Take the Chill Out of Cold Calls

By Craig Harrison


If you like the thought of cold calling, well, you're just not normal. Most people would rather remain unemployed than pick up that telephone and talk their way into an interview. Yet, it remains one of the most effective — and quickest — ways of finding the work you want.

Does the thought of making a cold call — a telephone or in-person call to a stranger— chill you? As a jobseeker it’s a valuable way to market yourself. Cold calls help you gather valuable information, while positioning and promoting your availability on the job market. Relying only on referrals and ads can severely limit your prospects. With practice and an understanding of how cold calling works you can obtain both interviews and jobs using this approach. You have skills to sell. Others seek those skills. You’re calling to inquire if there is a fit between your skills and experience and their needs and requirements. It’s a direct way to gather information about prospective employers and impart information about yourself.

Become a Scriptwriter!

Develop a short script to introduce yourself, emphasize qualifications, showcase your special talents, and inquire whether applicable positions are available. A script allows you to relax and become familiar with what you say and how you say it, before you actually call. Familiarity and practice with your script gives you confidence when introducing yourself and also freedom to ad-lib when calling.

Sounding Off

Cultivate a phone voice that is calm and confident. Don’t rush your delivery. Before you call: visualize a successful conversation, take a few deep breaths and smile! Smiling loosens your jaw and relaxes you. Although they can’t see you they’re forming an impression nonetheless. Your smile shows through. Speak in terms of what you’ve done for others, your successes and how they contributed to the success of previous employers.

Listeners are always interested in what you can do for them. Your script might sound something like this:

Hi I’m Carmen Ford (smile), and I’m calling to inquire about employment opportunities in technical support. (breathe and smile.) I have five years industry experience, three managing a premium support team at a database company and two with a successful financial software firm where I helped design and implement standardized response protocols. What’s your process for hiring tech support staff?

Cold Caller’s Toolkit.

At your desk, have your script and notes about the company you’re calling, your résumé, a calendar and notepad. Consider the benefits of using a lightweight headset to keep their hands free. A mirror may remind you to smile frequently as you talk. Don’t forget to listen! Ask questions and write down what you hear as you gather vital company information. Are they hiring, downsizing, reorganizing or using more consultants? What’s the company mood, what is their department’s focus? Gleaned information helps you profile the company and determine if a fit exists. When you get them talking about their problems, needs and concerns you’ll be better able to show how hiring you can solve, resolve or address their situation.

Getting Past Gatekeepers

Sometimes the hardest part is reaching the person who does the hiring. It may take several calls to find out whom to call. That’s OK. Each call should net some information, if only who someone’s administrative assistant is, or what time they’re accessible. Record it all. Most gatekeepers are just doing their job, screening calls and protecting the valuable time of busy superiors. Receptionists, AA’s and secretaries can help or hurt your effort so remain courteous, professional and friendly. Don’t leave longwinded messages on peoples’ voice mail systems. If you can’t get through when you call, stagger times and days you call; Note: many important people arrive before gatekeepers, and leave after their gatekeepers have gone home.

Handling Objections

Anticipate common objections to your call and be prepared with answers that further enhance your candidacy. Don’t let a "no" end the conversation if you believe a fit remains. While not arguing, sidestep the objection, or present an alternative perspective that paints you in a favorable light. By anticipating objections you can use them to emphasize your strengths, while allaying their fears.

Why Hire You?

Present what’s special about your skills and experiences. Do you have a dimension others lack? Say so! Can you fill a gap in their workforce? Are you multilingual? Skilled in a related field which can bolster the team you’d be joining? Nobody knows this unless you tell them.

When to Disconnect

Your goal should be an appointment for an interview. Keep your call long enough to get the interview but no longer. Respect others’ time and don’t sell yourself out of the job.

Rehearse with friends and family, then use your tape recorder or answering machine. Do you sound confident, qualified, and hire-able? Success awaits you…It’s your call!

Note: This article originally appeared in the California Job Journal (4/16-22/00)

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