While it’s certainly not the easiest thing to do, cold calling can be the most effective way to find a job.
Forget sending out countless resumes through job boards. They mostly go into a black hole, never to be seen – by anyone but you – again. But pick up the phone. It can be your most important job search tool.
Since some job experts say that as many as 80% of all job openings are unadvertised, this may in fact be the only way to find the majority of jobs. And there’ll be less competition.
While you’ll want to avoid human resources departments whose job it is to weed applicants out, using the phone to call hiring managers can bring results.
But remember it’s a numbers game. It may take many “no’s” till you get to a “yes,” so keep on calling. Focus on your activity and momentum building and not whether you hear a “no” or “yes.”
Put together a calling list
The first thing you have to do is put together a list of maybe 100 businesses to call where you would be interested in working.
Two possible resources for this are your local phone book – paper or online version – and Business Finder, an online tool created by the American Job Center. This free database offers the name of the business, its address and phone number and key contact people with their titles. The Business Finder also includes each company’s business description, industry code, number of employees, website and even the distance of the business from your location. It offers a variety of ways to search for businesses.
American Job Center also has other resources you may want to consider for finding prospective employers.
Determine who to call
Always find out who you should call in each business. That hiring manager is typically the manager of the department in which you’d like to work. If it’s a small company (say under 25 employees), you might want to get in touch with the company manager, owner or president.
Do your homework. If you don’t already have it, look at the company’s website to see if you can find the name of the person you should talk to. If not, call the main number and ask the receptionist by pressing “O.”
What to say
Say to the person who answers, “I am trying to find out the name of the person who is the manager of (department). How do you spell their last name? What is their official title?” If they are not sure, ask if they have a company directory handy and can look it up. And make sure you ask, “By the way, what’s that person’s email address?”
Then you can later call back and either ask for that person or find them through the electronic directory and talk to them directly. Prepare a script, so you will have confidence, but don’t read from it. You can use your 15-second elevator pitch, a short sales pitch about yourself and what you bring to the job. (There are many examples online, and here’s a site with a variety.) You can also use information from your JIST card to prepare what you’re going to say.
Be enthusiastic, sincere in your interest, and remember to smile. They can’t see you but can sense and feel your smile, and believe it or not, a smile can make you more relaxed and confident.
Consider calling after business hours
If you’re too nervous to call them during office hours, call after hours and leave a message on their voice mail. Use your 15-second elevator pitch emphasizing your strengths.
It might be something like:
“Hi, my name is _______ and my phone number is ________. I love doing________ and am really good at it. I’m confident that I have the experience that could help your company succeed. I think I can offer you (give your three top assets).”
“Again, my number is_____ (say it and then repeat it) I’d like to get together to talk more about how I would be a good fit at (company name). I would appreciate it if you could give me some information about working at your company. As soon as I get off the phone. I’m going to follow up with an email and hope to hear from you soon.”
Send an email with your JIST card attached, and if you don’t hear back in a couple of days, call again.
If you don’t hear back within a week, call one more time, and say something like:
“This is ______. My phone number is ____ (if voice-mail). I’ve left a couple of voice mail messages and know how things can slip through the cracks. I don’t mean to be a pest but I hope you’re the type who appreciates persistence. I just wanted to let you know that I think I can contribute to your company and would love to talk to you about it. I’d appreciate hearing back from you, but if I don’t I promise not to call you another time. Again, this is ______ and my number is _____. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Although you may not hear back from all of the hiring managers you contact, those who do call back will help you get one step closer to the job you’re looking for. Remember it’s a numbers game. And never give up. Every “no’ brings you closer to a “yes.”
Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.