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Definitely important.

You only skip the HR process if you have a pre-existing relationship with a decision-maker in the company. Cold-calling can work, but the most likely outcome is getting black-listed if they think you're one of the crazies.

If you really do want to go the cold-call method, use the cold-call to establish a relationship (i.e., ask for career advice, to talk about their technology stack, etc.) Once you have a real connection, then it may be appropriate to give them your resume.

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