Job-Search: Cold-Calling – Make Yourself The Only Candidate

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With 80 percent of employment opportunities in the hidden job market, sometimes a phone call is all it takes to get an interview.

By Consuelo Solar

It is one o’clock on a Monday afternoon, and a group of internationally trained professionals sit around a speakerphone in one of the conference rooms of the settlement agency Skills For Change. Many of them are nervous, because they are about to job hunt in a way that seems daunting, to them at least, but that it is supposed to have better results than any of the methods they have been using since they arrived in Canada. They are about to cold-call.

Cold-calling means contacting employers without knowing about an existing employment lead or opening, and it is one of the job search methods used in North America to tackle the 80 percent of positions that are not advertised in traditional job hunting sources such as newspapers, the Internet or employment agencies.

This huge percentage of unadvertised employment opportunities is known as “the hidden job market,” and the logic behind cold-calling is that in most cases employers may need to hire someone, but they haven’t had the time to begin a lengthy and expensive hiring process, especially if it is a small or mid-size company. It allows job seekers to establish contacts with employers before they get the chance to publicize their openings, and hundreds of other candidates hear about it.

Other methods to access the hidden job market include networking, volunteering, job shadowing, and information interviews, but, by far, cold-calling is the one that generates more anxiety in newcomer job seekers.

Jazmin Mueckay is looking for a position as an Administrative Assistant, and had never heard about this technique before coming to Canada from Ecuador. “When you don’t know something it always generates uncertainty, especially if you’re not totally confident about your language skills. What if they don’t understand what I’m trying to say?” she says.

Call-calling can be done in person, but it is more time efficient to use a phone, and that is why communication skills are so important to make this technique work. It does have some similarities to telemarketing, because you are trying to “sell a product” over the phone – you. Let’s face it, you’ve probably been annoyed by telemarketers before and have hung up on them, and that’s a good reason to fear that the same will happen to you.

Emmanuel Martinez is an Accountant from Philippines and not only is he concerned about being hung up on, “What if I call a place where I really want to work, and then I blow up my chances by annoying the employer, or by making a mistake or hesitating during the cold call?” he asks.

Erick Portillo Job Search Coach who has been facilitating these “cold-calling sessions” for three years, responds that when it is your professional skills you are trying to market, there are ways to get the person at the other side of the line to listen. “Prepare yourself as much as you can,” he says, “you cannot make a cold call without carefully getting ready first, and preparation will reduce any level of anxiety.”

Preparation consists of selecting a few companies to call, and properly researching them; writing and memorizing a 30-second commercial of your professional profile, and delivering it naturally and confidently; customizing your résumé so that it answers to each company’s needs, and keeping it handy while you make the call to refer to for assistance; and finally, writing a script that anticipates the call recipient’s reaction.

A common question among the participants of the workshop is: “Am I really going to find a job this way?”

Portillo, who makes an average of 10 cold calls on behalf of his clients every day, declares that if an interview results from a cold call, you are often the only candidate being considered by the employer, however that is not the only purpose of call-calling. “The cold call may not always result directly in finding an employment opportunity, but it can work to find other types of opportunities that can eventually result in a job. It can be used as a networking technique, to request an information interview, to gather more information about the company, to gather information about upcoming positions and requirements, and even to gain confidence,” he explains.

Maya Evia is a Psychologist and Entrepreneur from Bolivia, and she finds this technique to be perfect for her because she can take advantage of her people skills, “For me it’s easy, because I’m very sociable and communicative, and it’s something that I am used to doing in my line of work, although I’ve never done it to look for a job. But I think about my husband, who is an engineer and is not so communicative, and it is certainly harder for him,” she says, adding that she does worry about closed-minded employers who could reject her.

“You won’t find any rejections,” is Portillo’s response to this concern, and he adds, “What you’ll find are objections, which are mostly excuses from prospective employers to not listen to your message, but they can’t reject you because they don’t know you. So you can’t take it personally, they are not saying no to you, all they are saying is that they don’t have the needs for your skills at the moment.”

According to Portillo, the biggest barrier to using this method is lack of confidence, so he advises potential cold-callers to get into the right frame of mind, and convince themselves they can go through with it, and above all, to persevere. “It usually takes up to seven calls to finally get the employer’s attention, but if you are persistent enough, and you do your homework properly, the results can be very positive,” he says confidently.

By the end of this session, three people stepped up and made a cold call. None of them resulted in an interview, but they made a first contact and that is the hardest part.
It is very likely that they are only six more calls away from finding a job.

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