young woman scratches her head and bites her lip when a phone call confuses herOne of the most effective tools job hunters have at their disposal is the cold call – but only if it’s done correctly. Simple steps can turn the daunting task into a pleasant experience that could result in employment.

Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer at Charles Aris, said the reason for the cold call is two-fold: a) Many companies don’t post every role they’re looking to fill and b) hiring authorities are always looking for great talent, even if they don’t have an open requisition. I’ve heard countless executives say, “I don’t have an opening, but I’ll create one for this person.”

Oakley outlines steps job hunters can take in an article at his website. The most important step is bypassing the human resources department to start the process.

Oakley said, “Identify and call the appropriate hiring authority at your top target companies. The hiring authority is effectively the person to whom you would report if you were to join the company. This is NOT human resources (unless you desire to be in a human resources role).”

The University of Ottawa in Canada, on its career website, agrees with what Oakley has to say. It advises students that cold calling is “an essential job search tool because it helps you access the hidden job market. Statistics illustrate that only one in five available jobs are advertised. Tapping into the hidden job market will mean that you will face less competition because the position will not have been advertised yet.”

Of course, identifying the right person is not always simple. As Oakley observed, at larger corporations gatekeepers (i.e. receptionists, administrative assistants, et. al.) won’t always say what person does what job. Preparation before the cold call is necessary. Mine the company’s website for information. Also, embrace search engines with questions like, “Who is the communications director for Google?” Oakley also advises availing yourself of the resources of LinkedIn to find the information.

Once the research is done, practice makes perfect. Just like a sales representative works on a sales pitch, job hunters making a cold call should develop a simple message. Oakley said, “Your script (which you should write out and practice) should include the following topics:

  • This is who I am;
  • This is what I do (or have done);
  • I have no idea if you’re looking for someone like me (this provides a nice disclaimer which allows the hiring authority to drop their guard);
  • But I’m interested in you and I would appreciate the opportunity to set up time to speak with/meet with you.”

“Note that it is likely that you will get this person’s voicemail. In this case your message should be largely the same as what I’ve listed above, just in an executive summary format,” Oakley added. “If you’re calling a senior person then you’ll likely get their assistant on the phone. In that case you should communicate with the assistant almost in the same way you would with the hiring authority, as they will be passing your message along to their boss (the alternative is to wait until after 5:00 pm when the Assistant has left for the day).”

That latter piece of advice is something the University of Ottawa says student job seekers should use. Its practical tips for making the cold call include:

  • Call right before or after normal hours, when the hiring manager is more likely to answer his or her phone directly;
  • Learn how to say the hiring manager’s name correctly – don’t assume you know it
  • Prepare a script that sells you – but don’t read from the script.
  • Request an information interview, but don’t try to turn it into a job interview
  • Maintain a detailed record of all your calls and messages left to various employers; and,
  • Most importantly, be prepared to be rejected and handle it with grace.

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