Cold calling - tips for success


Phoning a potential employer out of the blue to seek work isn't easy. But cold calling, if you pull it off, can help you crack the lucrative hidden job market.

Job advertisements sometimes receive hundreds of applications, but a cold call at the right time can find you a vacancy before it's even advertised.

Use these handy tips to improve your cold calling skills:

Before the call

Do your research

A little bit of preparation will make cold calling easier.

Who do you want to talk to? If you don't know the person's name, work out their role within the organisation. Perhaps they organise work experience or they're the human resources manager.

Calling about a specific job? First research the company and the job itself. When you call you'll want to show how much you know and prove you're the right person for the job.

And be polite to the receptionist - they can be a goldmine of information about their company.

Write a script 

Save yourself getting tongue-tied or forgetting what to say with a practice phone script. This will also help you to speak clearly.

To Receptionist: "Good morning. My name's _________. I was wanting the name of your company's HR manager, please. Would I be able to speak with them? Thank you."

To Human Resources Manager: "Good morning _______. My name's _________. I'm calling about any opportunities for work at your company.

I've just completed my degree in ________, and I have a lot of experience in _______ and ________, which is an area I know your company specialises in. I've also worked in _______.

Are there any suitable openings at your company at present? ...Can I send you my resume in case any come up in future?

Your script should highlight your skills and experience and why you stand out from the crowd. It should vary to suit each potential employer.

You might be transferred to different people in the same organisation - remember to introduce yourself again and explain the reason for your call.

There are more examples of cold calling scripts in youthcentral's Jobseeker toolkit - Cold calling interactive guide.

During the call

Find somewhere quiet to make your call, away from interruptions or distractions. And once you're on the phone don't put the person on hold to answer another call. You've worked hard to get to speak to them, don't waste this chance.

Dress to impress

You could sit on the couch in your PJs to make your call, but if you're dressed and at the table it might help you get into the right frame of mind. There's a difference in your voice if you sit straight or even stand, and it'll help you sound more confident on the phone.

Mind your manners

Politeness is the easiest way to make a good impression on the phone: 

  • Speak clearly - Try not to mumble or 'um' and 'er' too much. Speak as clearly as you can and smile - this will add warmth to your voice. 
  • Excuse yourself - Put the phone aside to cough or sneeze - don't sniff or splutter into the phone. 
  • Use names - Show respect and warmth to the person you're speaking to by finding out their name. Using names will make your conversation feel more personable and comfortable. 
  • Say thank you - Before ending the call, thank the person for their time.

Take notes

Keep a pen and paper handy when cold calling. Notes of what was said in your phone calls will save time when you next speak with the employer. You won't have to go over things already discussed and you'll impress because you're organised.

Before the end of your call summarise any action to be taken, e.g. confirm that you will send in your résumé if that is what you discussed.

Be persistent

If you haven't found what you wanted, ask the contact details of someone who may be able to help. You've got to be persistent. If the person you want to speak to isn't there, leave a message or ask when the best time to call back is. If the organisation won't give out direct numbers, get an email address.

Watch youthcentral's Jobseeker toolkit - Cold calling video for more tips on making cold calling work for you.

After the call

Keep your promises

Once you've made the call, you're almost done. If you said you'd email your resume or contact details, do it soon!

Follow up

If someone said they'd call you back but you don't hear from them after a week or so, give them another call. Chances are they've been busy and forgot to get back to you. They'll probably be impressed by your enthusiasm in politely following up.

Cold calling will never be easy, but with confidence, politeness and persistence it can make things happen for you.