How Cold Calling Fits into a Job-Search Strategy

Cold calling works, but only if you do it right.

When it comes to selling, it’s tough to make a cold call – especially when you’re selling yourself to a potential employer. Cold calling combines the usual discomfort of making an unsolicited contact with the high anxiety of job hunting. So why even try?

Because cold calling produces results – but only if you can give at least as much as you get, right from the start.

If you can demonstrate value and consideration for their needs and time constraints, a cold call can:

  • Command the attention of hiring decision makers
  • Initiate new strategic networking contacts
  • Obtain vital information from companies to support a job-search campaign.

Over 70 percent of executive placements are made through networking, personal introductions and referrals. Cold calling is a very effective way of expanding your business-contacts database and getting you in touch with connected peers. This is not about instant results, scheduling an immediate job interview, or getting your resume read; it’s about making connections for the long term.

And in a tight market, cultivating new connections is a great a technique for accessing unadvertised jobs.

After layoffs, for example, companies may be reluctant to announce they are hiring. At those moments, an inside tip is often the only way to learn about opportunities.

Even if there isn’t a good fit immediately, an informational call can be a way for you to get your name on the appropriate hiring manager’s radar screen and remain there through regular pings. Approached with courtesy, an unsolicited inquiry demonstrates your initiative and sincere interest in a particular organization, and periodic follow-up reinforces this interest and shows persistence.

Here are some tactics to maximize cold-calling results and expedite an executive job search:

1. Offer social currency, not just job inquiries.
Be prepared to provide some information of value based on your own research. Often, asking for information or conducting industry research is less threatening to an employer than asking directly about openings. An immediate request of this sort puts the person you’ve called on the spot or may just produce a quick, “We are not hiring. Goodbye.” That knocks out your chances for an ongoing connection to future job leads. Try to make this a two-way, mutually gratifying exchange.

2. Propose a contribution; do not ask for a favor.
Remember you are the one making the approach; be polite and respectful. At the same time, approach cold-calling activities as an exchange among equals, not as a subordinate. You aren’t asking for a job, you’re proposing to make a measurable contribution for your mutual success.

3. Target a company, not just an industry.
Choose one company your research shows can benefit from your skills and knowledge. Match your background to the company’s industry, your interests to its apparent strategy, and your talents to a challenge you can identify and achieve. The closer you fit the profile of an ideal candidate, the easier it will be to sell yourself.

4. Connect with the functional manager, not just HR.
Initiate contact with an appropriate company representative. This means finding someone in a functional or operational role who will quickly assess your capabilities and recognize your value to the organization. Remember, a focused inquiry will yield focused results, so make sure you get to the contact’s direct extension.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate results. Think of the time involved as an investment. Rome wasn’t built in a day; it takes patience to find the right person with whom you have something in common both professionally and personally.

I always say, “It’s not what you know or whom you know, but who knows what you know!” This is the key to having a job find you. The more hiring decision makers who appreciate your contribution, the better the odds that you will land a new job faster. It’s up to you to promote your interest.

How do you get in the door to start such a dialogue? Call at a time convenient for your contact and communicate a value-driven message showing how you can address their challenges. You’ll find that cold calling isn’t such a “cold” prospect at all but a very “hot” way to find a job today.