Cold Calling: Let’s Talk About It!

Cold calling for an internship… people have mixed feelings about it. Some will tell you that cold calling is a waste of time or that it’s really hit or miss. Others will say that cold calling is an excellent way to get your foot in the door of an organization. Personally, I am a huge advocate for cold calling. Sure, you may get 100 “no’s,” but all it takes is 1 “yes” to score yourself an internship opportunity. That single “yes” can make all the difference.

Recently, I have experienced great success with cold calling. I scored myself an awesome internship using this method. While my cold call process is still fresh in my mind, I figured I would share some how-tos, tips, and tricks. Let’s begin!

Why Use Cold Calling? 

There are many reasons to use cold calling. Believe it or not, cold calling is the preferred method of searching for an internship for some people! In some fields of work, organizations often do not advertise internship programs. For example, pre-law students may have a difficult time finding a legal internship online because most law firms do not have formal internship programs. Students who are interested in working in local government and the nonprofit sector may also encounter this problem. If students are looking for an internship with a very specific, small, local organization, those opportunities may not be posted, either. However, just because internship opportunities are not advertised online does not mean that they don’t exist! Many law firms, local government organizations, and nonprofits do indeed take on interns. The only difference is that you have to seek them out.

Also, this is just something to note, but many of these opportunities may be unpaid. That is something that should not come as a shock to you during your cold call process. Many times, employers will be generous enough to invent/open an internship program just for you. These experience and connections will be unique and valuable, even more so because they may be created just for you! IU and O’Neill have a ton of opportunities for internship funding, as well, so don’t miss out on a potential lifelong professional connection just because of pay! 

There are some scenarios in which you should probably not use cold calling. For example, if you are seeking an internship in the private sector with a mid-large sized company, those opportunities may be easier to find online. Federal and state government internships are also often found online. However, you can still try to directly contact recruiters for these organizations to stand out in the application process!

Preparing for Cold Calling

You should prepare for a cold call session similarly to how you would prepare for any job search.

  1. Create/update your resume. You may need to send your resume to the employers you contact. Be ready to do this!
  2. Create a list of organizations to contact. As we discussed earlier, you may receive 100 “no’s” but all it takes is 1 “yes” to score an internship. This may be a reason to create a longer list—you want to have the best chances possible. Do a bit of research on each organization and take a few notes before you begin calling. 
  3. Identify a quiet place to cold call where you will not be interrupted.
  4. Make sure that your phone’s ringer is on to ensure that you do not miss any callbacks you may receive. 
  5. It may sound silly, but it may be helpful to dress in a business casual or business professional outfit before you begin cold calling. It may help get you into the “professional” mindset, and it may make you feel more confident and motivated. 

How to Cold Call

There’s a lot more to cold calling than just picking up the phone and inquiring about an internship. You have to be strategic about it! I have created some steps for you to follow.

  1. Create an Excel spreadsheet. In one column, put all the names of the organizations you want to call. In a second column, put the phone number that corresponds with each organization. Reserve a third column for the name of the person to whom you will speak. The fourth column will be for any further email or contact information. The fifth column will document whether or not you left a message. The sixth column is for any additional notes you may want to jot down. 
  2. Practice your shortened “elevator pitch” for your cold call. You should include your name, what school you attend, your status as a student/what you are studying, and the purpose of your call. For example, here was my elevator pitch: “Hi! My name is Aleksandra Ramōn. I am an undergraduate student studying Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Bloomington. I am calling to see if you have any internship opportunities available for this summer.”
    • This same pitch may be used if you have to leave a voicemail, and you should also add, “I may be contacted at [phone number]. Thank you!”

How to Manage Acceptance and Rejection

  1. Let’s begin with how to manage acceptance. If the person who answers the phone says that the organization does indeed offer internships, respond with enthusiasm. You should express your excitement and inquire about how you can learn more. Make sure to actively listen to the explanation of the internship. After the person on the phone is finished explaining, ask about the next steps you should take to apply. 
    • If you are asked to fill out an online application, complete it as soon as possible. You want the employer to know that you are serious about your inquiry, and you want to demonstrate your reliability and ability to promptly get things done. 
    • If you are asked to email your information to someone, write down their email and make sure it is correct.Draft an email that includes the details of your elevator pitch. Again, you should express your enthusiasm about the organization and opportunity. If you are emailing a different person than the person you spoke to on the phone, make sure to say, “____ gave me your email and told me to reach out to you with my information.” Even if they do not ask for a resume, you should attach a PDF copy of your resume in the email. You should send this email as soon as possible, as well. 
    • Wait a week for a response. If a week passes and you do not receive a response, call to follow up about the opportunity. 
  2. Now, let’s talk about how to manage rejection. You’ll find that managing rejection looks similar to managing acceptance.
    • If the person on the phone says that the organization does not take interns, you should express your gratitude to the person for taking the time to speak with you and providing you with that information. However, try not to let the conversation end there. Your next step should be to say something like, “I am still very impressed with/interested in your organization. May I please send you my resume and information in case anything changes or any opportunities arise?”
    • If they say yes, great! Follow the same steps we discussed earlier in the “acceptance” section. If they decline, that’s alright, too. You can’t win them all. Make sure to be respectful and friendly as you end the call. 

If you follow these steps and words of advice, you are bound to experience eventual success with cold calling. Sometimes, this success comes quickly. Other times, you have to be persistent. Keep a positive attitude, and remain confident in your professional abilities and potential. This method has worked for myself and many of my peers. We are rooting for you every step of the way! Always remember that if you need further assistance, you can stop into the O’Neill Career Hub (Room 200 in SPEA) on weekdays between 11am-3pm for a walk-in appointment. Good luck! 

By Aleksandra Ramōn
Aleksandra Ramōn Peer Educator