Cold Calling Design Firms

I’m a recent grad, having a hard time finding entry level positions, how much does cold calling design firms help to find potential work? I understand that most employers prefer using email…but does it go against ettiquette to call beforehand to ask for their email or if they are hiring?

i freelance a lot and from experience talking to the receptionist is the best way to get info about a company without being intrusive. from there you can get a name and send a nice little teaser mail/job enquirys letter and stuff.
i’ve done the “snail mail way” and works for me.

i dont know how to promote myslef convincingly through email and sometimes your email may be blocked by their spamblocker.

Thank a lot for the tips!! I will definitely be trying this out!

I’m a big fan of cold calling…it’s good to have a name, so if you can get a contact off a job board, or from a receptionist then do that first. But really I’ve just called and explained my situation and that I was calling firms/companies to learn more about what they do and get feedback on my work. I try not to say that I’m looking for a job at first. Keep it to a nice conversation about design, designers LOVE talking about what they do, so ask questions and then see if you can send them stuff for feedback. They’ll always say yes. Send it and do a follow up call, if it seems to be going well then you can try to ask for the interview or job consideration. Lots of people want jobs, work on building a “relationship” and they’ll be more eager to actually meet you.

So true, my most recent job offer is the result of ‘conversational networking’ …thanks a lot for the advice :slight_smile:

I recently got two Job Offers…One was through contacting a Solidworks Reseller they found my contact info off of the Solidworks website…were I asked for a free copy of Solidworks…The position entailed Demonstrating the Software and Instructing Engineers on how to use it…so kinda of a sales aspect…but more of an instructor mode type position…

the second job offer…I was found on careerbuilder by a ‘professional recruiter’…I got the interview setup within 48 hrs…showed up for the interview and was tested on my CAD skills using solidworks…on got the job offer…the position is for a Solidworks Product Design Engineer…so yeah…nice…

I think I’m taking the second job…now my dilemma is how to reject the first offer without coming off as unprofessional or ungrateful for the opportunity…any suggestions?


As a principal in a small design firm I have to point out that for those firms that do not have a receptionist, fielding unsolicited cold calls can be very time-consuming and off-putting no matter how pleasant the person on the other end is. The primary reason is that they are unscheduled and as a result always catch you doing something else. Also consider the number of students vs. the number of desirable firms - these firms are as a result inundated with calls and emails.

I don’t want to seem too negative here -just honest. My advice would be only to cold call if the company has a job posting on their website as that is in essence a solicitation for contact. Even then, I would suggest a cold call only to find out further information or to find out any detailed contact information for the job posting that might be missing. Most firms will put their job requirements and contact info in the posting so a call really shouldn’t be necessary.

Of course, I also recognize that it is incredibly difficult to find that first job and that even though you may be intruding on people the chance of getting a job might be worth it.

For unsolicited contact I would suggest email or snail-mail.

I personally respond best to snail-mail as I can view it at a time of my choosing, pass it around to an appropriate person if needed, file it or contact the sender if I think there might be potential, and finally, because it isn’t email it isn’t grouped in with pressing work matters.

For snail mail submissions. Keep it simple - 8-1/2 x 11. Don’t include anything that needs to be returned. Be brief and only show your best work. This is a teaser - you can include a web url that will allow the viewer to see more of your work if they desire.

Also - If you are sending an unsoiciticed email with a PDF. Keep it under 1mb. Given that it is being viewed on screen 1mb is plenty. Again - this is a teaser. Link it to a website if you want to have the opportunity to show an interested viwere more work.

Hope this helps/
Good luck.

Wow …thanks Van_ID your input is invaluable.

Great info guys! I’m in much the same position right now. I have 2 years experience, and I’m actually considering leaving my current full-time position in the near future because it just doesn’t seem like its the right kind of opportunity for me and I need to move on. I want to find something that better utilizes my skills and gives me potential for further promotions, etc.

So, I’m doing something pretty bold and leaving outright to focus as much of my time as I can on searching for a better job. I’m tired of only finding a half dozen or so job postings on coroflot, monster, etc. that I qualify for, and I realize that it’s time to expend more effort into finding something better. Doing a big emailing/snail-mail campaign is something I feel is necessary now. I’m going to be writing my cover letter from the spin that I’m looking to find something within my region and design community, and that I’d like to see what opportunities the companies I’m contacting may have, and I’m going to ask if they would be willing to take some time to meet with me and tell me more about their company and what they do. I’m hoping that by taking this “quasi-informational interview” approach, I will get better responses then just sending a resume and sampler as if I’m looking strictly for employment.

Wow thats brave…leaving a job like that…I would wait until my campaign is ready to go and out in circulation…and wait to see if you get any callbacks…before I left my job…

Another thing…how do you leave a company that you’ve been a couple years with? How does that conversation go?

I agree…I think I’ve gotten maybe only a couple hits from using monster and coroflot … the rest of it is networking…

Have you voiced your concerns about your company not using your skills and abilities to their fullest…or is it very apparent that there is no room for you to utitlize your skills at your current company…

Well, I do have a “backup plan” in place right now that’s going to give me the stability to do this. If you look at the “What’s your opinion on a 2nd degree in Graphic Design?” post, it describes my plan better. I won’t be leaving out right until my classes start, and my loan money to support myself financially comes in. That will give me roughly 2 months to sort things out and get some more resumes, etc. in circulation. I also do have some freelancing opportunities now, some on going, others that I think have some potential to happen. Part of my motivation to make this move is to see how well I can do as a freelancer. Long term I just want to take make a greater effort to find the right job, rather then settling for whatever comes around first.

