We blogged recently about the Hidden Job Market. With only an estimated 20–30% of available jobs in Australia being advertised, a whopping 70–80% of jobs are filled via other methods including referrals, networking and tapping into your own contacts.
Finding and approaching people you don’t know for work is commonly referred to as cold calling. It can be a stumbling block for many job seekers. It needn’t be: you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding this task to your job search activities. The more practice, the greater your confidence will grow and soon you won’t be breaking into a sweat at the mere thought of making a cold call.
You have to become a bit of an investigator if you want to find people to connect with. One of the most common and easiest methods is to identify companies of interest and call the receptionist to ask who is responsible for hiring someone in your field. Sometimes they will give you the name of Human Resource Manager, other times you may get the name of the Owner or General Manager. You need to be a little persistent here and find out if this person really does make the hiring decisions. For instance, many times a receptionist will give you the name of the most senior person but that person may not be involved in the hiring of staff – it may be a job for the department head.
If you feel you have asked all you can of a receptionist, thank them for their time and note the information. Try calling back again on a different day or at lunch time – all receptionists take a lunch break and the person covering the phones may be a little more forthcoming. Next time you call back say “I understand Bob Jones is the General Manager of your company, does he get involved in the hiring of new staff or is that handled by another senior person?” You may have to change your approach a number of times to get the information you’re after.
Social media is another great method of finding contact names. This would be my preference if I wanted to find out the name of decision makers and key personnel. You don’t need to get past a receptionist and you’d be amazed at the information you can uncover with a little time and effort. Twitter, Facebook and – in my opinion, the best one – LinkedIn are all fantastic sources of information. You don’t have to be ‘connected’ to these people: you can simply search for information.
So now you’ve got some names and you want to approach them for work. First of all, you have to remember these people have not advertised. You are introducing yourself, promoting the value you offer. If something doesn’t happen right away you can’t despair: an approach done correctly will be remembered. In other words, if something were to become available in the coming months you will be remembered. If the person you approached hears of other opportunities in the industry they may well mention you. No cold canvassing is wasted and it is important you remember this. They know you’re looking and if something happens in their company or another, they will remember you.
You’ve got a choice to make now. You can either call that person and introduce yourself, give them your ‘pitch’ and ask if it would be all right if you emailed through your resume. Or you can make your approach via email.
Whichever method you chose you have to remember these are busy people – be concise and get your message across quickly. If you are calling you must write out a list of points you want to cover in the call. Write a script for at least your opening comments, and practise out loud. If you are emailing you need to get your message across in the body of the email. Not everyone will open attachments from people they don’t know.
In either case, you need to brand yourself immediately – tell them what you do, what you’ve done well, how you’ve made a difference in previous roles and the value you offer them. You don’t need to say all these things in order – this is your ‘pitch’, a short, punchy paragraph that conveys all of that information.
A word of caution. At this point you should have done your research. Read the company’s website, look at their social media activity – what is important to them, what needs do they have, what are their goals for the next 12 months? This information is available online if you take the time to research. Consider all of these things in your approach – how you can meet their needs – it’s all about them!
Not every cold call leads to a job interview. It is very important that now you have a contact that you try and develop it. If they respond they’re not looking now, ask them for advice … who is hiring in the industry? Now they know the value you offer, can they suggest anyone you should introduce yourself to? Is there anything you could improve to make yourself more employable? Never let a “we haven’t got anything at the moment, but we will keep your details on file” comment go. Ask for advice, say you’d like to stay in touch and will call in a few weeks time, etc.
Don’t try and take on the world with cold calling. Thoroughly research 2 to 5 companies and approach them. Once these have been done and any follow up action taken, then move onto another small group. Jumping in head first with a list of 50 companies to contact is unmanageable and there is simply no way you will be able to thoroughly research, prepare and make a professional approach to that many companies at once. Quality rather than quantity.
Some do’s and don’ts of cold calling:
So research, prepare, fine tune and – most of all – don’t be discouraged.
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