If you’re actively searching for a job, it is almost guaranteed that some of the businesses you are applying to are family-owned. After all, this type of close-knit small business is what keeps the American economy alive; family businesses generate 60% of American employment opportunities and create 78% of all new jobs, according to research by the Conway Center for Family Business.
You may think that applying for a family-owned business is just like applying for any other position, but you will have a far easier time getting the job if you make some special considerations. After all, these businesses are usually smaller, more self-contained and closer-knit than other, corporate positions.
Here’s how to increase your odds of getting employed by a family business:
Stop Applying for Every Job You See
If you’ve been treating your job search like a numbers game, the time to quit is now. Rather than blindly applying to every position you think you could do with a generic application, focus your effort on fewer, more important applications for jobs you really want. If you’re sending impersonal applications to a lot of places, those employers are more likely to choose other, more detailed and personal applications over yours, meaning the more desperate (and probably less successful) managers will be the ones to contact you.
Get to Know the Company
A family business isn’t just looking to hire someone who can perform their duties; they’re looking to hire someone who can really be a part of the “family” of the company. If you don’t do your homework before your interview, they’ll know. Make sure you learn as much as you can about their story and company culture.
One of the best ways to do this would be to study up as much as you can, and the internet can be a great tool for this. Let’s say you are looking to apply to Garner Roofing, a family-owned company in Baltimore, Maryland. You can read everything from a generalized About Us page to a roof replacement services guide to have a better idea of what the company does and seems like. But then you find more – they also have a blog and a healthy presence on several social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. These online resources are a great place to learn how a business likes to describe itself.
Learn About Your Interviewer
And don’t stop at getting to know the business – you should try to learn as much as possible about the person doing the hiring. In many cases for small family-owned businesses, this person will be the CEO or other decision-making manager. Once you learn their name, look for it on the company website, and be sure to look them up on LinkedIn and Facebook. With this information, you can ask more intelligent questions about the position and better interact with the interviewer.
Play Up Your Unique Strengths
While you are doing your homework, look for pain points. Could they use their Facebook more effectively? Does their website desperately need a functioning mobile version? If you can fix any of these problems, highlight that fact in your interview. Not only will it show that you took the time to learn more about the company, but it also gives them some idea of a project you could hit the ground running with if they hire you. Training is expensive; small business owners love it when they find someone who can dive right in.
Act on Your Strengths
But why stop there? Instead of simply explaining that you could take their Facebook presence to the next level, write up some engaging status updates and maybe design a few images that they could share. Explain how these pieces would make a difference. You’ll most likely have surpassed their expectations for any interviewees, and they’re sure to be impressed at the initiative.
Don’t Take Sides
Many family businesses operate like a well-oiled machine, but every now and then, a dysfunctional family feud jumps into the mix. If you witness bickering between family members, it is safest to stay neutral. Chances are, you haven’t heard the whole story from both sides, and there’s no need for you to get involved. Your primary goal is to get hired; you don’t need drama and it’s not your place.
Ask About Unadvertised Positions
It takes a lot of time and effort to conduct a job search. Unfortunately, many family businesses are short on both of those things. They have the best of intentions, but the job just never seems to make it to the website. If you’ve found the ideal company to work for, and there are no listed job opportunities, all you may need to do is ask.
Applying to a family-owned business can be an extremely involved process – but it’s worth it in the end. Focus on learning everything you can about the company and standing out as a unique and talented job applicant and you will go far.
Image by Kathryn Decker