How to Build the Perfect Script for Cold Calling in Recruitment

While many have sounded the death knell for cold calling in recruitment, let me set the record straight: cold calling remains an incredibly potent sourcing technique.

I see far too many recruiting teams pouring all their efforts into hosting fancy job fairs or tapping into the latest social media channels. However, in my experience, cold calling continues to be the most effective way to build authentic relationships with prospective candidates.  

Sure, what may have worked in the 2010s won’t cut in 2023. Candidate expectations have evolved, and it’s time that your cold calling recruitment script evolves, too. 

In this article, I’m going to walk you through essential factors to bear in mind when crafting a cold calling script that doesn’t just get you candidates but gets you the right ones. Plus I’ll also share a few tips I’ve employed to deliver exceptional results for my clients. 

Wait, Why Do I Need a Cold Calling Script for Recruitment, Anyway?

I know many seasoned recruiters out there might feel like they’ve got the cold calling game down pat. But here’s the kicker: no matter how naturally gifted you are at closing a candidate, having a method that’s both repeatable and scientific can be an absolute game-changer.

You might be tempted to believe that using a script will stifle your conversational creativity, leaving you unable to think on your feet. But let me clarify: the purpose of a recruitment cold calling script isn’t to rob your conversations of spontaneity. It’s there to help you consistently engage in more meaningful discussions about a candidate’s job preferences and their interest in the positions you’re offering.

Now, let’s talk about Tom Cruise for a second. The guy might just be the most bankable star in the history of cinema. And here’s the thing – while it may seem like he’s reprising the same character in all his movies, he’s actually mastered the art of maintaining a delicate equilibrium.  On one hand, he consistently delivers what his loyal fan base adores, with iconic roles like those in Mission Impossible and Top Gun. On the other hand, he fearlessly ventures into uncharted territory with films like Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia, successfully attracting new fans along the way. 

So, consider Tom Cruise as your recruiting script role model. Just like he keeps his core audience engaged while taking calculated risks with new projects, your cold calling recruitment script should aim to strike a similar balance. Most of it can follow proven methods and best practices (think Mission Impossible-style), but you should also reserve some space to take those bold leaps away from the structure, and this is where “art” is created.

The Anatomy of a Perfect Recruitment Cold Calling Script

Before we go any further, no magical, one-size-fits-all script will work universally for every cold call or recruiter. It’s entirely on you to construct a script that aligns with your recruiting objectives and resonates with the unique needs of your prospective candidates. 

Also, keep in mind that your organizational context is crucial to your outreach. Are you an in-house recruiter, or do you represent a staffing firm? This context will significantly impact the script you build and how you approach your cold calls.

First and foremost, your cold call script should adhere to a structured framework, which we can break down into three key segments:

First of all, your cold call script needs to follow a set structure. Break it down into three segments:

An image outlining a 3-step process of pitching a candidate from Pre-prep and research to Pitching and finally, closing

Now, it’s essential to understand that this structure isn’t set in stone but serves as a roadmap to guide your conversation.

This is an important part of the recruiting process because not every recruiter will use the same language or convey messages the same way. Find your voice. Otherwise, you’ll come across as robotic and rehearsed.

And the last thing any prospective candidate wants is to hear a recruiter mechanically reciting lines over the phone. That’s a surefire way to derail your cold calling efforts. One size definitely doesn’t fit all when it comes to cold calling.

Part 1: Pre-call prep

Establish the goal of your call

Before you even pick up the phone, ask yourself, what’s the goal of the call? Typically, it’s about securing an appointment of some kind—whether that means sending an email with detailed job information, scheduling a Zoom video call, or arranging a more in-depth phone conversation.

Recruiters often use overly salesy language on cold calls, even if they don’t mean to.

You may not mean to use this language or realize how the prospect hears it. But it sounds like you’re pressuring them to make a decision, and they’re not going to do that. Not over the phone and not in a short phone call.

Build a list of prospective candidates

As obvious as it sounds, you only want to be calling genuine candidates. Anything else is a waste of time.

But who actually is a prospective candidate?

A prospective candidate is an individual, whether active or passive in their job search, who is open to the idea of exploring the role you’re presenting to them.

I recommend running through this simple template to build a prospective candidate list that ensures you are speaking to the right people:

  • What is the job role you’re pitching?
  • Why do you believe this job role would be an excellent fit for the candidate?
  • Why do you think this candidate is interested in what the job has to offer?

That final point is easy to overlook but is really important. Let’s say you’re recruiting for a senior software engineer position with a strong emphasis on leadership. However, if the prospective candidate lacks a similar motivation or interest, they don’t truly qualify as a prospect.

And, it’s worth noting, for effective prospecting, you’ll need their personal phone numbers, not office extensions.

Add value

Even when you’ve identified a candidate who is a good fit for your role and company, you still need to make sure they’re interested in learning more. 

