cold-calling companies and showing up in person to submit a resume

A reader writes:

I have read your articles about cold-calling here and here, but I think today’s market is somewhat tougher and I would love to know your thoughts.

I am currently looking for a graduate position in architecture field. It is tough without any local experience. Having tried applying advertised jobs and reaching contacts but to no avail, I would like to cold call companies to see if they have any openings (most jobs in my field are not advertised).

What do you think would work best to approach companies for a job given that I would tailor each application with a good cover letter? Phone call, email, walk-in or send hard copy by post?

I understand that the best strategy would be email, but I could imagine the amount of job inquiry emails they receive every week in today’s job market. That is the method everyone is using and the application would be just looked away. By phone call or walk-in, I do not mean asking to speak to the hiring manager but probably just politely greet the receptionists and ask if they could pass my resume to the right person. And then follow-up with an email. I would appreciate if you could advise me on this.

The best way to apply for a job is the way the company has told you to do it. And that usually means applying online.

Cold-calling and walking in without an appointment hasn’t become a better idea just because the job market is tighter now. In fact, to the contrary, it’s a worse idea because the job market is tighter now.

Employers have tons of candidates to choose from — candidates who follow the employer’s directions on how to apply. Ignoring those directions and deciding to call or come by in person because you want to “stand out” says that you value your own convenience and preferences over theirs, and that’s basically a deal-breaker at the very early stages of a hiring process, when they know little else about you and have no reason to overlook that kind of rudeness. Because it is rudeness, even though you’re not thinking of it that way. They have an application process that they’ve directed candidates to use because it’s the one that makes it as efficient as possible for them, and you’re essentially saying, “Too bad, I like my way better.” And when they have tons of qualified candidates who aren’t doing that, it’s easy to simply discard you — or at least to consider it a major strike against you.

And while you might think that simply delivering your resume in-person and asking for it to be passed along isn’t such a big problem, the reality is that (a) you’re going to annoy them, and (b) you’re very, very likely to just be told to go online to apply anyway. Companies that direct you to apply online want you to do that because they want to get your materials in their electronic tracking system. Hard copies make that harder for them, not easier.

Just follow their directions.

I understand that you want to stand out and get their attention, but the way you stand out in a job search is by being a great candidate:  having a resume that shows a strong track record of getting results in the areas that the employer is hiring for, writing a compelling cover letter that doesn’t simply regurgitate information they can find on your resume, and being professional, friendly, and responsive when they contact you. It’s not about finding ways to circumvent what they’ve asked you to do.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte

    Unsolicited materials submitted outside the usual pipeline also get lost and buried. I don’t even mean on purpose–I mean that when you hand a kind of document to somebody who doesn’t handle them, there’s no regular place for them and they end up in a pile somewhere.

    1. Jessa

      Honestly, if I was the gatekeeper at a place that said “submit in manner x” and a person submitted in manner y, I would have no qualms about telling them that they were now on our do not hire list and why. If the instructions say do it online, do it online. If it says do it by registered mail, do it that way. If it says do it in legal size on blue paper, then do it on legal sized blue paper. For whatever they ask for they have a reason. It may be as silly as “let’s see if they do what we say,” or it may have some technical thing to do with their industry.

      But the only legit way to apply for a job, is to apply the way they ask you to.

      1. LS

        The problem as I understand it (and know from personal experience) is that many jobs in the field of architecture are not advertised, therefore there are no instructions on how to apply. I don’t get the impression this person is just trying to go off and do their own thing to stand out, merely trying to get their foot in the door in an industry that rarely advertises job openings even when they have them. I feel the original poster’s pain as it is beyond frustrating to try to even figure out if there are jobs to apply for if nothing is advertised and there is no “apply online”.

        1. Anonymous

          Yes, this was the impression I got as well. I sympathize – in my area, most paralegal jobs aren’t advertised and neither are most librarian jobs (my current field and my brand-new-MLIS field). How can one follow the directions if there are none?

          1. KellyK

            I think that in fields where this is the case, the thing to do is to ask people you know in that field how they got their jobs. Did they randomly send in a resume? Did someone in their professional network recommend them for it? That should provide some hints on what the “process” for accessing these unadvertised jobs is.

          2. Librarian

            What kind of librarian/MLIS jobs are you looking for? My experience is that in Academic/Public settings, positions must be posted, even when they know who they want internally. That’s frustrating on a whole other level when folks waste their time applying for a job that isn’t really up for grabs.

