews, and assessed various aspects of your candidates, it’s time to evaluate them thoroughly and make that final selection.

Start by reviewing your notes from interviews, considering the candidates’ skills, experiences, and how well they align with the job requirements. Take into account any assessments or tests they might have completed during the hiring process. Also, consider their cultural fit and how well they resonate with your company’s values.

It’s crucial to involve key decision-makers in this phase, gathering input from team members or stakeholders who were part of the interviews. After careful evaluation, choose the candidate who stands out as the best fit for the role and the organization.

7. Extend a Job Offer

Once you’ve identified the perfect candidate for your team, it’s time to make it official. This involves presenting the job offer to the chosen candidate. Be clear and transparent about the terms, including salary, benefits, start date, and any other relevant details. Make sure to address any questions or concerns the candidate may have. Once both parties are on the same page and all details are agreed upon, you can send out the formal offer letter.

Now, there may be instances where candidates will negotiate the terms of the offer. It’s essential to approach these negotiations with an open mind and flexibility.

How Can You Negotiate Salary With Top Candidates?

Negotiating salary with top candidates requires a thoughtful and respectful approach. It begins with researching industry pay standards and understanding the candidate’s value to the company. During discussions, highlighting the candidate’s potential contributions and actively listening to their salary expectations are essential. Being open to different payment structures and flexible with added benefits is key.

Understanding the reasons behind the candidate’s requests, whether for higher pay or specific benefits, holds great significance. This understanding enables the crafting of a tailored compensation package that suits their needs. Ensuring legal compliance, seeking mutually beneficial solutions, and documenting the agreed terms are crucial steps. The objective is to create an equitable pay plan that aligns with the company’s resources while attracting top talent for the role.

What Are the Different Types of Employment Contracts?

When you’re preparing for a new hire, you’ll have to draft an employment contract. Employment contracts come in various forms, offering flexibility for both companies and the nature of the work involved. Let’s take a peek at these contract types:

  • Traditional Paper Contracts: These agreements are crafted on physical paper and require signatures from both employer and employee. They are typically stored as hard copies in filing cabinets.
  • Digital Contracts:  These contracts are created, signed, and stored electronically, using digital signatures for authentication. They eliminate the need for physical paper storage.
  • Automated Contracts: Contracts these days are handled through software or apps, offering automated workflows and integration with HR systems. This technological approach enhances efficiency and simplifies the contract process. What’s more, these contracts are customizable, allowing for the inclusion of specific terms or variables relevant to each agreement.

Mistakes You Should Avoid Making in a US Employment Contract

Employers should stay updated with practices or laws that affect employment contracts. When drawing up an employment contract, it’s crucial to practice caution to avoid making certain mistakes. Here’s a list of mistakes you should avoid making:

  • Using ambiguous language on job roles, compensation, and termination: Ambiguity in defining job duties, payment structures, or termination procedures can lead to misunderstandings. Clear and specific language in outlining responsibilities, salary details, and termination conditions is crucial for avoiding disputes.
  • Neglecting legal compliance with employment laws: Failure to adhere to federal and state employment laws can result in legal liabilities and penalties. This includes overlooking minimum wage requirements, overtime regulations, anti-discrimination laws, and workplace safety standards.
  • Omitting the “At-Will” employment clause: Excluding this clause, which signifies that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment at any time and for any legal reason, might create misconceptions about job security. Including this clause clarifies the nature of employment.
  • Forgetting confidentiality provisions for sensitive information: Failing to include clauses regarding confidentiality, non-disclosure, or intellectual property rights can jeopardize sensitive company information. These provisions safeguard trade secrets, client information, and proprietary data.
  • Misclassifying employees: Incorrectly categorizing employees as independent contractors can result in legal issues regarding taxation, benefits, and labor rights. Ensuring proper classification based on job duties and control exercised by the employer is essential.
  • Not reviewing the contract with legal experts: Failing to seek legal counsel to review the contract might overlook crucial legal nuances or compliance requirements. Legal experts can ensure the contract aligns with applicable laws and protects both parties’ interests.
  • Overlooking updates to align with changing employment terms or laws: Failing to update the contract in line with amendments in employment laws, company policies, or benefits packages can render the agreement outdated and non-compliant.
  • Failing to outline employee benefits: Not clearly outlining employee benefits, including healthcare coverage, retirement plans, paid time off, or other entitlements, can lead to misunderstandings or unmet expectations.

Are Unpaid Internships Legal in the US?

Employers in the US can offer paid and unpaid internships in their company, and both are completely legal. However, the Department of Labor lays down specific guidelines to ensure that internships aren’t just free labor for companies. Instead, they should be educational and beneficial experiences for the interns involved.

The determination of whether a student or intern is an employee under the FLSA relies on the “primary beneficiary test.” This test assesses the “economic reality” of the intern-employer relationship to determine the primary beneficiary. Seven factors are considered in this test:

  • Clarity on Compensation: No expectation of payment signifies an intern, while any promise of compensation indicates an employee.
  • Training Resembling Education: Internships providing educational-like training are considered.
  • Integration with Formal Education: Ties to formal education through coursework or academic credit.
  • Accommodation of Academic Commitments: Internships should align with academic schedules.
  • Limited Duration for Beneficial Learning: Duration should offer valuable learning.
  • Work Complementing Paid Employees: Intern tasks should complement rather than replace paid work, offering educational benefits.
  • Understanding of Non-Entitlement to a Paid Job: Both parties acknowledge that the internship doesn’t guarantee a paid job afterward.

You’ve Hired a New Employee: What’s Next?

Hiring isn’t just about sealing the deal with a candidate after rounds of interviews and tests. That’s just the beginning! Once you’ve hired a candidate, it’s time to onboard them. Employers need to ensure they settle into your company groove smoothly. Onboarding isn’t just about paperwork; it’s about introducing your new team member to your company culture, values, and everything that makes your workplace tick. 

Employers can help new hires adjust by offering a comprehensive onboarding system that introduces new hires to company policies, culture, and team dynamics. This may include orientation sessions, acquainting them with essential team members, and ensuring they grasp the company’s values and objectives.

To know more about onboarding, you can have a look at our ultimate onboarding guide for US employers.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the hiring process requires careful consideration and thorough preparation. It goes beyond merely advertising a job opening and conducting interviews; it demands employers to strategize and plan effectively. Companies dedicating time to a meticulous hiring process not only secure the right candidate for the job but also lay the foundation for a healthy and productive work environment in the long term. It’s well worth the investment!

Try following the steps outlined in this guide, familiarize yourself with the relevant hiring laws, and leverage effective practices to streamline the hiring process. You’re sure to enhance your chances of finding the perfect fit for your team. Cheers!

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for the use of this guide.