One way to do this is to find a gap in their current situation. For example, you could mention the company’s commitment to employee development or the prospect of increased flexibility in their work arrangements. You could also bolster your pitch with relevant industry statistics or observations to illustrate why the role you’re offering stands out as a superior option compared to their current job.

Part 2: The Pitch 

Introduce yourself

Okay, I can’t stress this enough: your introduction holds the key to cold recruiting outreach. It’s the linchpin that builds trust and works as a lifeline, especially when candidates are likely to hang up during those initial moments of a cold call.

Remember, you won’t be selling the job or closing the candidate in the first 10 seconds, but a strong introduction can influence your prospective candidate to hear you out.

Here’s an example: 

Hi [candidate name], this is [your full name] with [company name]. How’re you doing?


May I ask if you’ve heard of us before?

Why is this a strong opening?

Firstly, by kicking things off with your full name and company, you seize control of the conversation and eliminate the need for the dreaded, “Who is this?”

Next, the question, “How’re you doing?” serves as a ‘pattern interrupt’—a concept from sales psychology. It’s a nifty trick that disrupts the prospect’s typical response pattern. In this case, it prevents the knee-jerk “no” and opens the door for a different kind of reply.

An image from Gong Labs research showing how using the phrase "How are you?" often leads to 3.4x higher success in cold-calls
Source: Gong Labs

Lastly, depending on depending how well-known your company is in the market, asking if the potential candidate is familiar with your organization can be a fantastic icebreaker. It sets the stage for a series of follow-up questions. If they’re not acquainted with your company, it offers a perfect opportunity to introduce and pitch your organization. On the flip side, if they have heard of you, it allows you to explore where and how they know about your company, potentially saving time by skipping the detailed explanation of your company’s offerings.

Build a connection 

Before launching into your pitch, take a moment to personalize the interaction. Show the candidate that you’re not just calling off a list. Maintain a warm and open tone, and express a genuine interest in their world.

A quick LinkedIn search can give you valuable insights (hint: especially when used with the ChatterWorks Chrome extension). You could mention how long they’ve been at their current job, or something newsworthy about their company. The goal is to build a connection.

Who doesn’t want to feel like more than just a name on a list?

This approach not only makes you more relatable as you get ready to get to the actual point of the call. But there’s another benefit. If the candidate you’re talking to already feels like you have a connection, it can help you navigate around their reservations about engaging with you.

Keep in mind that your primary goal is to keep them on the line long enough to spark their curiosity. Research indicates that successful cold calls are nearly twice as long as unsuccessful ones. 

An image from Gong Labs research showing that successful cold-calls  are longer on avergae
Source: Gong Labs

If it appears they’re still leaning towards hanging up, consider asking a few concluding questions. For example, if they mention being busy, inquire about a more convenient time for a call.

Once the call wraps up, it’s a done deal—there are no do-overs. So, even if you’re not entirely confident they’ll reach out, make the most of the time you’ve got!

Sell the job

Cold calling in recruitment is the art of selling yourself before you sell the job. 

You’ve likely already established a convincing rapport by this point in the call. Now, it’s time to get to the reason for your call. 

It’s important that you’re prepared for this transition. I’ve found that diving straight into the specifics works best. Here’s a formula that has proven effective:

I’m reaching out because I’m recruiting for a [job title] position at [company name], and I think your skills and experience would be a great fit. The role will be responsible for [briefly describe key responsibilities], and [company name] even offers [mention perks and benefits].

Why this works?

This approach ensures a clear and concise introduction to the job while leaving the door open for further discussion. Your prospective candidates aren’t sitting by their phones waiting for a recruiter to cold call them. But, explaining the reason for your call demonstrates intent and authenticity. 

Part 3: Closing 

As outlined in Part 1, your primary aim during the cold call is to secure consent for a follow-up conversation, ask for the prospective candidate’s resume or obtain permission to send a subsequent email with further information. Your script should revolve around this objective. Remember that asking for too much commitment right off the bat might work against you.

Once you’ve introduced the role and the company, and the candidate has expressed interest in learning more, it’s time to move in for the close. 

However, in this critical final phase of the call, you may need to think on your feet and assess the situation. For example, if your candidate is on the move or preoccupied, pressing them for their resume could come off as pushy and backfire. In such cases, it might be wiser to propose sending a follow-up email.

As you wrap up the call, a courteous tone is crucial. You can say something like, “That’s great. Thank you for your time, [candidate’s first name]. I genuinely appreciate it. Is there anything else you need from me or any specific details you’d like me to include in the email?”

Another way to ensure the job stays in their mind is to reiterate your intention to share the detailed job description. Make it actionable by suggesting a deadline: “I look forward to hearing from you and receiving your resume by [day].”

And there you have it, your recruitment cold calling pitch. With any luck, your first call of the day is in the bag – just 99 more to go!

