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Cold Calling Tips 

How to Identify and contact potential employers through cold calling


 What is cold calling

Why is cold calling  successful and is it still relevant?

What is the difference between cold calling and networking?

How to cold call

How to identify a company to cold call

When cold calling is bound to fail

How to contact the company by phone

Cold calling  / prospecting letter

The purpose of a cold call letter

Who do you address the letter to?

Letters via leads


What is cold calling in the job search context?


Cold calling, often called cold canvassing, means contacting  prospective employers, over the phone or through the mail, (not email at this stage) who have not advertised a position. These jobs are referred to as the hidden job market. For 30 years or more it has been said that about 80% of jobs are not advertised. Yet I have never seen any good research that shows this information is still relevant. (Please let me know if you find it).


Having said that my own research, while running job search training workshops, shows it is actually more than that.  Between 90%-100% of my job seekers in each group found their last job through both networking and cold calling, although there was a resistance to cold calling and networking was purely accidental as the job seeker did not recoginse this as a job search method. It just happened.


So if your job search is planned, it is statistically highly possible that you will find a job through either cold calling ot networking. These methods, will work for a company executive to a labourer.


However, as I stated in networking, many jobs, in my experience, were short term and not career jobs. This may be the fault of the candidate themselves or the nature of the recruitment method. An organised targeted approach needs to be undertaken if you wish to get a job of your choice.


Your goal will be to obtain an interview for any future vacancies. Your next personal  goal will be how to progress your career, or just keep your job once you have a foot in the door


Cold calling has been a successful  way of finding jobs in small businesses in the light industrial areas since the industrial revolution in the 1980's, and include jobs factories, warehouses and industries that employ a lot of semi skilled staff. It is also successful in mining and in the construction industry although for safety reasons you may not be able to get on-site.


That is not to say it isn't effective in professional occupations - it is. You must have skills that are utilised in the company, so you need to your research thoroughly to ensure the company is relevant for your career prospects and matches the skills used in that company.


There are many common techniques used in both networking and cold calling. Having said that, in smaller companies, word of mouth (networking) comes second to cold calling and slightly more than advertising through newspapers. This section is primarily about contacting potential employer's through personal contact - door to door or through the mail or snail mail as it is called.  Not email. Go to Sample Job applications for cold calling letters. (There are 5 letters for different situations).  However, How to network gives you the skills to cold call by phone


Why is cold calling successful and is it still relevant?

  • Even more relevant as small business is under threat and they will cut costs on advertising vacancies.


  • Some small businesses keep an active list of people who have cold called and will ring them if a job becomes vacant.


  • You may be in the right place at the right time and it is a foot in the door.


  • Recruiting is expensive and time consuming and many smaller employers put off starting the recruiting process and consequently pressure is put on their employees, which turns to discontent. So a jobseeker who has cold called can be seen as a solution - even if originally seen as short term.


  • Some smaller businesses would rather use a labour hire company to do their employment  because they just do not have the time to go through the hiring process. Also they do not want to deal with any in industrial problems if someone is not suitable. But they will often fill casual jobs.


  • They will take jobseekers who cold call and will give them a trial. They will never offer a permanent job. You must prove that you are competent and reliable, so this is a foot in the door.

  • Employers have told me they are impressed with people who take the initiative by cold calling.


Lastly in companies where there is a skill shortage they want to keep in touch with experienced people who cold call. They will consider themselves lucky that they have attracted a good candidate.


Cold calling sounds a daunting task and if you haven't done it before it can take a lot of persuading to ask jobseekers to cold call, especially door to door. However once they get good positive feedback they are keen to continue with this method of job seeking together with other methods of finding a job.


Having said that cold calling does not work as effectively in larger businesses. people are just too busy to take call. Their time is already taken up by email, meeting and other distractions.


If you feel you can learn the cold calling process, I fully recommend you also read  How to network.



What is the difference between cold calling and networking?