            1. Librarian

              Also meant to add that there are so few librarian jobs available that it might seem like there are secret positions we don’t know about, but I don’t really think that’s the case.

          3. cautiousness

            I completely understand that. There’s paralegal jobs that need experience but how are you supposed to get experience if every paralegal job is not giving the experience that you need so i totally get what your saying. But, there are some realator jobs that are always open. But I hope you get what your looking for.

        2. tcookson

          True . . . I assist the department head in architecture at my university, and for his private architecture practice, he doesn’t advertise the positions, nor does he have an admin/”gatekeeper” type person who could throw away perfectly good applications to justify their own sense of rules-following.

          He once said that his mentor told him that if he has a person who has consistently asked and asked him for a job, he should hire them. He says that at the time, he did have a person who had asked him multiple times for a job, and he wasn’t interested. He decided to follow his mentor’s advice and give the guy a chance, and that’s how he got one of the best employees he’s ever had.

          Not to encourage people to not follow normal business protocols for most jobs, but sometimes architecture practices (especially small ones run by the principal) can be as different from normal practices as, say, California or academia.

          1. tcookson

            BTW . . . I was resonding to LS: ” . . . many jobs in the field of architecture are not advertised, therefore there are no instructions on how to apply.”

  2. Kimberlee, Esq.

    Yeah, completely agree with this. But take heart, job-seeker! There are definitely ways to make yourself a stronger candidate that are totally in your control.

    If there is any software that is used typically in your field that you don’t already know, try to learn it. If there are any qualifications in the job descriptions you’re applying for that you don’t meet (other than “years of experience”), you know where to look to start growing your skill set.

    And finally, look into jobs that require many of the same skills/attributes but that aren’t architecture… my understanding is that it’s a hyper competitive field no matter where you are, so be willing to look at related positions, or even positions totally outside the field where your skills might be handy.

    Worst case scenario: start an architecture blog. Prove that you’re engaging in the field in a meaningful way even when not employed/employed non-architecturally. Take pictures of cool archways and shit. Good luck!

  3. Tina

    As usual, I agree with Alison. Rarely does showing up out of nowhere have a positive impact. Having done some short stints as receptionist, I can remember at least one occasion where someone physically dropped off a resume for consideration. I told my supervisor, the HR person, who rolled her eyes and told me to throw it out.

    You also assume the receptionist knows more than s/he might actually know. Depending on the size of the company, the receptionist may have no better idea who the appropriate person is, than you do.

  4. A Bug!

    You might stand out by doing those things. But if you did, you would more likely stand out as a person who doesn’t follow instructions or who doesn’t understand the current conventions.

    That and, if you hand the receptionist your resume when you haven’t been instructed to apply in person, you don’t know for sure it’s going to get where it needs to go.

  5. Briggs

    As an architect, there are actually a lot of ways to make yourself stand out, stay employed, and grow your network without being employed by a firm:
    – Market yourself independently as a general contractor.
    – Farm out your AutoCAD skills as a draftsperson for hire.
    – Go talk to the kitchen and bath manager at the local Menards and ask them to hand out your business card to people looking to renovate.
    – Look into teaching a seminar in AutoCAD at a local college or university (or public library).
    – Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
    – Network at the local Green Drinks (
    – Set yourself apart by getting your LEED certification, or even set up a study group in your area to get a bunch of people certified.
    – Lastly, and most obviously, go into business for yourself. Unless you’re still an intern, and as long as you have some experience and a decent portfolio, you can usually undercut larger firms and get jobs by simply being the most affordable option. Think you can’t do it on your own? Get a cheap or free intern from the local university.

    Hope this gives you some ideas. Good luck!

    1. Anonymous

      “Cheap or free intern”… and this is how you perpetuate the cycle of unpaid internships.

        1. Anonymous

          If the intern doing work that the OP does not have time to do, then the intern should be appropriately compensated for it IMO. This isn’t “job shadowing”.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            If the person can hire someone to do the work well enough, then whatever she’s paying IS appropriate compensation — otherwise the market wouldn’t let her find someone good enough for that compensation. By definition, the market rate is what you need to pay to attract the right person.

            1. Anonymous

              That’s a fair point. I guess I was thinking more from the perspective of “interns = free labor” that some organizations seem to take. But of course, the market rate is what counts. (We can make similar arguments for getting rid of minimum wage in general, but that’s waaay off-topic for this thread :) )

              1. Briggs

                And please don’t forget that a lot of architecture programs require a student to complete an internship in order to meet graduation requirements. A lot of these students are running into the same problem as the OP: tight job market in a small and difficult to break into field. By opening up an internship position he might actually be doing some budding architect a huge favor.

