HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Hiring and onboarding

9 New Hire Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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A new hire's first days, weeks, and months establish the foundation for the rest of the employment relationship. Mistakes early on can lead to lower productivity and higher turnover as well as violations of federal, state, and local laws. Here are nine mistakes to avoid when bringing your new employee on board.

#1: Starting too late.

Once the applicant accepts your job offer and completes any post-offer screening, begin the process of welcoming them to your company. Send a letter or email confirming their start date, expressing your excitement that they'll be joining the team, and letting them know that you're available to answer any questions they may have.

#2: Misclassifying new hires as exempt.

Misclassifying an employee as exempt from overtime can result in significant penalties. To be classified as exempt from overtime, employees must satisfy federal (and in many cases state) salary and duties tests. Otherwise, they must be classified as non-exempt and paid overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek (some states require overtime in additional circumstances).

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#3: Misclassifying new hires as independent contractors.

Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor can also result in significant penalties. When a worker qualifies as an independent contractor, the employer is generally relieved of certain payroll taxes, minimum wage and overtime requirements, and benefit obligations for that individual. However, only a small number of workers qualify for independent contractor status. The presumption is that a worker is an employee, unless they meet certain criteria established by federal and state tests. Before classifying an individual as an independent contractor, make sure they've met all applicable tests.

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#4: Neglecting new hire paperwork.

Various federal, state, and local laws require that employees complete certain paperwork at the time of hire, including:

  • Form I-9. An I-9 Form must be completed to verify that the new hire is authorized to work in the United States. Section 1 of the form must be completed by the end of the employee's first day of work for pay (but it cannot be completed until the employee has been offered, and has accepted, the job). Employers must complete Section 2 within three business days of the employee's start date.
  • Form W-4. All new hires must complete a W-4 to determine the amount of federal income tax to withhold from their wages. A number of states also require a tax withholding form. If the employee has questions or asks for advice on how to complete a W-4, instruct them to speak with a tax advisor.
  • Notice of Coverage Options. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers must provide a Notice of Coverage Options to all new hires within 14 days of their start date. This requirement applies even if the employer doesn't offer health insurance and/or the employee is not eligible for health insurance.
  • State and local notices. Many states and local jurisdictions also require that employers provide specific notices to employees at the time of hire. For example, California requires employers to provide new hires with notices related to state disability insurance, paid family leave, workers' compensation, and other employment-related protections. Check your applicable law to ensure compliance.
  • New hire reporting. Federal law requires that employers submit certain information to their state regarding each new hire within 20 days of the employee's start date, though several states have shorter timeframes. New hire reporting is included in many RUN Powered by ADP® packages. If you have to fulfill these responsibilities on your own, you have several options, including submitting the new hire's W-4 or an equivalent form. Check your state's new hire reporting program for details.

Additionally, it's a best practice to have new hires complete payroll authorizations, benefit elections, emergency contact forms, and a receipt of company property, if applicable.

#5: Putting them on an island.

Don't forget to take steps to introduce and acclimate the new hire to your company. Inform existing employees of the new hire's start date and explain their role, areas of focus, and relevant work history. Assign a buddy or mentor to help the employee with their transition. Introduce the employee to co-workers and explain everyone's role in the company. Additionally, provide new employees with an opportunity to shadow more tenured employees. These introductions can go a long way in helping employees feel welcomed.

#6: Failing to set expectations.

Let the new hire know what to expect from you and what you expect from them. For instance, on the employee's first day, provide them with an agenda for the first week or so. Review job responsibilities, objectives, and expectations and explain how their role contributes to the success of the company. Be sure the employee reviews your employee handbook, and their supervisor sets aside time to discuss key issues, such as work schedules, timekeeping practices, how performance is measured, and dress codes. Obtain the employee's acknowledgment of the handbook, and any additional policies, and retain signed acknowledgments in their personnel file.

#7: Waiting too long to address training and development.

Ensure the employee completes required training, such as sexual harassment, nondiscrimination, or safety training, as well as training on your company's mission, culture, and procedures. Keep accurate records of all trainings attended. Supervisors should also start a dialogue with new hires about their career interests and identify training and career development opportunities that may help them reach their goals.

#8: Forgetting to check in and provide feedback.

Regularly check-in with new hires to see how well they're transitioning into their new role, and if they need any additional training or further clarification on workplace expectations. Supervisors should also provide performance feedback immediately following behavior they'd like to reinforce or address. Also, consider conducting a more comprehensive evaluation at regular intervals (such as every 90 days), especially during their first year on the job. Train supervisors on how to provide effective feedback and coaching.

#9: Neglecting leave requirements.

A growing number of state and local jurisdictions require employers to provide leave to employees, including paid sick leave and family and medical leave. These laws vary, but in many cases, employees are entitled to begin accruing leave on their first day of work even if they must wait to use it. Make sure you understand which leave laws apply to your employees and ensure compliance.


Take the time to develop effective policies, practices, and training to ensure new hires get started on the right foot.

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