Networking: The difference is in the approach. With networking you already have a contact within the company and usually a referral by someone in your network. So your initial company is by phone. With the networking approach you are asking for advice and leads - you never ask if they have any vacancies unless you have heard through someone you know that the company is hiring.


Cold calling is just that. You do not have an introduction within the company so you are going in cold - in person or over the phone. I argue that you shouldn't be going in cold because you would have done your research on the company you are calling. You have a goal and a particular job in mind.


Cold calling can be done by personally visiting the business, especially small businesses in industrial areas such as engineering and mechanical workshops where it is easier to find the owner.


For larger companies your contact, cold calling is by phone initially and usually followed up by an interview or a written job application. In this respect your follow up letter or email is similar to your networking letter. When you cold call in person you may have to fill out an application form.


There are many common techniques used in both networking and cold calling. Having said that, the accepted wisdom in that smaller companies, word of mouth hiring (networking) comes second to cold calling and slightly more common  than advertising through newspapers or any other way of recruiting.


Getting past the receptionist or switchboard operator.

When cold calling by phone or in person, getting past the receptionist of switchboard operator, referred to as gatekeepers, to speak to the contact you have identified is the only real hard part of cold calling. You want the "gatekeeper" to be in your corner. You don't want to be forced to leave a message. You must speak to your identified contact in the organisation personally. When you cold call personally you need to convince the "doorkeeper or gatekeeper " to take your resume as well as an application form if you have been given one, and pass it on to your contact. So you need to learn some good communication techniques that will keep the gatekeeper on side. You may have to ring four times to find the person you want to speak to. You must get them to like you and want to help you. We have provided cold calling scripts.


How to Cold Call

Use these cold calling tips to make your cold calls more effective

Who do you cold call?

  • Companies you have identified who have positions in your area of expertise or companies you are interested in working in.

It is better to make 5 targeted and personalised contacts that indicate you have done your research and it is likely that the company may be recruiting, than sending out hundreds of cold calling letters by emails that will have absolutely no effect. In the case of email contacts this is spam mail and illegal as we see below.


If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”


  source: McInnes, L., Johnson D., and Marsh W., How To Manage and Market Yourself, Cassette Learning Services, Bulleen, Victoria. 1989, p97


What type of work you are looking for?  Before you can start to look for a job you need to know your career goal. If you don't know  you may also like to do a career test and assessment or this Free career test  Only then can you start any job search whatever method you use. In particular you may find the Australian Job Guide in order to check if you have the skills. Twenty three resources are listed in Employment and Career Opportunities in Australia Some are repeated here. However please take advantage of these resources which are the result of  comprehensive research. They don't just skim over the topic as most information does.


Ensure the company is one you want to work for

Remember that all companies, and some more than others, have an organisational culture that is results driven. You need to be able to fill a company's needs. This is why research before cold calling is so important. If you are quiet and just like to get on with your job and have other qualities like experience, consistency and reliability, you need to ensure you do not apply to companies who are results driven to an extent that all employees are required to be “go getters”. 

Don’t try and be what you are not.  It will become apparent if you get an interview or during the three-month trial period, which will result in extreme disappointment and loss of self-esteem if they do not keep you on after the trial.

It all comes down to you knowing your weaknesses and strengths

Some skills can be learned and if it is important to you and you think you can benefit by further training or personal development, then you should consider investing in your future.


How to identify companies to cold call

Identify your market by doing research

  •  Is there a specific industry that utilises your skills?

  • Where do you find out this information?  See  Employment opportunities

  • Your research will be used to target the right industry to make your job search task more manageable. 

  • The more time you spend doing this exercise the more focused you will be. 

  • It will cut your job search time by 80% - more or less no matter what method of job search you use.  

  • Each person will go about identifying their market in different ways depending on their prior knowledge and occupation. 

  • All methods will require a lot of research.

Prepare an employment profile of your state or regional area.


Have a look at "How to conduct employment market research"  in  Employment and Career Opportunities in Australia.  Here you will find every idea and resource you need to do your research. Look at The Hudson Report as mentioned in the above section. It covers a lot of countries and provides future trends in employment. You can beat the competition.


