Cold calling – it’s an art form, it’s a science, it’s the livelihood of recruiting. In any profession that deals with engaging prospects, cold-calling is a key form of outreach. Yet, there is an underlying hesitation about making cold-calls.


It can be intimidating to pick up the phone and not feel in control – are they going to pick up? Will I be able to reach them directly or will there be a gatekeeper that I cannot get through? Are they going to be upset I am calling them at work? How do I get their attention? It’s easy to see why written communication can feel a little more ‘safe.’ But guess what? Safe does not always net results. Cold-calling is absolutely, positively part of recruiting, and it always will be. So let’s shed a little light on how to cold-call successfully and dispel some common concerns.

You Have 5 Seconds

First thing first- the initial five seconds are make or break. In those five seconds, you need to get the prospective candidate engaged and willing to listen for another 20 seconds. Then those next 20 seconds should be focused on keeping them interested and willing to have a three minute conversation. That’s the order and the goal. If you aren’t going to be effective in the first five seconds – you might as well hang up, because it’s not going to happen. How do you engage them? It’s all about your attitude. Bring energy and bring positivity. Put yourself in their shoes – listening to someone mumble their way through a series of incoherent sentences because they are on auto-pilot and have said the same thing 50 times already that day will not resonate. You have to treat each and every call like it means something – because it does. If you find yourself struggling to bring constant energy and positivity with your calls, try this: Smile your way through the conversation or message and I guarantee there will be a change in tone and energy. If you can’t remember to smile, put a mirror on your desk and look at yourself and your expressions while making the calls – if you are dedicated to the change it will work.

Check out our article on leaving voicemails to get passive candidates to call you back, and see how we explain tone and confidence in further detail.  

Time Your Call

If you were to take a poll and ask “which day is the worst day of the week to get ahold of you?”  You would find that the answers would be so varied that the results would show there is not a single best or worst day to get in touch with someone.  There is no such thing as a day in the week to avoid making cold calls, although it may depend on profession and industry. For example, someone working in professional services may spend the beginning of Monday and the end of Thursday traveling. When they are onsite at their project, they may not want to dedicate time away for a call – but maybe you can catch them briefly and schedule something for a time that does work.  And although Fridays seem like a bad day to call, those professionals that are traveling during the week are likely to be in the office or at home on Fridays. It varies so much by industry and profession that there are truly no days that should be avoided. 

One idea when it comes to meetings – most end at the top of a half hour – (3:30 PM, 4:00 PM). Typically a meeting doesn’t begin or end at a time like 1:17 PM. So those 5 minutes after the top of each half hour- (2:05 PM, 10:35 AM), there is a chance you are catching someone just as they are getting back to their desk and are finished with a meeting with a few moments of time. Those are valuable times to try to reach someone. Prioritize important candidates that you want to reach so that you can call them at those times.  Best advice here is to test and try.

One more thing on timing – if you are calling on sales candidates, be aware of time of the month and quarter. Great times to focus heavily on cold calls to sales candidates are right at the beginning of a new month or quarter. End of the month and quarter are typically not good because the priority for them is on making their numbers and any time away can cost them their quota.


There is an old rule in cold-calling – setting up a call that is 48 hours out is as good as dead. Anything that far out is unreliable and shouldn’t even count. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but you get the picture. If you are scheduling a call because the prospective candidate cannot talk at that moment, try to make it within 48 hours of the initial connection. Specifically, attempt to make it within that same day. Use a little psychology to get a prospective candidate to commit to a call – ask them for a time that works for them. They might say “I’m available between 12:00 and 3:00 PM tomorrow.”  In response tell them “OK I can do 2:00 PM, but I am going to need to reschedule some things. I have a call at 1:30 PM, but I can pull it back to 1:15 PM. I think the person I am talking to would be willing to do me that favor. But I need to 100 percent know that if I do that you will be there at 2:00 PM when I call. Are you able to totally commit to that time?”

If they agree, there is less likelihood they will blow you off – sure some will – but the “guilt feeling” may kick in since you “changed” your schedule and they will stick to the plan.  This will also set the stage that you are busy, have a lot of people to talk to and being in touch with you is “desirable” for them.   You don’t want the candidate to feel like you have ALL day to speak with them and you are on their terms. Your time is valuable and limited, they should know that, and you should know that. 

Build a Relationship through Messaging

The ‘Rule of Seven’ tells us that a prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you. This rule also applies when reaching out to a prospective candidate – that’s marketing too.  There is a way to build a relationship with a prospective candidate through the voicemails and emails that you leave them. It is all about WHEN you leave the message and WHAT you say. If you send the same message every day at the same time it isn’t going to resonate. Instead, try leaving an initial message that says you are going to try back later that day and with more details.  Then following through with that creates a flow of information that they begin to at least remember. If you don’t hear from them, call again the next day saying you don’t have any additional details but will send an email as a place holder to remind them to schedule a call back. Then follow that up with some more details or some questions that you want to ask them. Try them at weird times – call them at 8:00 at night and then 7:00 in the morning and leave those messages. When they come in and hear both messages, it’s going to be the first things they hear when they listen to their voicemail in the morning. They’ll begin to remember you.

Cold calling is just one of the strategies to be used in direct targeting. Before dismissing it as passé and assuming no one will answer their phone and talk to you, give it a try!