                I agree that fair work should be fairly compensated. Many student interns are paid a small wage more in line with their skill level, plus gain experience, knowledge, and projects for their portfolio which are hugely valuable to a creative professional just starting out. An independent architect should remember to build in the cost of support staff whenever they’re bidding a job.

        2. Employment lawyer

          Actually, they are often both illegal and unethical.

          It’s possible to do an unpaid internship legally and ethically. But in most cases it is a very difficult task to do correctly. As a result it’s hard to do other than for nonprofits, government entities, and large firms that have compliance departments.

        3. JD

          That’s actually not true, AAM. Check the Department of Labor standards. The employer should derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and intern cannot displace paid employees. Unpaid internships are supposed to benefit the intern rather than the employer.

          Most unpaid internships are illegal. Will you get caught? Probably not. But that doesn’t make it “legal and ethical.”

          1. Anna

            This is actually a topic that’s come up recently because so many companies are not doing them under the legal standards. The Department of Labor is starting to get antsy about the number of unpaid internships being touted by companies as “learning experiences”, especially when they don’t fulfill a college requirement or vocational school work hour requirement.

    2. Natalie

      And on the subject of Habitat for Humanity – the Habitat organization in my city has a young professionals networking group. There may be similar groups in your area that are oriented around service rather than this or that specific field.

    3. bo bessi

      I’d also suggest joining your local AIA chapter and getting involved in a committee. The networking you’ll get out of that is so valuable. We’re much more likely to interview someone recommended by current employees who have worked with them in a professional capacity.

  6. Rana

    I would say that, if the norm in your area is that jobs aren’t advertised (that seems odd to me, but, eh) then what you should be doing isn’t cold-calling people, but improving your network.

    That way you will not only learn about new openings when they arise, but you will also have people who know you who can tell you about whether the job’s a good fit, help you with recommendations, and so on. (Obviously, you’d be doing the same in return.) Think of it as the difference between having an invitation to attend an event, versus gate-crashing.

    And networking’s a good idea in any case; if you’re going to be an active player in your field, you can’t just focus on the job-getting part, or the work-and-tasks part, but also on building relationships with people.

    1. Job seeker

      This is all well and good except if you are just starting out or trying to re-enter the job market and have no network to speak of. I honestly have a very limited professional network. I can imagine a young person starting out is in the same boat.

      It is wonderful to build relationships with people when you get to know them, but when they are basically strangers what do you do? Wish there was a how-to book for beginners or starting over.

  7. Hannah

    My boss recently posted a listing on Craigslist and didn’t identify the company in the listing, though it wasn’t too hard to figure out if you did a little research. Several people figured out the company, and used their google skills to figure out HR’s contact info and send their resumes there instead of replying using the info in the listing. Why do people do this? People seemed to think their (not so) clever google detective skills would outweigh their inability to just follow instructions.

    I get what the OP is saying about many jobs being unadvertised, but if you just get in touch with the employer by another means than they advertised, you’re still a stranger to them, just one who can’t follow instructions.

    1. A Bug!

      As far as I can tell, they think it’s a shortcut to getting their resume in front of a person who makes decisions. The idea is that, if a resume normally goes through several filters before reaching someone who actually makes the short list, if you can skip the filters then you’re more likely to make the short list.

      I would presume that it’s the same lack of forethought that’s behind all those deceptive gimmicks designed to bypass normal channels – “Write ‘Personal’ on the envelope” – or the goofy ones to make your resume stand out – “Print your resume on blue cardstock”. They aren’t really looking past the short-term goal of getting your resume in front of the hiring manager, and miss considering how you’re going to come across once you do. (“I’m short-sighted, and maybe also unethical.”)

      1. fposte

        And using me as an example, you don’t *want* to shortcut the process to get to me, even though I’m the hiring manager. I’m not the one organizing our applications, and I don’t have a physical space for them. Hand me your materials and they’ll most likely end up in a pile forgotten.

    2. Kay

      For a Craigslist posting I don’t necessarily blame the candidates. When I’m browsing listings on Craigslist, if I have 10 tabs open as potential leads, starting to dig in and Google and do some detective work will generally reveal that 5-9 of them are seriously dodgy in one way or another. For listings posted on Craigslist, Monster, and CareerBuilder, I almost always prefer to go directly to the company if there is any way to do so.