Keep good records

All the information you collect must be written down and organised. You need to have 2 types of contact sheets. One for your research and one for your cold calls. This cold calling sheet must show the date you called, who you spoke to and his/her job tile, the result of the call and if you need to follow up with a letter or another phone call and when. Then you diarise it.


Use the internet for your research

If you are reading this you have access to a computer. I don't like to assume all jobseekers are connected to the internet. When you do your research you may identify a large company that you can cold call.  However, if you are from Western Australia, for example, you need to be aware that the majority of the top 500 companies are based on the eastern seaboard and that the Perth office may only be a sales office with a small staff. So further research is very important before you proceed. On the other hand, large oil and gas and mining companies are based in Western Australia. 

Use the Google search box to look for industries that interest you. For  mining use the search term "companies + your region ", or "Mining + recruitment+ your area" Larger companies show you what skills they require and some may allow you to submit an application so they can keep your details on file. At least they will show recruitment methods. Don't let this stop you from contacting them. Remember cold calling is successful because you may be in the right place at the right time.

Custom Search


Researching newspapers - From a different perspective

Read all sections - Finance, Professional Appointments and Situations Vacant

As discussed in Employment Opportunities look at all the vacancies, not just jobs in your skill area. 


If a company is employing a Project Manager, for example,  they may have won a new contract. The advertisement will give you insight into the company. Most companies give you an overview of their company. This includes company values, type of projects they do etc. These are good companies to cold call. Look at their websites for more information.

  • Are they expanding? Into what area?

  • Have they won a new contract?

  • What occupations will be necessary to fill this contract?

  • Usually jobs will be out sourced. Who is doing the hiring?

  • How do you contact the hiring agency? The company will actually provide you with this information if you phone them.

Also note vacancies placed by employment agencies/search firms and see what their specialist areas are. This is not necessarily for cold calling but for another essential part of your job search. Ring and ask if you can register for future vacancies. Agencies don't tend to so this until they get a job but some labour hire companies will. See- Recruitment methods

 Other sources for cold calling research include: -

·          The Internet - Most companies are online. Look for companies who have employed people with your skills in the past.

·          If it a listed company you can find information at the Stock Exchange.

·          Employer Associations.

·          Unions.

Government websites.  Refer to Career and Employment Opportunities for the full list.

When cold calling is bound to fail


In this company we receive many emails. It is unclear what the letters are about - presumably they are meant to be cold calling letters to apply for work, although I am unsure really what they are asking. Clearly no research has been done on the company. Here are some of the biggest mistakes:-

  • They do not use the proprietor's name although it is readily seen on the home page and each subsequent page of our website. (see about us)

  • They often come from different countries!! So they haven't done their research as my country of origin, which is on my website - and they can find out very easily. (see who to address the letter to)

  • They tell me that they know I am always looking for talented people. That is news to me!!

  • The purpose isn't clear. They don't actually ask if I will be recruiting in future or if we can use their skills. As my theme all through this site is, they are self-centred, concentrating on their own needs and not the needs of the prospective employer. This all comes back to research, research and research.

Question.  When it is a cold calling email considered spam mail?.


Answer.  A letter that is it is not following any of the above requirements.


Finally, and this is the greatest mistake of all for me, people who cold call this company supply a resume that does not conform to our resume writing standards, that are clearly set out on this site. If they had read our site they would not have used fancy formats, as one example. This alone would lose them a job even if we had one. If they had read the site they would never have sent a resume that is so out of line with our standards.


Also our company will normally not open attachments from cold callers looking for work unless the letter is clear.  I used to open them purely for research purposes. Other employers wont open attachments from people they do not know with the exception of HRM offices. This is why I recommend phone contacts.


Lastly they email their application. This is in fact spamming unless they personalise it to this company to an individual  So this is another reason to do your research.


So if you cold call employers by email learn by this and make sure it is not spam. You must ring and get a contact name and set up your email so that it is formatted to a letter size.

