Call, Call, and Call Again!

I saw an interesting discussion posted in one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to. It asked:

When “cold calling” on a company for the first time, what is the best way to make contact that gets results? Assume you have no “in” at the company.

There were 64 votes. The voting results follow:

  • Email (4%)
  • Telephone (until you reach them live) (18%)
  • Inmail once (1%)
  • Email, then follow up by telephone (28%)
  • Telephone, then follow up by email (46%)

I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to change “company” to “person” and change “assume you have no in at the company” to, “You don’t know this person.”

Which would you choose?

I’m a phone sourcer who’s asked many times to take my research one step further and contact each of the names I’ve sourced to “profile” them for their interest in the opportunity my customer represents. So, I would choose Door #2.

Telephone (Until You Reach Them Live)

I know that makes me a minority, but I have my reasons for doing this.

I call and call and call until they answer. It doesn’t mean I call repeatedly in one day, but it does mean I might call once or twice a day for a week. I do it in list format. I keep notes on each name in my work document with the date, time of call, and what happened on the call.

Like this:

Tom Jones Satellite Antennae Design Engineer 831 xxx 5734

Feb 3 11:47am reached his VoiceMail

Feb 4 9:15am same

Feb 4 2:13pm Reached/ he said the opportunity “mildly” interested him and he agreed to profile.

I then mark it “PROFILED.”

One of the reasons I don’t leave messages is I don’t get paid unless I reach them and gather their information. But moving beyond that silly pragmatism lies my firm belief that most voicemail messages go unheeded.

Once in a lucky while my notes look like this:

Sheila Mathews Business Analyst x58976

Feb 1 8:58am Answered; is definitely interested as long as she doesn’t have to move. PROFILED

More often, it looks like this:

Chris Schuster Market Research Analyst

Feb 1 9:08am VM (VoiceMail)

Feb 1 3:56pm VM

Feb 2 11:15am VM — says he’s on vacation ’til Feb 10

Feb 10 3:55pm VM

Feb 11 10:13am VM

Feb 11 1:03pm Answered; PROFILED

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Many times I have to call two, three, and four times to have the person on the other end answer live. I’d say an average number of calls (most industries) before reaching someone live is three.

I’m going to assume that the “Telephone, then follow up by email” choice above means a VoiceMail was left and then an email was sent. This assumption is based on my experience in what many people generally do. It is also based on the fact that a potential candidate is being contacted who is not necessarily looking for a job.

Many people never even listen to their VoiceMails and some only check them rarely.

Even so, many people in our industry insist upon leaving VoiceMails after one call.

Why, if you’re reaching out to them to gauge their interest in one of your opportunities?

Why leave such an important matter to chance?

Once you have the name of someone who you know can do the job you have open, why take the chance of them not calling you back?

After all, they’re “not looking for a job.”

Why in the world would they call you back when they know that’s what you’re calling about?

It’s bad enough that many will tell you this when you do reach them. It’s your challenge to overcome that objection and press on with them to pique their interest.

So given all that, why would you leave a VoiceMail that handicaps yourself to a very low chance of return?

Oh, I know the yadda yadda, “I don’t leave an explicit message; I leave a teaser. They call me back to find out what it’s about.

Great. So they call you back and none of them are miffed that what they hear from you is nothing near what they were expecting?

It seems to me that would put a heavier burden upon a recruiter’s shoulder.

Isn’t the job hard enough?

So, what do you do?

What would you have answered?

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


10 Comments on “Call, Call, and Call Again!

  1. Maureen,
    On target as usual. I agree with you with one slight modification. I will leave one, or even two voicemails. I then just keep calling until I get the person on the phone. It’s too easy to send an e-mail and think you’ve done your job. The job is done when you make a connection.

    In addition, you’re tight about people not listening to voicemail. This is particularly true of the Millennial generation. If they see a missed call, they’ll call the number back without checking voicemail. I even know one young person who’s outgoing message says that you can leave a message but she doesn’t listen to VM, she’ll just call you back.

    Brian Tracey once said that success lies in the fifth call, but most people give up after three. If you knew that making two more calls would get the person on the line, wouldn’t you make the effort?

