I suppose before we can talk about whether the cold call is dead or not we should settle on what a cold call actually is. For the purpose of this piece, I’m looking at a cold call being an initiative by a person seeking work to an employer or contact who has not indicated they are hiring. Can we agree to start with this?
‘Cold calling’ is so named because as a job seeker, you’re starting cold. There is no ‘hot lead’ or and the person you are contacting may not be ‘warm’ to your contact. You are in fact calling them out-of-the-blue and initiating a conversation about something they were not prepared for.
This practice as part of an intensive job search used to be done much more frequently than it is today. Social media, access to employers via technology and companies who create pools of resumes from which to draw in the future are some of the reasons its fallen out of favour. Some Employment Advisors and Job Search Coaches might even suggest their clients invest very little time in it. So should you?
I’m a proponent of cold calling. In fact the more people tend to downplay its relevance, the more I think job-seekers should put in the time and do cold calls. Why? You need an edge. If the question is, “In what area can I get ahead of my competition?”, cold calling might just be it.
So suppose you’re an easy sell and believe in cold calls too. How do you get started? First of all you’ll need to do a little homework. You’ll need to identify someone to call; a Hiring Manager, Human Resources, someone currently doing the job you are targeting, maybe even a potential reference from your past employment. Next identify WHY you want to talk with them. What’s the objective of the call so when you get through you have a plan and can measure afterward whether or not you were successful. Calling someone and saying, “Are you hiring?” is technically a cold call yes, but if the answer is, “No, we’re not”, you might be dead in the water.
To build your confidence, a good call to start with is the aforementioned call to someone you knew in the past who is a potential reference for you here in the present. Tracking them down and dropping by in person or making a phone call to them is likely to be a positive experience and will encourage you to build on that success and phone people who neither expect your call, nor whom you know. In this case, you’d want to announce yourself, (reminding them who you are), explain you are seeking employment and in what area, and ask them if they’d be willing to act as a reference for you. A good practice is to send them a current resume either electronically or a paper version, and express your appreciation for their support. Expect to do some small talk, asking them how they’ve been, but focus the majority of the call on what you’re after. You should also tell them you’ll only pass on their contact information when you’ve been interviewed for jobs, and that you’ll alert them when it’s likely they’ll be contacted so you can give them details on the job applied to and where.
Okay so on to employers you want to work for. Who do you want to work for anyhow? Short list your most wanted, and do a little homework. Before you pick up the phone, you’ll need a copy of your resume just in case you land an on-the-phone interview and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Have references ready as well as a paper, pen, calendar (for booking a meeting) and if possible, perhaps their website up on a screen in front of you. Make sure the surroundings are quiet and breathe before the call.
Expect first of all to get a hold of the Gatekeeper; often a Secretary, Receptionist, etc. to whom you would be wise to acknowledge and get the name of. If you call back, calling them by their name will get you places. Before you ask to be put through, get the extension number you want for a future call, and ask for pronunciation and spelling of your contact if you have doubts.
Should you get through, know your objective. Are you trying to set up a meeting to talk about opportunities with the employer, chat about how they got started because you are interested in pursuing a job in the field, or are you wanting to set up a job interview if they are hiring? I’m often surprised that people I listen in to making cold calls get flustered when they get through and then stumble around trying to come up with things to say. Because they place the call without thinking it through, they scramble.
Practice makes perfect. But you are only one half of the conversation. You can’t predict what happens at the other end, but you can prepare and polish your end. And remember, if you are the caller, you need to take the initiative.
What do you think of the ‘cold call’ process?