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Cold Calling in Recruitment
Is cold calling only for sales, or can recruitment teams utilize this tool as well? Here are three tips to step up your recruitment cold calling.

What Is Cold Calling in Recruitment?

Cold calling in recruitment is outbound phone calling potential job prospects who have not directly applied to the open position your organization is filling. There are many ways that phone numbers may be available for HR professionals to use and tools that extract phone numbers.

Should HR Cold Call in Recruitment?

Cold calling is an exceptional tool that HR professionals can use to find passive talent who may be open to new job opportunities but may not be actively applying. Research shows that only 30% of the global workforce is actively applying to new opportunities. When HR professionals, hiring managers and recruiters rely solely on incoming job applications through their career site or ATS, they limit their talent pool to only 30% of the available talent pool. For organizations wishing to fill a role quickly or with top talent, restricting the talent pool to that degree may make it difficult to fill the role in the right timeline with the right person. Cold calling can be challenging, not to mention scary, so does it make sense for a hiring team to utilize this process? Studies show that 60% of passive talent, or talent that is currently employed and not actively looking for a new opportunity, is still open to discussing a new opportunity. Therefore it makes sense to utilize available tools to help you begin communicating with that passive talent.

Pros of Cold Calling in Recruitment

  • Fast. Cold calling is one of the fastest ways to get in contact with a passive candidate AND get that passive candidate actively into your interview process. Emailing is a great way to get in contact with passive candidates but it can also be slow. Suppose you email a passive prospect first thing in the morning but they don’t check their email until evening. Emails often have a 24-hour turnaround, whereas the cold calling turnaround, if the prospect answers, can be instantaneous. Since a phone call establishes live communication, it can be the fastest way to establish if a prospect is interested in an opportunity or not.
  • Live dialogue. Getting a prospect live on a cold call phone line is unique from other forms of passive outreach. Cold calling results in live communication between two individuals, while other forms of communication rely on messages and responses which inherently include a lag time.
  • Greater reach. Cold calling may be the best way to reach someone. Just like emailing or text messaging may be the best way to reach some people, others may pick up their phones more than they check their emails.

Cons of Cold Calling in Recruitment

  • Dislike. Some people who may otherwise be open to a new opportunity do not like to be called. These people are better reached through other means, like email and text.
  • Ignored calls. With the rise in robo and scam calls, many people don’t answer phone calls from a number they do not recognize. Similarly, if you are calling from a different area code than the prospect, you may give them another reason to not answer.
  • Call fatigue. Often with the number of calls people receive, they can experience call fatigue or a general sense that they get too many calls and are therefore likely to ignore calls, even calls they would normally take.

How to Prepare for Cold Calling in Recruitment

Cold calling is a tool that can be very effective for recruiting with the right amount of preparation beforehand. Without preparation, cold-calling is little different from spam calling. The preparation is what differentiates a good cold call that adds value to the recipient from a spam call that wastes their time.

Step 1: Identify What You Have to Offer

One of the primary reasons cold calling is an effective recruitment tool is because you are offering that person something of value. It’s not a trick, it’s not a scam, there is no catch; you actually have something to offer that they may be interested in. Remain confident in what you have to offer. Not every person will answer the phone chipper and ready to talk. Some will be standoffish, some will be closed off and others will be rude. As long as you remember you have something of value to offer and all that is required of them is to listen, you have a great chance of converting even the thorniest people into interested, active candidates.

Step 2: Build a Target Audience

Take the time, invest the energy and do your research before calling. If you call a structural engineer about an opportunity in HVAC equipment service, you will likely (and probably rightfully) get hung up on. The more time you take to hone your target audience and find the right people to call, the more likely you will be to get the right results from your cold calls. One of the hardest parts of finding your target audience is finding contact information for the people you want to talk to. You may find several qualified profiles on LinkedIn, but very few people on LinkedIn share their contact information, so you may have to get creative. There are many paid software tools and some free browser extensions that can extract unseen contact information or parse contact information from other places. Other tools like ZipRecruiter offer the full resume of a passive candidate, including their contact information. Indeed is another platform for proactive outreach that often restricts full contact information. Sometimes the best way to find the right contact information is to search on a place like Indeed and then use a separate tool for finding that passive prospect’s phone number.

Step 3: Prepare What You Are Going to Say

Make sure you know what you are going to say before you cold call someone. This does not mean you have to sound like a robot or like you are reading a script. The best cold calls sound unscripted, like a conversation between two friends or two interested parties. To get to that point, you may want to start with a script or general outline of what you want to touch on and include. Taking the time to construct the script or outline will help you sound confident and knowledgeable. People are more likely to gravitate towards that confidence and take the time to speak to you.