      (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that an e-mail address I’ve had for 6 years and never received more than 2-3 spam messages per week on has been receiving 5-10 spam messages *per hour* since I applied for a job on CareerBuilder.)

  8. LS

    I think this advice would make sense for your usual corporate jobs, however, I work in the architecture industry and jobs are hardly ever posted online. I got my current job by cold calling and asking the receptionist who I should submit a resume to, took down their name and email and emailed them my résumé and portfolio directly. I had good response and got a job out of it. In a small industry where hardly anything is posted online, I’m not sure how else I would have gone about this or will the next time I am job searching … So I guess I am saying there may be occasions where this is appropriate?? To me, a small field like architecture may be one where this is ok. A lot of architecture firms are so small, that its not like they post jobs online. I honestly can only think of a couple in my city that do. My firm does not and probably never will not. Most people I know get their jobs by word of mouth or by doing what I described above.

    I feel like the point of the original question is being missed … The problem is, they’re not telling you HOW to apply. As crazy as it sounds architecture is a strange industry and its hard to get your foot in the door.

    As for applying in person … No, never. Such a bad idea. We laugh at those people and their resumes get flagged.

    1. LS

      Meant to add … I echo the comments about networking. Word of mouth is the #1 way to get a job in the field of architecture.

    2. fposte

      I think your way is different than what the OP’s suggesting, though. It’s an unsolicited application, but it’s an unsolicited application delivered in the way the office said was the best way. The OP is falling for the theory that hand-delivering, regardless of what the office says, gives you an edge.

    3. Spiny

      Agreed…the question is asking how best to cold-call a company, not to circumvent their application system for actual advertised openings.

    4. Reader

      Thanks Alison for your prompt reply. Yes, what LS have said was exactly what I am facing. Many jobs in architecture field are not advertised, and only very few companies would have career section on their websites for us to submit resumes. There are no instructions on how to apply whatsoever.

      I reckon that networking would be the best way to tap into hidden job market (in fact I got my previous job through an organisation I worked as volunteer tutor) but it takes time to establish connections. In the meantime, wouldn’t it be better if we can take the initiatives to do something besides merely applying jobs online which are so limited?

      I am a fan of Briggs’ ideas. It’s better to use our skills outside the box to stay in the field rather than doing some labour work just to make ends meet. On doing internship, some companies would rather take students even if we graduates don’t mind doing it for free. And it’s hard to approach companies and offer to work in lower pay in exchange of work experience because to some it sounds unprofessional.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But unless architecture is an extremely unusual industry that functions like no other, cold calling won’t usually help. They’re not “hidden jobs” in the sense that you have to call to hear about them; they’re hidden in that they’re going to people they know / have connections with. If you cold call, you’re still a stranger. You’d need to network your way into them.

      2. LS

        I would definitely get involved with AIA, IIDA, USGBC or any other local design group. I live in a mid-size city and there are various options in my city. Or honestly, just going to lunch with your friends in the industry is how I hear about a lot of jobs. As Briggs mentioned I would definitely take your LEED exam, however, that doesn’t really make you “stand out” anymore. It’s pretty much a basic qualification. We won’t hire anyone that isn’t a LEED AP. Also, get up to speed with all the computer programs you can (everything is going Revit, so I’d learn that if possible).

        But, I still feel there’s nothing wrong with a polite phone call to figure out who you can send your resume/portfolio to if it’s not stated on the website (pretty sure it’s not on my company’s website, haha!) Not only are most architecture jobs not advertised, a lot of firms don’t necessarily even have an actual “opening” when they hire. Architecture is very fluid and changes by the hour on staffing needs, so to me, having your resume in the right hands at the right time is all it may take.

        I am sure to most people in more corporate settings, this sounds crazy, but the architecture industry is strange – there’s no doubt about that. Good luck!! It’s finally starting to turn around for our industry and the work seems to be pouring in.

  9. Cara Carroll

    I am sure someone might have already mentioned this, but NETWORKING! In this situation building a network sounds like it might be very beneficial, since they state opportunities in the field might not always be publicly known. Just by doing a quick Google search for architecture organizations I found the following links. Additionally, most organizations besides hosting various networking events have a Careers section. Another option would be to look up various Meetups and LinkedIn groups in their area. Also, subscribing to publications in the field, getting familiar with trends and news.