We have had some discussions in the past where I aluded to the concerns that I have, and it was really met with a response that was more or less “I don’t have time to work with you more extensively like I should.” I feel like he doesn’t take the time he needs to give me proper direction. I’m also faced with a situation where I’m not working with a team of designers, it’s that I AM THE DESIGNER more or less. I feel like at this stage in my career I need to be working in an environment where I am working with other designers and I am learning from them, almost in a “mentor/student” type of relationship. I want to get into a consultant firm or an in house design office where I have greater opportunity to work with a larger team of designers, and I can better learn the process at which they go about their job, and how to be most effective in my role. I feel like that isn’t happening here.

As for leaving, I’m just gonna do my best to be as respectful and positive as I can, I don’t want to burn any bridges. I don’t think that the conditions could change enough to make me stay, or that any offer of increased salary would be enough to makeit worth it either. The money is a big part of the equation too.

I’m in exactly the same position. Worked for a company as the solo designer for over 2 years, and felt like I was not getting the direction needed. Part of the problem was that I was the only person with ANY design background, me being enty-level. Pretty soon you feel like this is as good as it is going to get?

Getting as much out of it as you put in is only part of the equation, especially when you’re working for value oriented customers.

Now I’m doing the coldcall-teaser thing, not too much luck sofar.

I’m also going to look into doing graphic design (haven’t read your other post yet).

Good luck to you!

EXACTLY I’m looking at this now thinking, “What am I really learning at this point?” What’s worse, is I keep getting this feeling that someone of my skill level and talent really isn’t needed there. They could get by with a CAD Monkey that has decent Illustrator skills. Having no one else to work with who has the same understanding of my role and capabilities is proving to be troublesome. I got a “Why are you putting this much effort into a spec sheet?” lecture recently and I had to explain to him that:

  1. I didn’t expend ANY extra effort printing out a rendering. I clicked “Render” on Rhino, and it was done. I only bothered to render because I wanted to send him something via email because he was too busy to come over to my work station.

  2. I didn’t just modify the shitty illustrator drawing that we had on file because I was changing the dimensions, and that in tern had an effect on other dimensions and parameters of the design.

It seems like working for an employer without knowledge of design leaves me either in a position where they underestimate the effort it takes to complete certain tasks, or the overestimate what I can do given the tools and timeframe I have. I need to be someplace where I work with people who have an equal understanding of what I’m doing, and what they can expect of me.

It seems like I see a lot of these “entry level” jobs where they are trying to hire a SINGLE designer to do everything, and they don’t realize how inefficient that can be, or how unrealistic that expectation. It’s different to take someone with 5+ years of experience in the same industry and ask them to do that, because they have a good understanding of what it is they need to do, and they can rely upon past knowledge in that industry to give them direction. Sadly, we don’t have that.


Do you have any work samples that you can post up so that we can see what your skills are?

Just trying to get some insite on your situation.

On the original subject, my opinion is that it doesnt hurt to cold call, email as long as you have a very direct pitch, are speaking to the right person, and understand the value of their time and availability.

Cold Callling the Sr. VP and asking a bunch of random questions about “how are things?”, "what is your company like?’ is a no-no.

Calling the main switchboard, introducing yourself as a student or grad designer and asking “who may I speak with regarding potential employment/internship/portfolio review opportunities” is OK.

It also doesnt hurt sometime if you cant get through to someone, or do but sense they are busy or dont want to talk, to ask for an email address that you can get in touch with via.


Staying on the original subject…

I just forked out the money to renew my IDSA membership, and mostly because it has a database of National Members. I’ve been starting to send out resumes and samples to people identified as department heads, and I’m thinking of a more “buddy, buddy” approach to send email to people identified as working for the company but not necessarily a dept head, etc.

How would you guys respond to this most likely? I’m basically introducing myself in the cover letter, telling them how I found their contact info, and asking them to take a look at my work and pass it on if they like what they see.

Would you regard it as another form of “spam” if you saw it?

Would you take the time to read it over and reply?

I would like to know the answer to this as well. As a professional, if you receive an email about potential work, do you usually read it?

Some pro’s do read them I’m sure! I’ve seen it!

I get a lot of solicitations from people from people looking for internships, jobs, etc. I pretty much always look at the PDF samples. However, If I don’t like what I see with 5-7 seconds, I’ll close it and not look back. Seriously, count it out, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand…that’s all the time you need to tell if someone’s book is worth looking at for another 15-20 min.

Don’t call me, I’ll call you. And DON’T waste your money on postage, and DO NOT send me a crappy DVD reel that you stayed up all weekend packaging (don’t waste time on packaging, unless you are a packaging designer).

A smart email with links to work examples on a FAST web server (not some free-serve pop up crap from thailand) is the best way to get my attention. Agree with Brett_nyc - 1st impression tells me if I see what I am looking for or not. And sometimes this is just in the text of the email message.

If you are in chicago - get a headhunter or recruiter working for you. There are quite a few in the creative markets here, and they work.