How to contact the company by phone

Before you contact the employer make sure you have

  • An up to date resume that sets out your areas of experience and conforms to a modern acceptable resume style  See example resumes
  • The name of the contact in the company. Remember the Human Resource Manager isn't always the best contact. They only usually know about jobs when they become available. See further down.
  • Know your goal for each call. What do you want to achieve?
  • Prepare and practice a cold calling script that sets out you skills/experience that will fit the organisation. You must practice this script so it doesn't sound like you are reading it. You really need to look at networking part 2 for this. The only difference is your goal.
  • Pen and paper and record sheet need to be kept by the phone in case employer's ring you.

You need to build a relationship with your contact for cold calling to succeed. Don't waste a contact by saying the wrong thing. Be clear of the cold calling process. Also some useful tips can be found  in Networking that can be adapted.

The most important cold call script is to get past the receptionist. (the gatekeeper) You must reach your contact. If you don't reach the decision maker all is lost.

Your phone calls must have the same components as listed below for cold calling letters.

Cold Calling Letter - called prospecting letter.

A cold calling letter must have these components:-

     ·          A purpose

·          Contribution you can make

·          Your qualifications and experience

·          Ask for an interview (ask if you can meet with the employer).

Note: Your resume must back up your prospecting letter. The employer must be able to see in your resume, the knowledge, skills and experience that are relevant to the job.  If you are changing your career your resume should still be relevant, however, the application letter should spell out how your skills are transferable to the position you are seeking. The companies you are cold calling must be researched and well targeted, otherwise it becomes a meaningless operation.

The purpose of a cold calling letter

·        Is to get the employer to meet you in the event that positions may become available in the future.  Don't ask the if the company if they have any current vacancies.

Letter writing tips

Use a strong opening sentence - See Application letters for full details on opening statements. You will  impress the employer if you say for example


 "I saw in the newspaper an interview with your CEO who stated you will be expanding into....area" 


You might also say you "I noticed in the situations vacant that you are looking for executives for you new....project and therefore I presume you will also be recruiting. xxx in the near future". 

Always use an active voice rather than a passive voice.  i.e.  “I can”” I have” “I am capable of” Avoid “I am reasonably” ” I should/will be able to”.

Employers are afraid of committing themselves, and may get you in for “a chat”.  If they like you they will either refer you on or retain your details for future jobs. Treat this as a job interview.  Because it appears to be a casual chat, do not be tempted to divulge negative information or facets of your life that you wouldn’t want an employer to know, i.e. talk in detrimental terms about your former employers and colleagues, your previous company’s policies or financial position or your plans to travel or retire.  

Who do you address the prospecting letter to?


As stated above, your cold calling letter should be addressed to the section head if appropriate. This will depend on the company as many sections of a company operate independently or the Recruitment Officer or Human Resource Manager.  This will require a phone call to find out the name of the appropriate person and their title.

Note:  In many cases the Recruitment Officer is the last option.  Many are only interested in positions that they advertise and do not look at future needs, or may not be well informed about potential human resource needs. Whereby, for example, a Section Manager or Project Manager may be in a better position to evaluate your potential and they know what human resources they will need in the future. This is relevant for any work that has been tendered for mining and engineering companies, for example. Remember, if you don't personalise the letter and address it to a specific person you are spamming.

Letters via leads


In the case of an introduction from a friend or any other source this then becomes the outcome from doing some networking - planned or otherwise.  Again see our full workshop on networking. This is a slightly different process. You would not normally ask your friend for a job, but as stated, this is the outcome, and it is now a cold call but with a difference. 

You also need to mention who referred you. If someone did refer you, you will know specifically what areas they may be looking for someone or more about the company.

Utilise all section on applying for a job on this site

Sample Cold Calling Letters   and   Letter Writing Guide

Resume Application letter - Cold Calling

Used primarily for career change or people returning to the workforce.




Postscript.  if you want to find out who owns the company if they are a small business go into" Who's is"  on the internet.



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