  10. Michael

    “I would like to cold call companies to see if they have any openings (most jobs in my field are not advertised).”

    I don’t know anything about the architecture field, but I’m guessing that firms don’t just create open job postings and then sit around waiting for folks to call up on a whim. Other commenters above have outlined ways to build and use your network; that’s going to far more reliable and fruitful (now and in the long run) than scatter-shot guessing. If the firms aren’t posting them, they are probably searching their own networks to see who might be a good fit.

  11. Kris

    I’ve seen some comments from folks in the architecture industry who say cold calling worked for them, so even though I’m dubious there could be some argument for that approach.
    As for just showing up in an office unannounced (even if you are polite), that doesn’t only seem rude to me, it would also raise a red flag that this person is extremely out of touch with both social and professional standards of conduct. The double-whammy of inconsiderate and weird would be two significant strikes against you.

    1. LS

      When I said cold calling worked for me, I meant calling the receptionist to ask who to send a resume for, NOT showing up in person. I 100% agree that’s never a good idea!

  12. Anonimus

    Yes yes yes! It IS a bad idea to cold-call and unexpectedly show up to companies! I have been trying for the past several months to explain this to my Boomer mother, yet she thinks I’m making it all up and thinks I’m using this common sense notion as an excuse to not apply for jobs.

    I did it before and I lost out on opportunities I was qualified for because they found it so rude and obnoxious that I would go to their business with my resume in hand or call them, asking about job opportunities. The secretary at one place put my name on the Sh*t List they maintain for people who don’t follow directions, so to speak. Mom still doesn’t get it. (and don’t get me started on that time she sat right next to me to listen to me cold-call companies….)

    And I know of a lot of kids whose parents are telling them this same kind of advice and lo and behold, they’re unemployed/underemployed! So really, don’t listen to your parents and do what the company tells you to do, and you’re good.

  13. Sandrine

    If I was cold calling in such a situation, I’d probably just ask politely if the company accepts applications and, if so, the directions for applying.

    Would that bit work ?

    1. shellbell

      Why wouldn’t you check their website first. Many websites include instructions for applying. I think calling first shows a lack of savvy.

      1. LS

        Sandrine, that’s exactly what I’ve done if there’s nothing on the website indicating how to apply (because sometimes with small firms, there’s not).

  14. nyxalinth

    I remember a book (still around, though I don’t know if his advice has changed) called “What Color is Your Parachute?” that was all about how most jobs are hidden, and you have to sit down and research whom you want to work for and then call them. Maybe this worked back in the 80s when he first started this book, but now, you’d just look like an idiot.

    1. nyxalinth

      I just checked on via their preview function…he is STILL advising that rubbish as the number one best way! The only thing in his top 5 ways to get a job that didn’t make me screech was networking. I did a one star review and explained why and then recommended Alison’s books.

  15. Chocolate Teapot

    Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions has a whole section on hidden jobs as well. I seem to recall a chapter with a sample telephone conversation to persuade somebody to give you an interview.

  16. Employment lawyer

    You need to network with people who ARE NOT hiring, because you can safely talk to them without seeming whiny, and you need to impress them enough that they will introduce you to people who ARE hiring.

    Informational interviews, conferences, presentations, etc.

  17. Rob Aught

    If an applicant showed up in person to drop off a resume and it somehow gets to my desk, it is probably going into the trash.

    I love it when people show initiative, but being unable to follow basic directions is a major red flag. Now, if that person applies through proper channels and it makes it through the screening process I’ll probably read it. I’d like to assume they learned their lesson or maybe they were just trying to cover their bases. Extra effort is not worth penalizing, but it really will be a waste of time for them in my case.

  18. brandy

    I work in Reception for a global company. We have website, it CLEARLY shows / says to apply online.
    We still get resumes faxed in, dropped off in person, emailed and snail mailed.
    While I do pass them onto to correct person, and I do direct them to apply online, I can tell you that by their doing this it only slows things down for them. If they apply online, the people in hiring have instant access and notification of their doing so.
    If I have to inter office it TO the hiring dept, it WILL delay the process for you. I am not scheduling a special trip for your resume.
    If you drop by and say you only have an hour to meet someone, it won’t help get you an interview any faster. Even if you tell me you know the owner / manager / CEO. I just don’t have that power. If you threaten me, which does happen, I will take your resume, guess what I tell the hiring department?
    A little tip, when you come in and apply, the hiring deptartment nearly always asks me what I thought of you, and after an interview, if they really like you, they come ask me if you were nice to me or not.
    In the end, if you drop by to apply, and are instructed to apply online, do so. Don’t argue, don’t pout, and don’t insist. While in an emergency I can get someone to talk to you, they are comming out to difuse a situation at that point, not to actually consider hiring you.

