Pushing Your Way into the Executive Suite

By Debra Feldman

Almost no one jumps at the chance to cold call, especially when the product you’re pushing is yourself. Combine the usual discomfort of making an unsolicited contact with the high anxiety associated with job hunting and the result can be a pretty stressful experience. So why would anyone go through the agony? Because cold calling can really work.

Cold calling launches a successful search by establishing an immediate personal relationship between you and a real, live employer representative. Instead of waiting for the employer to respond to your resume you skip right to the first and critically necessary step of speaking directly with a hiring manager. This way you have a specific contact person for follow up and can obtain real time feedback on your candidate status. The whole process is expedited; face time from the beginning means a faster campaign.

Not only is cold calling an effective way to jump start your job search—it’s among the top techniques for accessing the hidden market of unadvertised jobs. Even when there isn’t a good fit immediately, it’s a way to get your name short-listed for the next suitable opening. There’s an added bonus sweetening your candidacy: Your unsolicited inquiry means no expensive recruitment fees for employers, and may give you a competitive advantage over other applicants.

The goal is to minimize anxiety and maximize potential for positive results. Here are some tips to streamline your approach and make your cold calls more effective. As always, targeted focus is the key. You need to target. . .

The right company: Choose one that your research shows can benefit from your skills and knowledge. Match your background to their industry, your interests to their apparent strategy, and your talents to a challenge you can identify and achieve. The closer you fit the profile of an ideal candidate, the easier it will be to sell yourself.

The right contact and relationship: Initiate contact with a company representative who is appropriate - usually not the president, CEO, or COO. This means finding someone in a functional or operational role, who’ll quickly assess your capabilities and recognize your value to their organization. While you may cold call HR to boost your status in response to an advertised position, HR is not the right place to learn about unadvertised jobs in the hidden job market. To get the early leads and truly be an insider, you want to get in touch and begin to cultivate lasting relationships with the hiring managers who will later propose your name. Remember, a focused inquiry will yield focused results, so make sure you get to the contact’s direct extension.

The right circumstances: Everyone is busy, so it’s often a challenge to reach someone with time to converse. Try varying the times at which you call, or send an e-mail requesting a callback or telephone appointment. You might also get an assistant to help you arrange the call. If you sense that the person answering the phone is distracted or not cooperating, it’s wise to graciously end the call and politely arrange to call back at a more convenient time.

The right goals: Be prepared to say something relevant or provide some information of value based on your research. Have some business small talk ready to share as a warm-up rather than charging ahead with your solicitation of job-hunting help. Try to make this a two-way, mutually gratifying exchange.

The right network: Over 80 percent of executive placements are made through networking, personal introductions and referrals. Cold calling is a very effective way of expanding your business contacts database and connecting you to people who might share a job lead with you now or in the future. This is not about instant results, scheduling an immediate job interview or getting your resume read: It’s about making connections for the long-term. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate results. Think of the time involved as an investment. It takes patience to find the right person with whom you have something in common both professionally and personally.

The right career management strategy: Remembering that you are the one asking for help should keep you polite and respectful. At the same time, approach cold calling activities as an exchange among equals, not as a plea from a subordinate. You aren’t asking for a job, you’re proposing to make a measurable contribution for your mutual success.

If it sounds cliché it’s because it’s true: “It’s not what you know but who you know” that most influences how quickly you find that next perfect opportunity. Show your target you’re someone their organization needs to be successful. How do you get in the door to start such a dialogue? Remember: Call at a time convenient for your contact; communicate a value-driven message showing how you can address their challenges, provide solutions, save them money, generate new revenues and increase profits. I think you’ll find that cold calling isn’t such a “cold” prospect after all. Debra Feldman designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior-level executive job search campaigns. You can reach her at debrafeldman@jobwhiz.com.

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