Never send a generic invitation

Image: RelyAble via Wikimedia Commons

An interview is a significant time investment. If it’s not personal, it’s useless.

How would you respond to this pitch?

Subject: Invitation @ Interview Series

Hi Josh,

My name is Olga and I’m the Project Marketing Manager at Brief. Apple has featured us as [Apps We Love] in 2018 and 2019.

We’ve been working on an interview series, “Executive Spotlight,” that will focus on aspiring leaders around the world.

This series of interviews put the focus on insights on leadership, innovation and productivity.

I’d love to invite you to be one of our main interviewees for our series.

Interviews will be published on our blog, shared twice in Brief’s weekly newsletter and across social media platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Is that something you might be interested in?

Thanks Josh, and have a lovely day!

P.S. I’m a big fan of your work.


Olga Lashkevich Project Marketing Manager
Brief Communications Inc. 
245 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1102 
New York, 10016 NY

Here’s my first question: was this sent by a machine? It sure looks like a template that sends hundreds or thousands of the same email to everyone.

I looked up Brief and it is based in Russia. There is no clue in this email as to what it does.

Despite the New York address in her email, according to Olga’s LinkedIn, she is based in Moscow. She’s been working at Brief for four months. In 2018 she worked in a bakery.

Suspecting that Olga might be a robot, I sent this reply:

First prove you actually know who I am. This email appears to be generic. Which of my work are you a ‘fan of’?

Here was her reply:

Hi Josh,

Thanks for getting back to me!

We do know you, as we read your blog and also follow your twitter account and always find your thoughts and blog articles useful and straightforward.

We thought that would be great if you could share some opinions with our audience in our “Executive Spotlight” interview series. 
It would be beneficial for us to receive insight from such an inspirational and influential writer as you. 

The process is very simple — you just need to fill out this questionnaire [link redacted] and we then share a draft with you before the interview goes live. 

Looking forward to hearing back from you and have a great weekend

With kindest regards,

Was Olga a chatbot? That’s still in question. Her response was completely generic. And she responded after a whole day passed, at 4:30 am New York time (12:30 pm Moscow time).

And in case you were wondering, the questionnaire includes provocative questions like these:

  • What would you like to see your team accomplish in 2020?
  • What were the most challenging areas in the early stages of the company’s growth?
  • Do you use any specific method or system to run daily operations?

Imagine a site full of interviews with answers to these questions from a bunch of different people. Thrilling!

All interview invitations must be personal

Want to invite someone to be in a podcast or blog interview? Here are the rules.

  • Mention something personal about the interviewee to indicate that you know who they are and why they are interesting.
  • Explain the size and makeup of your audience.
  • Explain why being in front of that audience in particular will be valuable for the interviewee.
  • Email interviews are fine, but personalize them to the interviewee.
  • Check your LinkedIn profile — because potential interviewees will.

Generic invitations are quick and efficient. But if you expect an interviewee to spend time with you, you must spend time on them. If you don’t, the only people who respond will be losers — and no one wants to peruse a bunch of interviews with losers.

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  1. Nice going, Josh. This is the blueprint for updating outreach bot algorithms. 😉

    Actually, I am already seeing attempts to improve outreach automation. To get past the generic “love your work” they will auto-insert [website-name] and [recent-post-title]. Of course, the references are usually way off target and this ruse still results in immediate deletion. But, give ’em a couple of years.

  2. the two forms of stovepiping
    1. requiring the user to abide by constraints that are both narrow and arbitrary;
    2. requiring the user to wade through irrelevancies to get to what is essential.

    These two forms of stovepiping are two sides of the same coin, but it is the first form that is usually meant when the term ‘stovepiping’ is used. Examples of the second form include:

    * an owner’s manual that addresses several models of the device simultaneously;
    * un-customized messages from a vendor that you have been doing business with, such as:
    “It is time for your quarterly barrier protection service or monthly mosquito service.”
    “If you have a balance outstanding on your account it is indicated below.”
    (- it being left to you, the customer, to disregard whatever does not apply)
    *** and the ‘generic invitations’ you speak of