7 Tips for Recruiting Cold Calls that Lead to Hires

Cold calling is a valuable skill that remains as relevant as ever. Contacting a prospective candidate, you’ve never likely met before and convincing them to consider the job you’re pitching is no easy task. 

There aren’t any shortcuts to cold calling success. You need to make the calls, and the success rate can often be discouraging, but these tips can help you better your odds.

Yes, there are times when cold calling may seem unproductive, but they are totally worth it. Perfecting your approach to cold calling is an opportunity to build your competitive advantage as a recruiter. 

Tip 1: Research, Research, Research

Research is key to personalizing your cold outreach. Armed with background information about your prospective candidate and their current employer, you’ll be well-prepared to pitch your job and company effectively.

Where did the candidate work before their current position? Any interest related to the subject of your call?  This goes back to establishing a connection.

Moreover, you can make a literal connection. Locate the candidate you’re about to cold call on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. When they recognize your name from a professional context like LinkedIn, they’re less likely to end the call abruptly. Just make sure you’re only following professional accounts.

If you start liking all of the pictures from their recent vacation to Cancún, they’ll probably consider that a step (or five) too far.

Tip 2: Master Your 10 Second Elevator Pitch

Closing the deal in 10 seconds? Not quite. But having your elevator pitch ready can keep the conversation on track. An effective cold calling tactic is to quickly convey your company’s key strengths to keep the person on the other end interested. Be sure to explain what your company specializes in and, if possible, add a dash of social proof.

More importantly, zero in on the value this job could offer them.

Tip 3: Smile and Dial

It may sound silly, but smiling affects your tone of voice. When you smile, you sound more relaxed, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. This builds rapport and improves your closing rates.

Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between smiling and positive cold calling outcomes. Candidates are able to tell when you're smiling over the phone, and they're more likely to engage with someone who seems friendly and genuine.

Tip 4: Speak in Shorter Sentences

Keep your conversation over the phone short and to the point. Remember that our attention span is on the decline and research suggests, it’s currently about 8 seconds. By that measure, your prospective candidate will only be able to retain fragments of the conversation. One of the most valuable tips for successful cold calling is to maintain clear and articulate communication to keep your prospect engaged.

Tip 5: Get Creative When Sent to Voicemail

With over half the calls in the U.S. going straight to voicemail, it’s crucial to master the art of leaving voicemails that invoke curiosity. To do this, state your name last.

Hello [Candidate Name]. I’m calling to discuss a job opening for [Role] at [Company]. I went through your LinkedIn profile and feel you might be a good fit for the role. Are you currently looking for new opportunities? If this job sounds like something you’d want to learn more about, please reply to the email I [just sent or will send after this call]. My name is [Name] from [Company]. 

Tip 6: Time Your Calls Well

There’s no hard and fast rule about this. Multiple data points offer a glimpse into the best times to call. Based on my experience, I’ve found that calling between 11 AM and noon and between 4 PM and 6 PM yielded the most responses.

Of course, it’s not as perfectly cut and dry, so let’s look at some of the research.

In a study of 11M outgoing calls by sales reps, PhoneBurner found that the most productive time to cold call prospects is 10 am. 15.53% of the calls at this time are answered and lead to business conversations.

The bottom line – best times to cold call are when people are less likely to be busy. In the evenings, people are wrapping up for the day and may have their hands full – making it difficult for you to get them on the phone. Similarly, they may have wrapped up morning tasks just before noon and could be willing to talk.

So, both times may work well. You don’t want to reach out to prospective candidates when they are busy with work or may have other professional conflicts. 

That said, remember that this is all dependent on the candidates you’re talking to. So, get to know your prospective candidates. Learn about their role and daily activities, and you’ll have a better chance of catching them at the right time.

Tip 7: Don’t Let Rejections Break Your Momentum

We’re all wired to dread failure, and that’s entirely natural. However, the anxiety and stress stemming from this fear often lead to unfavorable outcomes when cold calling potential candidates.

The key to getting better at cold calling is simply becoming more accustomed to making calls and engaging with candidates. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be, which, in turn, translates to more productive cold calls. While confidence doesn’t guarantee success, it is often a prerequisite for it.

But how do you get better at cold calling if it triggers fear? Consider engaging in role-play exercises with colleagues; chances are they’re grappling with similar anxieties. You can also practice with friends or family. Perfection isn’t the goal here – we’re not striving for a “Wolf of Wall Street” performance. The primary objective behind ongoing role-play is to remind your brain that there’s nothing to fear.

Wrapping it Up

Cold calling is key to recruiting and sourcing. If you want to build a robust talent pool and achieve higher conversion rates, there is simply no way around it. 

This guide will help you build the script you need to hire great talent. Also, do check out our guide to crafting cold recruiting emails that will show you how to tailor your outreach and get more responses. 

Learn how ChatterWorks can help you spend less time prospecting and more time calling. Sign up for a quick demo and see us in action!

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