How to Cold Call for an Internship or Job

Posted April 09, 2014 by
A hand picking up a black retro phone

A hand picking up a black retro phone. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Cold Calling is typically the step after you have sent a cold email. Cold Calling is generally looked down upon unless you have already sent an email beforehand. If they don’t respond then it’s okay to cold call but don’t expect to have the full conversation right then.

There are 3 types of cold calls.

1) A complete cold call where there has been no previous contact. This is the hardest one to pull off. (I strongly suggest sending the email before, even if they don’t respond. It gives an excuse for calling)

2) You sent a cold email and they agreed to speak with you on the phone.

3) You were referred over by a friend or colleague, but have never spoken with the person before.

Complete Cold Call

With this one start it off with a quick, “Hello/hi my name is XX from XXX.” If they question that, say that you recently sent an email and “wanted to follow up”. Ask them if they are busy right now and if they want to reschedule for later or speak right now. I’d say 3 times out of 4 they want to reschedule. Some in my experience took the call right away though, so be prepared for it. If they want to reschedule send the follow up email immediately (within 15 minutes).

Pro-tip: On the off chance they are rude, apologize and quietly hang up. Do NOT get into an argument or blast off an email with curse words. That is the quickest way to ruin your entire career. Emails can be forwarded and are a deadly paper trail.

The other two calls are typically easier since you’re not trying to fight for their time.

The Meat of the Call

Your goal in the first 2-3 minutes of the call is to sound very sharp, intelligent, friendly, and personable. Usually it’s you telling them your “story” or background and please say it with some enthusiasm and excitement (don’t overdo it). No one wants to listen to someone who’s not even interested in their own story. And I hope you narrate your story in an interesting way. Not all of us have amazing things, but it’s about spinning it in a cool way. If you mess up the story or tell a boring one, I guarantee you will not do well with networking or in interviews itself for the matter.

After you tell your story, turn it back on them, asking “if you could tell me a little bit about your background”. They will usually talk for 3-5 minutes. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING. You will use what they say to ask intelligent questions from your knowledge of the given field. Plan to ask around 5 questions at the minimum.

Also have some standard ones questions prepared ahead of time, like “how has your experience been at XX firm”, “do you prefer this or that”, “what are some characteristics of the ideal analyst in your division”, etc. Google and create your own unique questions. I have 2 questions that are gold and always make the people remark “good questions, I’ve never heard that one before”. It’ll take some while to generate those ones, but it’s well worth it. I’ve also stolen some really good questions from Wall Street Oasis. Be sure to do a couple searches on there and Google.

The networking calls typically take around 15 minutes. If you are well over then that’s a good sign. If it’s under then it probably means you didn’t have enough questions prepared or they were in a rush.

The End of the Call

Towards the end of the call, push for it and ask whether they could refer you to someone else at the firm. If they’re nice they’ll refer you to multiple people (a sign that they are a strong helper). Most of the times they will refer you to one person and a few won’t help at all (but still ask). It never hurts to ask. Also don’t straight out ask for a job, but ask “how could I best position myself for an opportunity at XX place?” Everyone knows what you are trying to do, but still you can’t be blunt about it.

Don’t forget to thank them for their time, end the call on this good and positive note.

And there you go, on your way to being a pro networker. Also, everything discussed can be applied to in-person meetings over coffee.

-The author is a college junior in the USA and recently accepted a summer internship role at a major investment bank in New York City.  He is currently a contributing blogger for

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