    Call, call, call, call, and call again.
    Only the best,

  2. Thanks, Maureen. I’d enjoy seeing a formal survey which indicates how many times a call needs to be made to typically reach someone…


  3. I absolutely agree! Call, call, call again! I can definitely see the point that people tend to not listen to voice mails as much as they used to. Truth be told, I am one of those that indeed checks their missed call section and reaches back out from there. I almost never listen to my voice mail and when I finally do ( because its full) I listen to the first 5 – 10 seconds to see who it is and then just delete it. See, I personally enjoy talking to people. Its why I love this business.I would be bored to death if all I did, all day was email people. I know sourcers and recruiters who do this and believe in that method. I need LIVE conversation.I need personal engagement and interpersonal communication. I’m genuinely interested in PEOPLE and their stories and I want to hear things directly from their mouths not from their emails. Not to mention that in emails you cant hear inflection, tone, passion or disinterest.In addition , they cant hear my passion, drive and excitement for the company I am recruiting them for. Now, I’m not saying that email isn’t in my “tool box” but if I happen to throw an email out there and they respond to that email, I ALWAYS ask for their direct number so I can speak to them live. Maureen’s method of calling , calling and calling until you get them live seems to be the best method ( for me) and when you finally get them live, AND YOU WILL, that’s when the fun begins!

  4. I have to agree as well. I have always been surprised when a recruiter has called me about a position and stopped after one call. It is easy for the message to be garbled or muffled where you cannot hear the call back number. I guess that they must have more than enough qualified candidates. I have no problem calling 4-5 times or more to try and reach a good candidate. I usually let the difficulty in finding a qualified candidate dictate the number of times I will try to reach a candidate. The more difficult the skill set, the more times I am willing to try. Phones calls are quick and easy and even if you finally get them on the phone and they are not interested, you have the ability to ask for referrals and recommendations as to where to find more qualified candidates.
    I have been in this business for too long to not have the phone as my primary tool (I started before where was an internet). Yes I use most of the other tool (ie. email, job boards, social media, etc.), but nothing is better than talking to a candidate directly.

  5. I call and leave one vice mail message. Then, continue to call (not leaving messages), until I reach the person. My company “caller ID” only identifies my name, not company affiliation. I do NOT send emails, without a prospect’s permission (and then to a “home” email address), as these can readily be traced by an astute computer literate supervisor or IT Dept. i sent to the company system. I ALWAYS ask them to communicate resumes and additional information to me from their “home email”. This seems to give them a strong sense of confidence that I am looking out for their best interest. You would be AMAZED at how many brilliant people would send a resume from their company system, if not warned.

  6. Use the phone – are you kidding? How could that possibly work? That is for the “old school recruiters” isn’t it? Why would anyone want to actually talk to a recruiter? If they are interested in hearing about opportunities they will contact me or respond to my email, won’t they?

    Okay I am kidding and being just a bit sacrastic about the “new breed” of recruiters. After many years of recruiting (before the fax machine) I have always said that if you have not called, and called, and called until you get them on the phone you are missing the potential of connecting with someone that can make you better in your job. Email, Voice Messages are too easy to just hit the delete button, but it is the rare individual that will just hang up on you (hit the delete button) when you are speaking to them. When you do get a prospect on the phone, people will generally also be helpful, will ask for an email with details and WILL GIVE YOU REFERRALS. Very unlikely that your email or social media site will elicit the same results.

    Yes dial the phone, and again and again and again until you get that live person on the line and then make sure that you learn something from them (especially if they are not interested) and follow the process over and over until you have the candidates that you were looking for to fill that difficult opening.

    But I am just one old school recruiter, and have also found that the “new generation” will answer or respond to a TEXT before responding to an email or a phone message so I am using that when I can because many of these younger folks will ignore your call but answer a text 2 seconds later.

    Use all your tools.

    Jim “I call everyone” Sullivan

  7. Maureen, great article! Thanks for addressing a topic that has, and always will be, the backbone of our industry – securing real live conversations with prospects. Since launching my firm 5 years ago, we have always adhered to the phone call/email approach with each call – of course these days, the email may be an “InMail” through LinkedIn. Additionally, we make 3 attempts at contacting them and if we haven’t heard back by then, assuming they are a solid fit, we use the “last chance message”. Basically, this includes very simple verbiage in both email and vm “Sally, this is Ken. I’m sorry we missed each other. I thought I would reach out to you ONE LAST TIME in hopes of connecting to discuss your career goals and to learn more about your ideal next step.”

    This approach tends to increase our response rate to approximately 60% overall.

    Thanks again for fostering this conversation.
    Ken Schmitt
    President/Founder, TurningPoint Executive Search

  8. Voicemails can be effective as long as you have a compelling first line after your name introduction. I personally leave at least one voicemail, because often candidates are startled to receive your call at work, and it can be quite awkward. I feel that by leaving a message, even if they are not interested, you give them time to mull over what you mentioned in your voicemail, and I find that when I do finally get them on the line 1) they are not startled (some may still be a bit miffed) 2) they have put some thought into it and the conversation is more fruitful.

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