Step 4: Anticipate Rejection

Cold calling will not work every time. Some people will invent excuses, hang up or even respond rudely or yell at you. Take rejection in stride. Remain confident that you are taking a strategic approach to provide something of value to the right person. The other type of rejection you will face in cold calling is answering machines. Most people simply won’t answer the phone. This isn’t a sign that what you are doing is not working. Many people don’t answer the phone at all and most don’t answer the phone while they are working. If you think about it, it would be awkward to see an employee answering a phone call from a hiring manager right in the middle of their current business. Get creative about when you make your cold calls. Ideally you can catch someone on their lunch break or on their commute. Ultimately you want to get someone on the phone when they are at a time and place to spend a few minutes talking without undue interruption.

Tips for Cold Calling in Recruitment

Cold calling can be an effective recruitment tool, but just like any tool, it is only as effective as the person using the tool. To become a pro at cold calling, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Tip 1: Be Confident

The first tip for cold calling is to sound bold, assertive and enthusiastic. This is a little bit easier because you are not trying to sell anything; you are offering something that could be a life changing opportunity. Even though this is a phone call and not a face-to-face interaction, the person you are calling can still discern the confidence (or lack thereof) in the intonation, inflection and cadence of your voice.

Tip 2: Be Respectful

Every phone call should be conducted with consideration and courtesy. It may be your 50th cold call of the day and you may have been hung up on 12 times, but for the person you are calling, this is their first interaction with you. You need to treat each cold call, even your 50th, like your first. You control the energy of the call. Don’t fall victim to matching the energy of the person you are calling. For example, if they yell, instead of yelling back, maintain a calm, even tone.

Tip 3: Be Tactful

Be respectful when you make cold calls. Calling during business hours is the safest bet, but not always the easiest time to get a hold of someone. Calling after or before business hours can be a better time to get ahold of someone but may not be the most respectful of their time. Don’t call people too late or too early. Be respectful of how many times you call someone. If you call and they don’t pick up, you may want to call again the next day at a different time. However, don’t call someone so many times that they feel annoyed or consider it harassment. Take into consideration that the person may only have 1-2 minutes to talk. Try not to force a longer conversation if they don’t have the time. As a rule of thumb, let them tell you how much time they have. At first they may tell you they only have a minute, and that may be a smokescreen objection. If they really only have a minute, they will bring it back up a minute later.

Alternatives to Cold Calling in Recruitment

Just as it’s limiting to not utilize cold calling, it would also be limiting to only utilize cold calling. Members of the workforce are dynamic and diverse; some people are open to phone calls, others do not want to be called or do not answer calls from unknown numbers. The most successful recruitment strategies are as diverse as the workforce they are trying to recruit.

Alternative 1: Email

Email is a staple in the modern workforce. Many professionals check their work and personal emails many times per day. Of all methods used to reach out to passive talent, email is probably the most common and accepted. Keep in mind that people usually have multiple email addresses, including a work and personal email address.

Alternative 2: Text Message

Text messaging can be a controversial form of cold outreach but it is not without merit. Some people do not want to be contacted the first time via text message and aren’t open to text message communication with those they don’t know. Others are wary of text message-based phishing scams and will not respond to recruitment text messages. Even though controversial, there are plenty of success stories of hiring teams successfully contacting great hires for the first time by sending a text message.

Alternative 3: Online Outreach

Many professionals, both actively looking for a new opportunity and not actively looking, have online accounts on various professional networking communities like Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn. These online sites have features that allow hiring teams to reach out to prospects directly on their site. Not only is this an alternative to cold calling, it has quickly become a staple of most hiring teams.

Alternative 4: Networking Events

Some passive prospects simply don’t respond to cold emails, text messages, online messages, or cold calls, but that doesn’t mean they are closed off to new opportunities. Don’t forget to utilize hiring and networking events in the fields you are looking to hire. Sometimes an in-person human interaction is the most effective or only way to get through to a top tier prospect.
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Tyler Fisher, PHR

Tyler Fisher, PHR

Tyler empowers Talent Acquisition professionals, HR business leaders, and key stake holders to develop and execute talent management strategies. He is igniting the talent acquisition process through: team building, accurate time to fill forecasting, driving creative talent sourcing, and fine-tuning recruiting team effectiveness.
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