Cold calling is when you contact an employer directly to ask if they have any jobs available. It can be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice.
Here are some step-by-step tips on how to cold call. You can also visit our What is cold calling page for an introduction to cold calling.
1. Make a list of contacts
Make a list of everyone you know who could help you find a job. Put their contact details on the list too.
People you could put on the list include:
- members and coaches of teams or clubs you belong to.
Next, you need to:
- Get in touch with everyone on your list.
- Tell them you’re looking for work.
- Ask them for contact details of people they know who could help you, or employers you could contact.
- Add the contact details for these people and employers to your list.
You should also think about:
- employers in your local area
- companies you'd really like to work for.
Look up their contact details online and add them to the list.
2. Do your research
Before you make a call, do some research about the employer’s business. You can use online searches to find out as much as possible about the employer.
Find out what's involved in the kind of job you're looking for. Write down the reasons why the skills you have make you the right person for this job.
If you can, find out the name of the person you should be talking to. They might be the manager, the business owner or someone from the human resources department.
Ask for them by name when you call. Use their name when you talk to them.
3. Use a script
Know what you’re going to say before you make the call. Make sure you’re clear about why you are calling.
It’s also a good idea to have a specific thing to ask for. For example, you might ask about doing work experience with the employer. You might also ask if they have any vacant positions at the moment.
Having a script in front of you when you call makes this easier. A script is a written list of the things you’re going to say during the call.
A script helps you remember what to say. It also helps you to speak more clearly and confidently.
The script should include:
- introducing yourself
- explaining why you’ve called
- your experience.
4. Make some practice calls
Before you start calling, practise your script with someone you trust. Sit down with a friend or family member and pretend they're the employer.
Run through your script with the person you trust. Then ask them if they have any suggestions for improving your script. Keep practising until you feel ready to make the call for real.
5. Work out when to call
Try to call at a good time. For example, don’t contact a restaurant around dinner time, or a retail store in the middle of a big sale.
Generally speaking, it's best to call during the week (Monday to Friday) – not at the start or end of the working day, or during lunchtime.
That means making your calls:
- between 10 and 11 in the morning
- between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.
Ask the person you're speaking to if they have time to talk to you. If they can’t talk to you right then, offer to call them back at a better time. And make sure to call back when you said you would.
6. Have your cold calling kit ready
It takes more than just a phone to make an effective cold call. You also need:
- a pen and paper or a computer so you can take notes
- a copy of your resume so you can refer to it if you need to (see our How to write a resume page for more about writing a good resume)
- a copy of your script
- notes you’ve made about each employer
- a glass of water.
It can be useful to have the employer’s website or Facebook page open in front of you.
7. Take notes
Take notes about the calls you make. Write down every detail you can, including:
- when you called
- the name of the person you spoke to
- their job title, for example manager, owner or human resources staff member
- their contact details (email and direct phone number)
- what they said to you
- what you promised them you’d do.
You can use an ‘action grid’ to keep track of your calls. An action grid lists the employers you've called, what they told you, and what you said you’d do.
Using an action grid will help you avoid contacting the same person twice with the same request. Your action grid will also tell you if you need to take any actions after the call. An action might be to email your resume, or call again at a certain time.
At the end of every call, you can update your action grid with information from your notes.
Download a copy of our sample action grid and use it to create your own.
8. Confirm next steps
Before ending the call, run through any next steps you need to take. This is a good way to make sure you understand everything that's expected of you.
For example, you could finish the call by:
- saying you'll send your resume and call back in two weeks
- double-checking you have written down the person's email address correctly.
Once you've confirmed your next steps, make sure you write them down on your action grid.
9. Be persistent
Sometimes an employer won’t return your call or reply to your email. If you don’t hear anything for a week or two, follow up with another call or email.
Being persistent shows employers you’re enthusiastic and committed. It also sets you apart from most other cold callers, who drop out at the first hurdle.
10. Keep your promises
Prove you're professional and trustworthy by doing everything you said you’d do. If you promise to email your resume or contact details, do it as soon as you get off the phone. If you said you'd call back in a day, call back in a day.
Use your action grid to keep track of the things you need to do. Keep a record of the dates you do them.
11. Show up in person
You can always cold call in person. This works best if you’re looking for a job in retail or hospitality. It also works for any employer with an area the public can access, like an office with a reception desk.
It’s much easier to make a good impression in person, and it shows you’ve got initiative and you’re confident.
Choose a time when they’re not busy. Ask to speak to the person who makes hiring decisions, and give them a copy of your resume.
After you leave, make notes of the person’s name and anything they said. Now you’ve met them in person, it’s much easier to follow up with them over the phone or by email.
12. Keep working down your list
Not every call will go well. Most employers you speak to will not have a job for you.
Even if they don’t have a job, you can always use the opportunity to ask:
- what they look for in the staff they employ
- where they advertise positions
- if they know another employer who’s looking for staff.
Keep working through your list of employers to call, and keep adding more names to your list.
The most important thing about cold calling is to keep doing it. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it.
13. Turn cold calls into warm ones
- Cold calling is really just another way to do networking. Visit our networking page and learn how to turn cold calls into warm ones by building a network.