As a former recruiter, I will be the first person to recommend against cold calling a recruiter.
In addition, those job postings say, “No phone calls, please” for a reason – calling to follow up on your application is not a good use of time.
However, does that mean you should never cold call in your job search?
Not at all -- I am a big advocate of cold calling prospective employers in your job search for the right reasons and with the right technique.
Cold calling covers more ground: finding a personal introduction for a “warm” call might be impossible for certain firms where you just don’t have a lead. Cold calling is faster: when you rely on someone else to make an introduction you are hostage to their timetable (and no one will have the same urgency about your search as you will). Cold calling keeps the ball in your court: you know exactly how you’re going to pitch a cold call, but you can’t control how someone talks about you when they refer you, regardless of how well-intentioned they are.
But cold call hiring managers, not recruiters. My job as a recruiter was to find the best match for my client, not help you with your job search. It was rare that an unsolicited call was from a candidate with the exact fit – if you have the exact fit to an open job, the recruiter will likely find you. The irony is that, as a recruiter I had the perspective to often see how someone without the exact background or experience could do the job, but I was not in a position to advocate for that person. A recruiter’s role is to make the exact match and keep everyone else out. Hiring managers, on the other hand, are the decision-makers for the actual job and don’t need to focus on keeping people out, just getting the right person in. You want to cold call the hiring manager. This means you need to identify who is the decision-maker for that job.
Your cold call to the hiring manager needs to demonstrate that you are that right person for their job.
A lot of jobseekers focus their pitch on who they are – where they worked, what they did. The prospective employer cares about how their new hire will work for them and what they will do for them. Frame everything you did in terms of benefit to the hiring manager. It’s not just about having done extensive market research for Old Company A. It’s about being able to research this Market-You-Care-About for Target Company B. This means you need to know your target intimately – what they are working on, what keeps them up at night – so you can position yourself as the answer to their prayers.
Identifying the right people and positioning yourself in a way that gets noticed is hard work. But it’s the difference between the average jobseeker with little to no results and the star candidate with multiple offers (yes, people are getting multiple offers in this market). Identifying hiring managers and pitching yourself well, while difficult, are skills that can be learned. Many of my clients didn’t believe in cold calling till they did it and got jobs because of it. So get the support you need to do it right and cold call away. Cold calling is an effective job search strategy.
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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and other leading business authors) of the upcoming "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" spring 2010, Bascom Hill Books. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Time Inc, Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.