In addition to networking with established contacts, it is necessary to take a proactive and aggressive approach to uncovering the hidden job market by finding and reaching out to companies and people beyond the scope of your existing network.

As we’ve mentioned often in this blog, the online classified ads or even those in your local paper, probably account for less than 20% of the available job openings. Your immediate network of friends, family, former work associates, etc., will help you uncover hidden opportunities. However, without expanding your search by cold-calling companies and executives, you could be seeking a job for a very long time.

Will you like it? Probably not. Will it work? YES! Up to 40% of the job seekers going through our employment transition program find their new position this way. Identifying prospective companies is the easy part. You can use Google maps or other online mapping sites to find every company within 15 miles of your home. You can use company directories, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Moody’s, and Hoover’s to drill down on potential companies.

Once you have a comprehensive list of companies to target, it is time to identify and attempt to contact the managers and executives best suited to hire you. You want to aim for the highest level you can, while avoiding the human resources department (unless, of course, you are an HR professional seeking a position in that department). You can identify this person by using the Internet or calling the company to get the name. Start with the companies that are less appealing so that you can get practice, then go after the better prospects.

The most important aspect of this strategy is that you are NOT cold-calling to ask about job openings. The primary reason for your call is to gain valuable guidance and insight from the senior executive’s experience and perspective.

Your opening might resemble this:
Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Professor ____________, this is (your name). I would like to stop by and talk with you.” (When you have the executive on the phone, first off, make sure you use their correct title.)

Executive: “Why?”

Response: “I would like your help and advice.” Or “I would like your guidance and insight.”

Executive: “What about?”

Response: “I have an extensive background in _______ and I am making a change. I would like to meet with you and find out:
a) What qualifications and experience a person like you looks for when you hire someone.
b) How my background and experience might best be used in your company or industry.

In most cases, if you ask for a job directly you will lose out on a potential meeting, as the response requires a simple “Yes, we are hiring, send a resume.” or “No, we’re not hiring. Goodbye.”

While you do not want to outright ask about job openings, you do have to be truthful. Never deny that you are looking for a position. If the company has an opening, you would be interested in learning more.

However, don’t lose sight of the fact that the main reason you are calling is to request a face-to-face meeting with someone in your profession who might be able to help advance your job search by offering valuable guidance and insight.


Obviously, it is impossible to predetermine how a conversation will proceed. Give thought to the various directions it could go, but do not over-think it. It is important to be natural and relaxed, while remaining authoritative and in control. This is hard to achieve if you are reading from a script. That being said, here are some possible “brush off” scenarios and how to respond.

Executive: I’m too busy.

Response: I appreciate that you are busy. I’m asking only for a short time…20 minutes or so at your convenience.

Often, the executive will agree to see you and will give more time.

However, if the executive continues to object, be flexible and say, “I would be happy to meet with you at the beginning or end of your day, whichever is best for you.”

If the answer is still “no,” demonstrate some persistence, keeping in mind their busy schedule: If this week doesn’t look good for you, how’s your schedule for next week? Could you take a look at your calendar for the end of next week?

Executive: Send me a resume.

Response: Thank you for the offer and I am happy to provide one. However, the reason for my call today is to schedule some time to meet with you for your professional advice.

Executive: We don’t have any jobs/openings here.

Appeal to his or her ego. You admire the success he or she has achieved and would like advice.

Response: The main reason for my call is to obtain your professional insight. I admire your position and would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer.

Executive: You should be talking to ________. (An internal referral)

If it is a good referral (an executive or hiring manager in an area that fits your background, credentials and experience) then you should assume you can use the executive’s name for the referral.

Contact the referral by phone: (Referral’s name), this is (your name), (referring executive’s name) offered your name for a potential meeting. I would love to get together and talk shop. Do you have an opening this week?