  19. anon

    I think Alison is a little too one-sided on this. I have a friend who got a job by calling up a company in a field she had unique experience in and asking if they needed someone with her skill set. They made a new position for her, and she’s been happily working there ever since. As long as you are professional, gracious, and keep it short, understanding that they may not have time for you, go for it. This is especially true if you have a niche skill that is desirable.

    I have another friend who applied for a job as a nurse, looked up the hiring manager online, contacted him on linkedin and introduced herself. He offered to give her a tour of the hospital. She ended up getting the job, in a very competitive market. It’s okay to put yourself out there as long as you are a sane person who isn’t going to keep annoying people along the way.

    1. Rob Aught

      I hear this stories all the time but I’ve never actually met someone who held such a position.

      In general it just doesn’t happen.

      It’s like a seatbelt. Some people say they don’t want to wear it because it can trap you in the car, but for a majority of situations it is much much more likely to protect you than kill you.

      Giving someone advice that is less likely to pan out is just, well, bad advice. As a hiring manager I am telling you that those resumes will go in my round file, file 13, “offsite storage” or whatever euphemism you prefer for “trash can”

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, and you can also find stories of people who got hired by doing all sorts of other things that generally don’t work 99% of the time and thus aren’t good recommendations, even if they do work once in a blue moon.

        1. anon

          Is it possible your experience as a hiring manager is limited to a certain kind of industry or location or company size? I think you may have a somewhat narrow perspective of how people find jobs, which is only natural, because we all judge things based on our own experience, but your experience as a hiring manager may not reflect the real nuances out there. It’s not always as simple as apply online, interview, done. Some niche industries and smaller companies are interested in hearing from people through cold calling.

          1. Rob Aught

            How can I say this politely?

            Are you daft?

            What you are talking about is a tiny niche that possibly doesn’t even exist anymore. The number of companies you could walk into, submit a resume, and get hired in ANY kind of position is less than 1%. I’m being conservative, I bet it is more like 0.01% but since I have no real facts I’ll stick with the more conservative estimate.

            I’m not saying don’t try it, but it’s not a wise time investment. The time you spent driving down to an office, talking to a receptionist, convincing the receptionist to take the resume, hoping she actually passes it on, and then drive home is time you could have applied for at least 4 or 5 positions if you’re being really slow and careful.

            In other words, if someone is asking me for GOOD advice on job hunting, this is not something I am going to tell them to do.

            Really, if you want to work at some small firm, work your network, find out if someone you know is connected, and work that angle. Your results are much likely to be better.

            As for industry experience, I have worked for start-ups of a dozen people to a 90,000 person consulting firm. I have seen many different industries, cultures, and parts of the country. Despite all of that I have never worked at or with any company that would hire someone right off the street. The days of spontaneously making a position on the spot are likely long since over if they existed at all.

            1. anon

              I think you are getting a little too defensive here. There’s no need to imply I’m daft.

              I also would not suggest walking into a company and handing over your resume, but rather creating a targeted list of companies that fit your unique skill set and then cold calling them asking if you could email over your resume is not a terrible idea. It doesn’t have the highest odds of working, but in some fields and regions, some people might need to take this proactive approach. I have seen it work for close friends of mine, so it can’t be as rare as you both say it is.

              I think what bothers me about this strong anti cold-calling stance is that it scaring people away from options that might actually work from them. It’s making them feel like they have fewer options than they actually do. What’s the worst that can happen? You spent a little time researching companies, finding out if you have a warm contact there, and then calling them? They say no. Okay, you move on. I think people need to feel empowered rather than think job boards are the only way to go.

              Also, it is possible that fields like architecture might have their own conventions. Other posters have mentioned above that they have cold called companies to find jobs in architecture. Alison offers excellent advice on this blog, which is why I keep coming back, but I think it’s impossible to know all the ins and outs of different industries. They may be different. They aren’t all the same. It’s okay to recognize this and discuss this.

              1. Rob Aught

                Not defensive at all, just trying to get you to understand that you’re arguing with two hiring managers who are both saying this is not a good time investment.

                I’m not saying it will never work or don’t do it. There are exceptions to every rule. However, like I said before, if a tactic is unlikely to pan out except for a very rare “win the lottery” style moment, why would I hand out that advice. It’s bad advice.

