NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hiring an employee is never easy, but for small businesses, finding the right candidate can be one of the most important decisions you make all year. The smaller the company, the tighter the budget and the more likely one bad apple is to disrupt the entire operation. If you're looking to sign talent this year, check out our top-five list of things to consider before bringing someone on board: 1. Are there dangers in hiring during an uncertain first quarter? "The dangers will likely differ by company and industry, but the most important thing to remember is that you don't want to bet on the economy when making hiring decisions," says Kim Shanahan, managing director of the HR Center of Expertise at Korn/Ferry ( KFY). "That being said, you also don't want to be hamstrung later," Shanahan says. Employers who are making "informed" and "practical" hiring choices have no reason to not act in the first quarter. "Good hires in any economy are important. And if they are the right ones, they will help you weather any storm and take advantage of market upswings." 2. What are the most important things to look for from candidates? Employers should have an eye out for candidates who demonstrate best-in-class performance, Shanahan says. "Try to find people who skew high on learning agility. This is true for hiring at any level and during any economy. You want someone who continuously seeks new challenges, solicits direct feedback, is self-reflective, makes fresh connections and, ultimately, gets the job done. Candidates should be resilient and able to add significant value in both up and down markets," she says. Companies should also take a look at their existing employees. Many times, the talent you need can be found sitting just outside the corner office. "Companies should spend time assessing their own talent and determining whether this talent can move into other areas or levels. This can help morale and keep employees interested and engaged while you also infuse new talent from the outside," she says. Many companies are able to take significant market share in difficult times because they hire, develop and enable their talent, which becomes a significant competitive advantage, she says.