Suggest the idea of cold-calling about a job vacancy to someone and you get one of a few typical reactions:

  • It won’t work
  • I couldn’t do it
  • No-one likes it
  • I’d only put the company’s back up

All very negative. It’s understandable though because, for most of us, a cold-call is a euphemism for some idiot phoning you in the middle of:

  • Dinner
  • A row with your partner
  • Putting the kids to bed
  • The dénouement of a film which you’d been really enjoying
  • Getting ready to go out when you’re already late
  • A quick nap you’d been promising yourself for hours

These very negative experiences we then apply to the whole idea of cold-calling. Our picture of a cold-caller is someone who is ‘a <insert expletives of your choice> nuisance’. Now imagine a world where no-one told us about new products, offers, shops, job vacancies.

You see, there is a real contradiction here. Advising us about an offer is on the one hand, ‘nothing but a nuisance’ yet, on the other hand, we feel ‘cheated’ if we are left out of the loop.

The key word here is ‘nuisance’. Inappropriate timing, poor caller training and bad product targeting transforms the relaying of useful information into the worst kind of irritation.

Not everyone's sorry you phoned

Now I want you to imagine the exact opposite. Suppose someone calls you out-of-the-blue (but at an opportune moment) with a product or service you have immediate need for, and then proceeds to explain it to you in a knowledgeable and non-pushy way.

That’s not a nuisance call – that’s top-notch information.

So, now I want to ask you that question again. Doesn’t cold-calling just mean the cold-shoulder?

The correct answer is “not necessarily”.

Given that as many as 80% of job vacancies are filled before they ever get advertised (if, in fact, they ever do), turning your back on a technique like cold-calling just throws you in with all the other job-seekers who are busily pursuing the remaining 20%.

It’s called the 80-20 rule: you get 80% of the reward for 20% of the effort and chasing the remaining 20% takes 80% of the effort.

Now I want to apply the foregoing logic to cold-calling so that the negative outcomes I listed at the beginning of this blog can be canceled out.

There’s a Youtube video which makes the point of being properly prepared – I like the choice of setting (Father Brown meets James Bond).

This means you need to utilize:

  • Excellent targeting
  • Good timing
  • Competent and concise spiel

So, let’s look at each of those in turn.


Of all three elements, I bet this is the one that gets skipped over the most. By targeting, I mean sniffing out all the possible companies and organizations that you could call. Chances are that if I stopped ten people at random and asked them to list out whom they would ring, nine would be adamant that they would know exactly who to phone.

Wrong. You don’t know everyone and don’t kid yourself you do.

New companies come on the block all the time and with these you are more likely to get fresh faces, forward-looking points of view, and a genuine pleasure that you’ve called and expressed interest in working for them.

But a positive response is only going to happen if you do your homework properly. Therefore I want you to start a spreadsheet recording (for each company):

  • Name
  • Contact
  • Phone number
  • Location
  • Website
  • Email address

… and you’ll find these companies by:

  • Going through the paper Yellow Pages
  • Searching the YP’s online (it often gives different results)
  • Scouring the internet for relevant search phrases plus <yourtown>
  • Asking contacts
  • Looking in newspapers and trade magazines

The only absolute certainty is that there is no way, no how, that you knew them all.

Now score them by dint of how:

  • Likely they are to want you
  • Easy they are to commute to
  • Relevant their work is
  • Much you’d like to work for them

… keeping an open mind at all times

When you’ve finished, sort the companies in order of high score. Now you’ve got your calling list.


Think of the person you want to call and what their working life must be like. How would you appreciate me ringing you up to talk about a job just as you were:

  • Arriving at work
  • Getting ready to go home
  • Going off to lunch
  • Coming back from lunch
  • Starting the week
  • Finishing the week

An important cold-calling tool

This means (for a typical 9 to 5 job) don’t call:

  • Before 10 am
  • Between 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm
  • After 4 pm
  • Monday morning or Friday afternoon
  • The day before or after a Public Holiday

That still leaves plenty of time however and just because the person you want to speak to actually answers the phone, don’t assume that they can talk to you. Have a pre-determined question to see if they have the time such as:

“Hello. I’d like to speak to you about your company. Is now a good time to talk or should I call back?”

Notice how I didn’t say “I want to speak to you about a job”. That would be too direct and off-putting. After all, by the time you’ve chatted you may not want to work there or they may very clearly not want you. It also makes you sound desperate (which is bad).


This word is unfortunately misused because its true meaning implies verbosity – something which you should definitely avoid. The knack to developing an effective spiel is to do your homework beforehand so that ‘come the day’ you are properly prepared. By this I mean your speech should be structured as follows:

  • Are you free to talk to me?
  • I’m very interested in your company because …
  • Can you tell me a bit more, please?
  • The sort of work I’m looking for is …
  • Do you have that kind of vacancy at the moment?
  • If it’s OK with you, I’d like to keep in touch. May I have a direct email address, please?
  • Thank you. Goodbye.

You see, I’m not going straight for the nitty-gritty. I’ve established that you have time to talk to me now, I’ve pre-answered the question “Why do you want this job?”, I’ve shown interest above and beyond ‘give me a job’, I’ve been professional about what I’m looking for, and I’ve closed by saying I’d like to keep in touch but without being a nuisance.

Now I can’t promise you that this is the winning formula because the other person could still be rude, disinterested, dismissive, cold, uncommunicative and so forth but would you really want to work for a person like that, anyway?!!!

Whatever happens you MUST close with a ‘thank you for your time’ and a ‘goodbye’. No matter how ignorant a pig you’ve just spoken to, there is no reason to drop to their level.

General rules

My last tip concerns talking to the receptionist when you first make contact. If you proudly announce “I want a job” you will be abruptly slammed through to HR whom (I bet) won’t appreciate a cold-call. You’ll get told to “Just send in your resume” which, if you comply, will get stuffed in a folder and then forgotten. Therefore, when you call, say, “I’d like to speak to someone who deals with …” the subject matter being related to what you do for a living. Get a name and direct phone number if you can.

Cold-calling isn’t easy. You will get turned down but there will be a few occasions when you will be so glad you did give it a shot. After all, you only need one person to say “When can you come in for an interview?” because the chances are that you are the only one competing for the job.

That’s a million times better than running yourself ragged chasing the same positions as the rest of the pack – don’t you agree?