                The other issue you’re not taking into account is that in a bad economy most hiring managers are deluged with resumes. I’m fairly liberal about screening resumes, I’ll look at anyone’s. Most managers I know though will toss a resume over any little thing. They don’t want to be bothered.

                Why give someone an excuse? Sometimes standing out can be done in the wrong way.

            2. Stella

              I read your posts and they have stuck with me all day. Absurd, I know. You DO have several good points and a solid argument; however, there are holes in your conviction, the largest being your unmistakable arrogance. There is never, ever justification for rudeness, especially in a forum where one would hope to share thoughts and perspective in an attempt for a broader horizon without a fear of socially stunted comments thrown around.
              As a hiring manager with as much background as you tout, you should know better. You should *DO* better.
              Social etiquette rule: If you begin a statement with, “how can I say this politely,” best not to say it at all. To preface a graceless remark with such a flimsy, synthetic display for someone’s feelings does not release your responsibility of what comes falling out of your mouth next. Let’s not forget bad manners equals unprofessional.
              Good job, Hiring Alpha and Omega.
              P.S. I don’t know this person you’re debating with. It’s just the mere knowledge of someone who speaks the way you do to a total stranger is in a position to greatly affect the lives of others gets me a little hot under the collar. Guess that’s just my problem since your job history clearly proves your omniscience. My bad.

              1. Rob Aught

                The daft comment was somewhat tongue in cheek. No one I know actually talks that way. If I wanted to call someone an idiot I would have just called them an idiot.

                I do have little patience for someone who wants to argue based on an exception. I do know that there are different standards for different industries and company sizes. The important part was “Follow directions, apply the way the company instructs you”

                That’s about as solid as advice is going to get. Giving anyone advice counter that is just unwise.

                Or to put it more bluntly, if something works 99% of the time, I’m going to tell you to do that. There are long shots that occasionally pay off, but it shouldn’t be your strategy to spend all your time on the long shots.

                But hey, I admire your conviction enough to take me to task.

  20. Melissa

    I’m curious as to whether any teachers/academic positions have found things to be different. Most jobs seem to be posted online, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting a job that way – I’ve only heard of people getting hired when they have dropped by in person. I have a few friends who dropped by looking for teaching positions, and though all positions were filled, when there was an opening they were remembered and called.

    1. Rachel

      A year late, I realize, but in my area, schools are FORBIDDEN from accepting paper applications and teacher candidates are pre-screened with online questionnaires before being interviewed.

  21. Nancy C

    Waaaiiit a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. The last two jobs I received was from walking in and giving them my resume and then following up. (Last two jobs may *sound* as if I change jobs often. I’ll spare you the details, but please know I do NOT change jobs unless I move too far to commute.)
    The first one, they told me they weren’t hiring *yet* but would be shortly. So, I went in once every two weeks or so to “say hi.” My persistence paid off, I got the job; they loved me and I loved them. I ONLY left because I moved from UT to VA.
    When I moved to VA, I *literally* knew NO ONE. I HAD NO NETWORK. I repeat: NO NETWORK. It *is* possible for such a thing to exist without something sinister connected to it.
    I knew to look online: craigslist, VA jobs, linkedin, monster, etc. but it was garnering me nothing. So, I “took to the streets,” not knowing what else to do. I popped into a chiropractors office and told them I was knew in the area, needed a job, and thought I’d introduce myself so if they were looking to hire in the future, they’d have my resume. Three or so weeks later they did call. Turns out, the office manager hadn’t given her notice yet but had hung on to my resume, stating I seemed very proactive.

    I follow you on fb and often wonder if you are speaking mostly to a corporate audience. I am asking honestly; there’s nothing ulterior to this. My reason for asking is solely because it seems many articles don’t really pertain to me. I would *very much* like to know if I’m looking at myself as incorrectly as a job seeker/employee.

    I was a licensed/certified massage therapist for many years until body had enough. After that I went to school to be a medical assistant and am currently “everything” in a small chiropractic office. When I say small, I mean I’m her only employee. I truly do everything but pay bills. Everything, EVERYTHING else is me.

    I tell you this to describe just how un-corporate my work history is. I just don’t feel like I’ve had much “corporate” experience. Of course I’ve applied for a Pacific Ocean of jobs who have an HR department, and gone on interviews at such places; but have never worked for a company with an HR, etc. Do I see a pattern? I don’t know.

