The Cold Call
The cold-call, typically the preserve of obnoxious hard-nosed salesmen: double-glazing, insurance, ad sales, mobile phones; all wanting to pressure you into a purchase. However, the cold-call is not always bad, it’s simply a label denoting speaking to someone unannounced who you have no pre-existing relationship with. How else are you going to get people to know you and get to know people?
[One chap a colleague of mine phoned reacted somewhat brashly retorting, ‘if i want a curry, I’ll phone my takeaway ok I don’t need them bothering me – ergo I don’t want you bothering me’ – (or something to that effect). A fitting reply and excellent perspective would have been – ‘If you were hungry and a takeaway unknown to you delivered a delicious curry unannounced wouldn’t you be a happy bunny?’. [Think of yourself as that delicious curry that could satisfy a ravenous employer with a penchant for asian cuisine.]
1. Gathering information
In How to Make Graduate Applications 36% More Effective, I discuss how you can gain valuable insights into a company and market which you can then use to produce strong online application answers and impress at interview by contacting current senior level employees who more often than not are happy to promote themselves to ambitious lively young graduates.
Furthermore, you can understand how competitive the positions are and ask specifically what they’re looking for when they read a cover letter or application in order to decide whether to call someone in for an interview. When I applied to PA Consulting I understood early on that my chances were very slim as they were looking for a very relevant degree (engineering/ science) and ideally relevant work experience since the program I was applying to was heavily oversubscribed with 300 applicants for 3-5 places! A phone call like this, makes job-hunting life a lot more manageable and effective. The graduate recruitment manager was very helpful in telling me what skills they really want to see and gave me a bit of a pep talk about selling my self.
2. Finding out if there are vacancies
Some companies don’t always update their websites with current vacancies ironically perhaps because they get so much interest they don’t even need that level of advertising. Sometimes, they recruit predominantly through word of mouth and via referrals. You may even be able to find out if indeed they are planning to recruit in the very near future, such that positions aren’t advertised yet, but as soon as they come live, you’re there ready and waiting. Maybe you can even sneak a quick one in direct to the hiring manager.
3. Influencing the process
A call to HR before submitting an application may be extremely productive because you’re then not just a piece of paper and words, you’ve given them a voice and markers with which the recipients of your cv and application will undoubtedly use to form an impression of you. A great enthusiastic productive conversation can incite someone in HR to read your submission with purpose. I say this, because as a recruitment consultant, I would often speak to candidates who would call in before they submitted their cvs, and I would come away thinking that they were extremely strong individuals whom if had I just seen their cv, I may not have thought to call them and discuss things further.
Sometimes, no matter how good someone sounded on the phone, even if I knew they could be an excellent consultant in xyz firm, if they didn’t fit the spec on paper, I simply couldn’t present them for a role because clients were supremely fussy when it came to experienced hires. For graduates however, the story is slightly different, as all they’re really looking for a lot of the time is someone who has a good brain and can communicate well.
How to deliver a cold-call
1. Speak to the right person
It is obviously very important that you find the right person – don’t speech off to a receptionist or deliver your sales pitch cv to an admin person, however don’t treat anyone disrespectfully either. Find out who the right person to speak to is regarding your query by looking on the company website and using linked in to find names and job titles. If you want insider info for application forms, the senior the better – directors and partners. If you’re addressing cover letters or want to find out if a company has plans to recruit, ask to speak to the person who heads up graduate recruitment or recruitment in general.
If you’re asked what it’s about, be honest, tell them you’re applying or thinking of applying but wanted to get the name right and/or find out more about the business. Be friendly, tell them your name, use their name – if they like you they’ll put you through.
When I applied to BDO Stoy Hayward, I actually revealed all to the office manager as she sounded like she held all the keys. I treated her with respect and she arranged for someone to call me back! And someone actually called me about 2 hours later!
Finally, a QUICK TIP: try to speak to someone particular to the office you’re applying to – you might end up meeting and working with them!
2. Introduce yourself
Practice a neat concise intro with niceties. Use the person’s name: John, hi good afternoon. Give them all the info needed for them to decide if they want to talk to you in the first 20 seconds: My name’s Bob, I’m a graduate/ post-grad/ undergrad and I’m thinking of applying for the super duper role and was hoping to understand xyz, would you be able to spare 5 mins of your time, it would be much appreciated. As soon as you say you’re a grad, normally this sets people at ease, because it’s NOT a sales call!
Be polite, be friendly, be enthusiastic – engage the listener.
3. End with a positive note
Ask your questions, insert your knowledge when relevant keeping it very brief and always staying alert to the fact that this person probably has a hundred more important things to do, and respond to their answers appropriately so it feels like a proper conversation.
Thank them profusely: I really appreciate you taking some time out… it’s been a huge help… I know you’re probably incredibly busy, but I am very grateful etc etc.
Add some cheek/ charm: Hopefully I might meet with you in the near future… Hopefully if all goes well and everything matches up, I’ll look forward to speaking with you again etc. [insert personal touch far charm-ier than me]
Maybe even ask to add them on linked in And/ OR after the convo, simply send them an invite, again thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. This will hopefully make you more memorable and go some way to potentially building a relationship if appropriate and relevant.
Also, if you had a particularly fruitful conversation and see that it might have value, ask if it would be ok to mention that you had a conversation with so-and-so.
Remember, ‘S/he who dares…’