cold calling versus sending a resume

A reader writes:

I am a recent graduate who is still in the process of looking for a job. My interest is in event planning and I realize this is a hard field to get into without any experience. I have done a couple of internships and have a few companies that I would like to send my resume/cover letter to in the following weeks.

My question is in regard to cold calling companies at random to see if they have any entry level/internship positions open. Is it better to just give the companies a call, or send an email with my resume/cover letter? Do people still send their resumes through regular mail? I would just like to have my resume looked over by the companies and to be considered. Any advice you would have on this would be great!

Personally, I hate cold calls. They interrupt people at a time that likely isn’t convenient, and in many cases, the information the caller wants (“do you have any openings?”) is available on the company’s Web site, specifically to discourage calls like this. So I’m not a fan … but plenty of job-hunting guides advise them, so maybe someone is.

I would instead send an email with your resume and a really strong cover letter. Regular mail is fine if you prefer it, but it’s become so rare that in a way it stands out as a little weird, almost naively old-fashioned. (I’m sure some hiring managers will disagree with me on that, but for your purposes, what you need to know is that everyone is agreed that email is perfectly acceptable.)

Also, take advantage of your college’s career office. They should be able to put you in touch with alumni who are in your field and might be able to help. You just paid them tens of thousands of dollars; make them keep working for you.

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Maven*

    We shred unsolicited resumes. Many employers do. I would encourage you to spend your time networking with colleagues and businesses in your community.

    AAM is right about your Career Services. Make them work for you. They should have great resources and connections.

    Lastly, it wouldn’t hurt to follow up with the places where you did your internships. Ask for referrals. Look for professional associations for Event Planners – find one local to you and join.

    Good luck!

  2. Susan Ireland*

    I, too, discourage the cold-calling technique. The only exception would be to the mom-and-pop sort of company where they don’t have jobs listed online and may not even have a human resources department. These sorts of businesses do still exist (my own, for instance).

  3. Anonymous*

    I agree: cold calling is disruptive and usually asking for information that is already available online. This is how people sometimes respond to cold callers. While it’s not quite a cold call, it’s someone trying to (unsuccessfully) get their foot in the door. If you decide on cold-calling, make a script and do it well.

    Unsolicited resumes are sometimes held if a recruiter knows of a position coming down the pipeline, but if they’re not looking for your skill set, why waste the time?

    Your best bet is to follow application instructions for positions that are already vacant. I agree with AAM that you should focus on a superior cover letter, that makes you stand out. I get giddy when I read a fantastic (and appropriate) cover letter. Use your campus Career Center. They’re paid to help you. My best advice is to be patient. Don’t just focus on getting “a” job, focus on finding the “right” job. I can’t tell you how many twenty-somethings a couple years out of college are miserable because they took their first offer, and it wasn’t right.

  4. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous, I wouldn’t just show up. It disrupts their schedule (as opposed to allowing them to schedule an interview at their convenience), and it’s also sort of presumptuous, in that it implies you’re willing to take the decision of whether to talk to you at all out of their hands (as opposed to them reviewing your application and then deciding).

  5. Anonymous*


    Do not show up at a company and expect to meet with anyone whatsoever. I’ve had people do that once or twice, and I’ve gone to them, explained that I felt this was not an appropriate way of creating a professional relationship, and sent them on their way, inviting them to follow the application instructions for positions. In places where they had to go through a receptionist, we always trained the receptionist that NO ONE without an appointment would be seen. It’s horrendously intrusive and will only get your name recognized as someone who overstepped a boundary.

  6. Daryl Basarab*

    Send out massive cold calls. If someone gets angry just cross them off your list. Eventually you’ll get a job lead from a small business before it is advertised.

  7. Anonymous*

    The answer to your question, like all answers in life, is “it depends.” Different managers react in different ways. This is evident from the comments.

    If the company posted a job online that fits you, then apply and follow up. If they have jobs posted, but not a job for you, then cold call. Certainly cold call if they don’t even post jobs.

    Also, think about the job you are applying to. As an event planner, do you think you may have to cold call to build new business? If so, then cold calling the manager asking for a job tells him that you are willing to cold call and be proactive.

    Many managers dislike cold calling because it disrupts them, and it may. However, as the applicant, your concern is getting the job. I’d rather disrupt the manager and land the job than disrupt the manager and not eat. Remember the old saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

    A bit on cold calling. It’s somewhat of an art. Many successful business relationships can be formed through cold calling. After all, you need some way of contacting people you want to work with. The art of cold calling is first getting over your fear of the call. Have a short script and rehearse it a few times. Second, and here is the real meat or art, ask good questions. Questions show you are interested in learning. They also show you know a bit about the business because good questions concern relevant issues. I can tell more about someone’s knowledge by the questions they ask than the statements they make.

    Don’t forget to engage in a conversation and show enthusiasm. In many cases the person you are talking to was once in your shoes. Pretend you are in a coffee shop and while waiting for your randomly bumped into this person while waiting for your double-mocha-something-or-other. How would the conversation go? What would you talk about?

    Here are some general questions: “how did you get into the business?”, “what is important for your success?”, “what experience can you give someone starting out, how did you get your first job?”

    You can ask better, more specific questions because you know the business.

    Here is a story of how I got a job offer from a prestigious New York investment bank with no resume, no experience, and no knowledge of investment banking. Most undergraduate finance majors would sell their mother for an opportunity like this. I didn’t know anything about investment banking but was interested so I went to the headquarters of the company and asked the secretary if I could talk to someone about what they do. They told me to go online and fill out an application. I didn’t want to apply, I just wanted to talk to someone. Standing outside, rejected, thinking about what pizza to have for lunch I noticed a few people wearing the company’s ID tag standing outside smoking. I politely asked if I could pick their brains while they finished smoking and they agreed. After they went in, some more people came out and I did the same thing. I would guess this went on for 2 hours and I had a blast talking to these people. During my conversations I would hand out some business cards. The next day I got a call asking if I could start the next day.

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