    Bottom line, what’s your audience? Seems more “large business” than not. Again, please don’t read this hostile tones. I mean none.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, you’re right that I’m speaking mostly to a white collar/professional audience. Not exclusively, but primarily, since that’s the world I know.

    2. Nancy C

      Oh, my. Please excuse the grammatical atrocity that is this post! Next time I won’t post anything when I’m too hurried to proof read! So embarrassing . . .

  22. Cali7

    Not being argumentative but just wanted to throw this out there to add to Nancy’s comment about white collar versus blue collar. I work for a rural non-profit employment assistance office. (Regularly read this blog and share with my supervisor and coworkers by the way so we can advise our visitors appropriately.) Normally, I’d not recommend cold calling or dropping off resumes for the reasons you recommend. There is one exception to this however, that I’ve witnessed multiple times and that’s the blue collar stone and skilled construction labor guys (not being sexist but it’s usually guys). Sometimes for them I’ll print off an internet list of local stone/construction companies, and offer them our office phone. A few have gotten hired that way, presumably because that field seems to look for responsible skilled or unskilled laborers over employment savvy. You might be surprised at the number of laborer types who come to us who have worked for years and have never actually needed a resume.

    1. Stephen

      +1. I used to do construction labour before I decided to get my degree and switch to a field where I can take a shower before I go to work instead of when I come home. In that field all they really need to know about this you is will you show up and do you work hard, so why bother with a whole process. The best way to get those jobs is to show up early in the morning with steel toes on and your lunchbucket and resume in hand. If they need someone they’ll often let you start that day, knowing if you don’t work out they can pay you and tell you not to come back tomorrow.

  23. ProcReg

    This has worked for me time and time again: Waste ten minutes of your life, filling out the application online. You’ll have to sometime.

    Then, write a solid cover letter, telling them you did so (with the reference number), explain your good qualities, and have a great resume.

    I asked a corporate recruiter about this. He said, “I got 400 applications for this spot. You chose for me whom to interview”. I always do that.

  24. BW

    I think this is a YMMV thing. I’m a lawyer in Texas (I mention this because many now finally know what a bloodbath the legal job market is). I got my first lawyer job through networking, and another female lawyer at my firm who started around the same time as me got the same job through cold-calling the office manager. The office manager and the senior lawyers at the firm were all really impressed that she just cold-called and asked if we had an opening.

    I’m certainly not discounting the advice that most companies, especially larger ones, aren’t impressed by cold-calling or walk-ins, but if you’re not having any success anyway being a rule-abiding jobseeker, then why not try other routes..?

  25. dpd

    cant say this is accurate, at least not in Aus. Lets start with the fact, that at least here, a good proportion of Jobs are NOT advertised. People hire internally first, they only hire externally when they dont know anyone, or dont know anyone who knows anyone, for the job. I employ this tactic too. Ive recovered a number of jobs by cold calling. If you DONT have experience, amazing networks, and a cousin or uncle in the right places why on earth would you get hired?

    Unless Ive made it clear on an application to NOT call, (only email or text) then I appreciate applicants who call. hearing their voice boosts familiarity when going through their resume

    Id like to note this is applicable to small-medium businesses. I can only imagine a large business having all applicants call them…

    If its not specifically mentioned, and if the business is small or medium sized, calling up/dropping in in person is hardly a bad idea.

  26. Nurse Beth

    I have to respectfully offer a different point of view re: a cold-call walk-in to apply for a job. In the nursing field, where the new grad market is saturated, walking in with resume in hand, can be what makes you stand out from others. You really don’t have much to lose!
    Just another POV-

    1. HRish Dude

      As a person who used to work HR in a hospital, I’m going to say all it does is make it seem like you don’t know how to use a computer which is going to put you at a serious disadvantage in the nursing field.

  27. hmm

    I think this depends on the industry. For a design/architecture firm, which only has 20 or so people, it’s impossible for them to have any HR personnel at hand or even the money and time to advertise. For this type of job cold calling and dropping portfolios seem to be the best way to get your foot on the door. I’m quite surprised that the manager focus only on one type of industry a.k.a the big corporate and just generalize it as the only job available in this world.

      1. anon looking looking looking

        We are a 20-person firm and would never advertise. they would rather ask employees if they know someone. It’s a matter of who you know in here and sometimes it’s the status of your contact too. if he’s not one of the partners or long time employees, then you’re out of luck.
        I wonder if OP has an update?

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