Learn to love cold calling

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Cold calling is for champions. It used to be that cold calling was for the losers so low on the corporate ladder they were falling off the last rung. But today it's clear that cold calling is an art form, and people who are good at it can do a lot for themselves — most notably get a job.

Skeptical? Well, I'm not sure you have much of a choice. Fewer than half of all available jobs are advertised and most people don't get jobs through listings. So how are you going to find them? Your best odds are networking. But most people exhaust their network in a month, and most job hunts last at least four months. So after networking, the best thing to do is probably cold calling.

Everyone knows that it's really hard to make a cold call, so people will respect you for trying. But you'll get self-respect, too. Because if you only respond to ads, then you are basically running a passive job hunt, waiting for something to pop up on your computer screen. If you approach companies you're interested in, whether or not they post jobs, then you are taking control of your hunt, and actively trying to attain your goals.

Think of all the times in life you regret. Usually it was when you didn't take a more active role in your life. When you didn't take control of your life. In this sense, you can't lose making a cold call. No one ever says to themselves, “I wish I hadn't been so aggressive in trying to get what I wanted.” If you are aggressive, and you don't get what you want, you probably weren't going to get it anyway. So might as well go down swinging.

The easiest and most obvious cold call is not really even cold. It's a follow-up call. This is what you do when you've been sending tons of resumes out and you are receiving no interviews: After you send your resume, call the hiring manager to say you really want the job.

You will probably have to dig a lot to find the hiring manager. But hey, you have all day to dig, right? You'll have to call human resources. Maybe some random dialing within the department. Maybe some Googling. But you can find someone who sounds like they might be the hiring person and ask who the hiring person is. Sooner or later someone will tell you.

Once you get that person, pitch yourself on the phone. That pitch has to be good. Friendly, informative, fast. This is the crux of the art form. Then, ask if you can come in for an interview. Even though the advertisement says no calls, a call is a great way to get someone to pay attention to you when there's a huge pile of resumes.

You can use this same tactic even if there is no job offered and you have not sent a resume. Just call someone in a department that interests you. Business development in an advertising agency. Marketing at a Fortune 500 company. Tell the person you're interested in that industry, and you really admire the company and you'd like to schedule an informational interview. If you ask for a job the person can say no, outright. But information? That's not so easy a no. Of course, the person has information. And you'd be surprised how many people are willing to give it if you just ask.

Then you need to be charming. And smart. If the person loves you, she might make a spot for you in her department. Or maybe she has a friend who is hiring. Who knows? You never will until you try.

It's all about odds. You need to have the ego strength to dial these people all day. You only need one person to say yes. That yes means you expanded your network that day. And all those people who say no, you'll never see them again. They are gone. No need to feel bad or embarrassed. It's over. Move on.

Of course, the odds are not great that the cold call will work every time, but you only need it to work really well once and then you're done. You have a job.

6 replies
  1. Mike O'Hara
    Mike O'Hara says:

    Hi Penelope

    Excellent article. Good to find someone who understands how powerful and effective cold-calling can be when done properly.

    Best regards


  2. jrandom42
    jrandom42 says:

    Thanks for nothing. Those of us who are introverted Asperger’s aren’t ever going to master any of this, since it goes totally against the grain of our character.

    • karelys davis
      karelys davis says:

      wow, because you know, your personality determines how you DECIDE to act.

      Have you read how Penelope gets funding no problem? she makes money no problem? it’s not because people are lining up with offers.

      If you let your label define you then it’s your fault. You can craft your personality. Your temperament (which you inherit genetically) only goes far enough. The rest is about decisions. So be intentional about life and quit whining!

  3. Still ain't thrown in the towel
    Still ain't thrown in the towel says:

    This is an encouraging article to read. I remain a person seeking a job, and once, about two months ago, I literally “knocked on doors”, absolutely cold, seeking work. This bit of a stretch gave me the boost I needed: I was welcomed by the businesses, one earnest employee ran after me to recommend another office to try as hers was not hiring at the time but another, related, office might be, and one kind business owner gave me an interview. He did not have any openings, but I was happy to hear that I was the first person in 3 years to have literally walked in his door and said I was seeking employment, saying about my interruption into his office that, “hey, you never know…” Tomorrow, as an interview this week did not lead to a job offer, on will go the nice clothes and the nice resumes in the nice bag, and a-door-knocking I will go again. Odd that I should actually enjoy this: I am a determined introvert but I think the pleasure in cold-calling is linked to this fact. It returns the reins into my hands and us introverts tend to enjoy steering our own boats. I need a break from being shunted into obscurity via online applications. I recommend the cold-calling-knocking-on-doors to anybody. It is a great exercise.

  4. Holly
    Holly says:

    Thanks for the great article! I am currently laid off and looking for ways to broaden my horizons- I appreciate the advice.

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