Cold calling companies and executives

In addition to networking with established contacts, it is necessary to take a proactive and aggressive approach to uncovering the hidden job market by finding and reaching out to companies and people beyond the scope of your existing network.

As we’ve mentioned often in this blog, the classified ads in your local paper and online at sites like CareerBuilder and, probably account for less than 20% of the available job openings.  Your immediate network of friends, family, former work associates, etc., will help you uncover hidden opportunities.  However, without expanding your search by cold-calling companies and executives, you could be seeking a job for a very long time.

Will you like it?  Probably not.  Will it work?  YES!  Up to 40% of the job seekers going through our employment transition program find their new position this way. Identifying prospective companies is the easy part.  You can use Google maps or other online mapping sites to find every company within 15 miles of your home.  You can use company directories, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Moody’s, Hoover’s and the good ole’ Yellow Pages to further widen the scope.

Once you have a comprehensive list of companies to target, it is time to identify and attempt to contact  the managers and executives to whom you would report your occupation.  You want to aim for the highest level you can, while avoiding the human resources department (unless, of course, you are an HR professional seeking a position in that department).  You can identify this person by using the Internet or calling the company to get the name.  Start with the companies that are less appealing so that you can get practice…then go after the better prospects.

The most important aspect of this strategy is that you are NOT cold-calling to ask for about job openings.  The PRIMARY REASON FOR YOUR CALL is to gain valuable guidance and insight from the senior executive’s experience and perspective.

Your opening might resemble this:

 “Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Professor ____________, this is (your name).  I would like to stop by and talk with you.” (When you have the executive on the phone, first off, make sure you use their correct title.)

Executive:  “Why?”

Response:  “I would like your help and advice.” Or “I would like your guidance and insight.”

Executive:  “What about?”

Response:  “I have an extensive background in _______ and I am making a change.  I would like to meet with you and find out”

a) “What qualifications and experience a person like you looks for when you hire someone.”


b) “How my background and experience might best be used in your company or industry.” 

In most cases, if you ask for a job directly you will lose out on a potential meeting, as the response requires a simple “Yes, we are hiring (send a resume)” or “No, we’re not hiring. Goodbye.”  

While you do not want to outright ask about job openings, you do have to be truthful.  Never deny that you are looking for a position.  If the company has an opening, you would be interested in learning more.

However, don’t lose sight of the fact that the main reason you are calling is to request a face-to-face meeting with someone in your profession who might be able to help advance your job search by offering valuable guidance and insight.


Obviously, it is impossible to predetermine how a conversation will proceed.  Give thought to the various directions it could go, but do not over-think it.  It is important to be natural and relaxed, while remaining authoritative and in control.  This is hard to achieve if you are reading from a script.  That being said, here are some possible “brush off” scenarios and how to respond.

Executive:  “I’m too busy.”  (This is a brush-off.)

Response  “I appreciate that you are busy, so I’m asking only for a short time…20 minutes or so at your convenience.”

Often, the executive will agree to see you and will give more time.  If the executive continues to object, say, “You are busy, so I would be happy to meet with you at the beginning or end of your day, whichever is best for you.”

If the answer is still “no”, then ask, “If this week doesn’t look good for you, how’s your schedule for next week?  Could you take a look at your calendar for the end of next week?”  You are demonstrating persistence, yet at the same time consideration of their schedule/time.

Executive:  “Send me a resume.”  (This is just another brush-off.)

Response:  “Thank you for the offer, however, the reason for my call today is to schedule some time to meet with you for your advice/guidance/insight/help, and then, if you would like to see my resume, I could provide a copy to you.”  (Keep focusing on advice/guidance/insight and/or help.)

Executive:  “We don’t have any jobs/openings here.”  (They did not believe you are calling for help and advice.)

Response:  “I understand that, but the main reason for my call is for your advice/guidance/insight/help.”  (Be consistent – and keep your focus – it’s about help and advice.)

Executive:  “You should be talking to ________.”  (An internal referral)

Response:  “What’s his/her position?”  If directed to HR, you should respond,

“I would really like to talk with you, and then if it would also be helpful to meet with (name of the HR referral), I would be happy to do so.  When can we get together?  Would (i.e.,) Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon be better for you?”

If it is a good referral (an executive or hiring manager in an area that fits your background, credentials and experience) then you should assume you can use the executive’s name for the referral.  Contact the referral by phone:

“(Referral’s name), this is (your name), (referring executive’s name) wanted me to meet you.  I was wondering when we could meet?”


About CGC Coaches

The latest workplace news/trends/issues from global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
This entry was posted in Job Search Strategy, Networking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s