How to Make a Successful Cold Call in a Job Search

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Making an unsolicited call to an employer to schedule a meeting or job interview is challenging. It can be nerve-wracking to pick up the phone to call someone you don’t know and ask them about job openings, but it works.

If you can reach the right person, you’ll have an opportunity to pitch your skills and start the process of being considered for a job.

Tips for Cold Calling Prospective Employers

A careful approach and some persistence will enhance your chances of success. Providing the employer with a preview of your qualifications prior to your call and referencing a referral can help you get access to company insiders. The following tips can assist you when making cold calls to connect with employers:

  • Send your resume and cover letter ahead of time and mention that you will call to explore opportunities. Your contact will be more likely to take your call if you have sparked some interest in your documents. Also, if your call is screened by a gatekeeper, you will be able to say that you are calling to follow-up on a communication. Writing an effective cold call cover letter can help you gain access to key company people.
  • Connect with department managers rather than with human resources (HR) staff. Try to identify the person who would supervise the type of job you are interested in pursuing and reach out to that person. You will likely get better results than if you were to connect with HR.
  • Offer to schedule a time to talk. Recognize whether your contact seems too busy to talk. If so, ask for a better time at a later date to discuss opportunities. If you can achieve this, you have converted a cold call into an appointment. 
  • Reach out to your LinkedIn contacts, family, friends, college alumni, and other professional associates to identify contacts at your target organization. Ask for a referral to the hiring manager who you plan to call. If you source a referral, you can open your call with a statement such as "John Brown suggested I reach out to you."
  • Prepare a concise and compelling opening statement that summarizes your reason for calling. Emphasize your high level of interest in exploring opportunities at the organization and how you can add value. A brief elevator pitch will help you start the conversation.
  • Share your qualifications. Be ready to support your case with examples of how you have successfully applied your skills in the past. 
  • Be prepared for resistance. Anticipate objections such as lack of experience or skills and prepare counterpoints, proving that you could excel if hired.
  • Ask for the next step. Close the conversation with a specific request such as an in-person meeting or referral to another individual involved in hiring. If the employer states that no jobs are available, ask about the possibility of an informational meeting to explore future opportunities. 
  • Follow up with a communication thanking the individual for their time. Reaffirm your interest and briefly reiterate how you might make a contribution. Provide a link, such as your LinkedIn URL, to your portfolio and recommendations to provide further evidence of your viability as a candidate. Forward another copy of your resume in case they haven't seen or saved your document. 
  • Don’t give up if you can’t get through. Many calls will be routed to voicemail. Be ready to leave a short message highlighting the basis of your interest and the key assets that you would bring to the employer. Request a call back to explore opportunities but also mention that you will reach out to them again, so you don't lose control of the initiative.
  • Keep trying. Cold calling is a numbers game, so be prepared to make many unsuccessful calls before experiencing success. Try setting a goal of making ten calls a day to stay fresh and spread out the frustration. Do your best to keep it positive to maintain an enthusiastic tone for each call despite the tedium of repetition. After all, each call is a new opportunity to connect with a potential employer.

There is a fine line between admirable persistence and pestering an employer. Wait a week between calls and, in most cases, limit yourself to three total calls. 

Cold Calling Networking Contacts

Reaching out to networking contacts who can help your job search is another effective use of cold calling. People you can talk to on the phone, and perhaps meet in person, are more likely to help than those who receive a random email or message from a connection. Take the time to try a few networking cold calls. If they work, add this process to your list of job hunting and career-building strategies.

Conclusion

Cold calling prospective employers takes preparation and practice. Similar to a sales representative, you are attempting to sell employers on your skills and abilities to get a job. Sales representatives also need to be confident, persistent, and resilient, which are useful skills in selling yourself to employers.