Ever seen those training providers that promise to help you unlock the secrets to cold-calling? 

Most of the time this “secret” turns out to be something inane like sounding really happy when you make the call or only doing it when the sun’s shining.

What seems to drive of most of the recruitment sales training I’ve ever seen is the fact that cold-calling is an omnipresent part of a recruiter’s life - and so they had better get good at it.

Frankly, I think that’s bullshit.

It’s bullshit not because it isn’t true, because it is. It’s bullshit because it doesn’t have to be true.

Cold-calling is probably the toughest part of the sales process because it’s time-consuming, it’s boring and repetitive and because it’s often hard to even get through to the decision-maker. The only thing that makes it a worthwhile activity is:

1. If what you’re selling has a high-margin, one-off sale price.
2. If the cold-call is the first step in a longer sales journey where the customer regularly buys an increasing number of products/services from you.

Recruiters can fall into either or both of those categories. 

The first is when they’re canvassing-out a specific and available candidate.

The second is when they’re broadly looking for jobs to fill.

Canvassing-out candidates can be a valid way of establishing some credibility with a potential client, but it requires some decent market research before any calls are made.  Many recruiters seem to struggle with this part. 

Assuming they do establish that credibility, what next? 

Invariably what the recruiter is looking for next is a regular source of new roles to work on - which brings us to the 2nd category.  More jobs.

The trouble with getting more jobs from more companies is that on average, a recruiter only fills about 1 in 4 of those they get given access to.  And I’m being generous here - for some it’s closer to 1 in 6. 

That means that around 80% of the time the recruiter is going to disappoint the client. 

“But sometimes I will fill some jobs with some of those clients!” I can already hear you saying. 


But all you are entrenching here is the perception in the client’s mind that your performance is somewhat ad-hoc and difficult to predict. 

If that’s the pinnacle of how your clients view you then I have some potentially bad news for you; You’re always going to have to be spending large chunks of your time cold-calling. 

The upside is that this is good news for the recruitment training industry

There is no secret to being good at cold-calling when all you’ve got to sell is probable disappointment.


Views: 3998

Comment by Raphael Fang on October 9, 2012 at 8:29pm

That's just regular life in the office of an agency recruiter.  

Comment by Mitch Sullivan on October 10, 2012 at 12:31am

It is, you're right Raphael.

Why do you think that so many recruitment businesses settle for just selling probable disappointment to most of the hiring companies they speak to?

Do you think they like doing lots of cold-calling because it makes them feel busy?

Comment by Nancy Phipps Bayerle on October 10, 2012 at 8:37am

Effectiveness is not addressed in your article, though I appreciate your editorial on cold calling.  Cold calls are warmed up by working harder at earning referrals and building exceptional service with a client. In time this helps to even out the odds in everyone's favor and elevates the recruiter's performance and odds of placement.

Phone time is essential, as we establish client relationships, but it's how we approach it.  Scott Love of www.greatrecruitertraining.com has some exceptional refreshers on becoming more effective.....and that is one aspect that your article does not address.  No one needs to settle. Now - get back on the phone!

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on October 10, 2012 at 10:05am

Well said Mitch!

Comment by Robye Nothnagel on October 10, 2012 at 10:16am

Really, I think the article is just a bit too negative.  Most of the articles posted give some good advice or at least make you laugh about the job we have.  This one did neither.  How about some more positive thoughts for the day.  

Comment by Mitch Sullivan on October 10, 2012 at 10:38am

Thanks Cora.

Robye, apologies if this blog has interfered with any positive karma you might have going on at the moment. You're doing a great job, your recruitment methodology is impeccable and everything is going to be rosy.  Have a lovely day.

Nancy, this blog wasn't intended as a cold-calling masterclass - more an ironic acknowledgment of how continually motivating recruiters to make cold calls is a hamster wheel that has no end.  Either for them or for the companies at the receiving end of the calls.

I agree that phone time is essential, but what I'm trying to question is whether not using that time to lead the client into a business relationship that isn't random and ad-hoc (for that is the nature of contingency) and where both parties benefit, all of the time. 

Comment by Nancy Phipps Bayerle on October 10, 2012 at 10:52am

Mitch, agreed, I understand. I value what you have to say!  In order to work, the phone calls must be effective.

I like to pre-set 15-minute con calls with higher level people who are willing to share their expertise - to help me understand their business and appropriately market candidates.  It takes longer, but is mutually beneficial for the long haul.  And, to quote a great recruiter, "Now, get back on the phone!" lol


Comment by Theresa Hunter on October 10, 2012 at 12:16pm

Maybe I am missing something here would not be the first time.  I can barely get a job description from my law firm clients could someone please tell me how to get 15 minutes with them.  Example I could not get a good job description and tried in the nicest way possible to explain to the recruiting coordinator people do not on the most point move for money they move for opportunity.  I needed a reason why an Associate at a peer firm would want to make a move to another peer firm.  Could not seem to get the idea across so I tried for several days to do some recruiting was getting frustrated as candidates kept asking what is the job description.  I finally called the Partner and he in turn called the recruiting coordinator who in turn called me. We had the same discussion again.  Second maybe it is just the legal field but even with clients in which I have provided an outstanding candidate continue to work with several recruiters and I feel I have a very good relationship with these firms. So even if I have a good relationship with the RC or even if I am lucky enough the Partner they will still continue to work with multiple recruiters.

Comment by Patricia Morrison on October 10, 2012 at 1:05pm

And that is why it's one out of four or one out of six filled.  Promises need to be kept from both sides; recruiter and client.  Usually a good relationship is formed after a job is filled.  Or after I've proven my value by keeping my promises with only sending qualified vetted candidates.  One of the best things about a contingency agreement is the option of working with clients that keep up their end as well.


Comment by Mitch Sullivan on October 10, 2012 at 1:11pm

Theresa, having a decent relationship (even if the feeling is reciprocal) often isn't enough.

What most hiring companies want (even if they haven't realised it yet) is a solution to their recruitment pain that provides better value for money.  Using one recruiter per job is in their best interests (assuming they use the right recruiter) but most need that explained/sold to them.

Here's a tip. Imagine what a client would expect you to do to fill jobs if you were their internal recruiter, being paid a salary by them.  Work that out then sell that back to them.

As for the specific client you mentioned, I would work to replace them with a similar firm that does take recruitment seriously.  Trying to recruit for them is damaging your reputation.


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