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Try Cold Calling in Your Job Search

Linda K. Rolie, author of "Getting Back to Work - Everything You Need to Bounce Back and Get a Job After a Layoff"

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There are few things job seekers dread more than making cold calls. However, if you are serious about finding a job -- and in these tough times, you have to be -- it is pretty much a requirement. You might just land the perfect opportunity as a result of speaking with people you don't know very well (or even at all) who can support you in your job search. At first, cold calling can feel like "picking up a 10,000-pound telephone," but that is something you must overcome.

Fear is probably the No.1 reason people avoid making telephone calls as part of a job search. Fear and faith make poor roommates because one dispels the other. Nobody wants to  be rejected. However, like they say in sports -- you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, so you might as well give it a go. Employers expect these kinds of calls as part of their job and are usually willing to talk to callers. Good companies and managers are always interested in talented candidates, even if they aren't referred to them by a recruiter or human resources. Here are some tips for when it's time to reach out:

1. Write a script for improved effectiveness.
· Outline what you want to get across on the telephone to give you the advantage of a polished message. The time to rehearse is not when you are talking to your contact.

· Time yourself not to exceed 60 seconds. Practice a 10-20 second version, better known as an elevator pitch.

· Make your first impression a good one. Sound energetic and enthusiastic, even if you're feeling discouraged. Fake it until you make it.

2. Getting past the telephone gatekeeper
The first person to answer the telephone may be a receptionist, or  "gatekeeper," and requires diplomacy. You have to find the right balance between being blunt and being dishonest.

Example: "Hello, my name is Susan Jones. Would you please tell me the name of the manager involved in your company's hiring decisions?" When you are ready, call and ask to speak to the manager by name. If the greeter asks you about the nature of your call, simply tell him or her that you want to address a letter to the manager with information that may be of interest. Also, be sure to ask for the correct spelling of that manager's name.

3. Voice message
If you must leave a message after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting in touch with the hiring manager, leave a brief message.

Example: "I would like to talk with you about my qualifications for the program director position and learn whether there might be a mutual interest in my candidacy."

· Use the name of the person who referred you, if possible.

· Avoid phone tag by offering two proposed times. Ask the manager to call to confirm.

· Recite your name and telephone number slowly. Saying this information too quickly may cost you a call back.

· Be prepared for an interview over the phone.

· You may be able to reach the executive before or after regular nine-to-five office hours.

· It is acceptable to leave up to about three or four voice mails; your persistence may pay off. You may lose a job opportunity waiting for an employer to return your call. Someone who is clearly interested will get the job instead.

4. Phone interview
If and when you finally do get the hiring manager on the phone, it is much more impressive if you can connect with him or her on a personal level. Breaking the ice before the call has even begun is a great way to relieve tension for both parties.

· Perform research to reference something unique about the company or the individual. This allows you to differentiate yourself from other applicants.

· Reach out to individuals on LinkedIn and other social networking sites that serve as a bridge to cold-calling and the desired face-to-face conversations. Work up to meeting with people after developing relationships through e-mail and discussions on the  Internet. This is a "safe" way to develop relationships.

· Go one step warmer. Find a connection between you and the person you want to reach. Begin with people within organizations who can be helpful, without asking for a job. Request an introduction or advice on your  résumé, or ask if you can job shadow to better understand the expectations for the job title.

In summary, engage in these activities to help transform discouragement into hope that you will land another job.  Expect some discouraging periods at times, but that is not permission to give in to them and just stop. Feel the fear and pick up the 10,000-pound telephone anyway.  Show courage in the midst of feeling fear. Our greatest challenges are usually the means that give way to significant professional growth. You must move forward to reach your goals.  Keep a spirit of hope in the present; if you were happy in the past you can create a happy work environment again.

Linda K. Rolie (, author of  "Getting Back to Work - Everything You Need to Bounce Back and Get a Job After a Layoff" (McGraw-Hill, 2009) 

Last Updated: 09/11/2009 - 2:29 PM

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