One Surefire Tip for Getting Blown Off

If you haven’t needed to look for a job in many years, I can virtually guarantee you’re going to be shocked by one particular aspect of the job market once you start hunting around for a new position in earnest.  You’ll be stunned by how often you send people an e-mail, or leave them a voice-mail, and get totally blown off.

For better or worse, most professionals today (possibly even including yourself?) receive far more inbound information on a 24-hour basis than they can comfortably deal with.  For all its convenience, the invention of e-mail technology has made it possible for millions of random people, located all around the globe, to bug complete strangers at all hours of the day — without even the minor friction of having to attach a 35-cent stamp.

We’ve also seen our mailboxes fill up with crap.  And cringe when answering phone calls from unfamiliar numbers, given how often these turn out to be from solicitors.

As a result, blow-off behavior seems to be at an all-time high, and important correspondence of all varieties can easily get missed as we scan through our communications receptacles at breakneck speed, trying to separate the legitimate and worthy material from stuff that might be a virus — or that deserves speedy banishment to the spam folder.

So if you’re looking for job, it’s IMPERATIVE that you take the extra time to customize your messages.  You’ve got to demonstrate you have something relevant to say to the audience in question and explain why you’re interested in talking to them, specifically, instead of keeping things vague and/or relying on generic form letters.  Fail to do this, and you’re unlikely to get much traction in your search efforts, whether we’re talking about submitting a cover letter to an employer or using a site like LinkedIn to initiate a networking introduction.

By way of illustration, here are three e-mails I’ve received in the past few weeks from “people” who have expressed interest in submitting a guest post for my blog:


E-Mail Example #1:

Hi Matt,

I hope this e-mail finds you well.  I’m writing regarding the possibility of my team and I possibly guest posting on your website.  I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in this collaboration.  Please let me know your thoughts – I know sometimes e-mails can get caught in your spam filter.

A little about me: I work for an education company [name withheld] and help manage our community building. My team and I have been lucky to be able to share our love of writing on many different blogs. We’re passionate about sharing our voices and look forward to trying a new outlet on your website!

All the best,

Regina Stevens


E-Mail Example #2:


Are you currently looking for a guest writer by chance? If so, I’d love to contribute some content to your blog.  Let me know if you want me to send you some writing samples.

Thanks for your time,



E-Mail Example #3:

Hi Matt:

Love your blog!  Really wish I had found it back when I was job hunting. Wondering if you accept guest blog posts?

Either way, let me know and have a great week!

Bob Crandall


So here’s the question.  Which of these e-mail messages do I think I responded to?

Answer: none of them.

Happy talk and cute little “conversational” phrases aside, not a single one of the notes above (assuming they’re even written by real people in the first place) demonstrates a shred of evidence that they know anything about my blog, my readership profile, or that they have a genuine interest in collaboration.  They’re insanely generic — and for all practical purposes, appear to simply be automated form letters where my first name was merged into the file.  Even the third example, which at least acknowledges I author a career-related blog, could easily be mass-produced by a publicist attempting to spam every career blogger in the country in the hopes they’ll run some self-serving promotional piece for one of their clients.

The takeaway from these examples?  If you’re out there in the job market banging out “canned” correspondence, without taking the time to personalize your messages carefully, your response rate is going to be downright abysmal.  So make sure you’re infusing your cover letters, networking notes, and voicemail messages with an ample dose of relevance and context about your intentions — and your recipient — to instantly prove that they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Take the easy way out, and you’re toast!

P.S.  Incidentally, as an experiment, when one of these “guest bloggers” followed up with yet another note, I decided to engage — and sent him back a short message telling him I suspected he was an automated mailing service, but would hear him out if he had a real proposal to offer.  In response, I got an immediate reply, without the slightest hint of personalization, asking me to run a promotional puff piece about a truck-driver school.  “Move to Trash” button, anyone?

4 Responses to “One Surefire Tip for Getting Blown Off”

  1. I see your intent now, Matt. Thanks for your response.

  2. Estrella: Thanks for chiming in and I’d be happy to try and share an example of a “good” e-mail note or cover letter, as requested, in a future post. But honestly, I’m not sure I even have to, since (speaking at least for myself) I’ll generally respond to ANY piece of correspondence that shows even the slightest glimmer of legitimate personalization. Unfortunately, however, an increasing number of the notes I see out there omit these kinds of details and seem to be rushed out, without any serious thought to the message and why it would be relevant/important to the audience receiving it. For example, I’ll routinely get e-mails from people asking if I can “place them” or asking if I’ll consider them as a candidate for my recruiting assignments. The problem? If they had spent 10 seconds actually reviewing my website, or reading about my background before contacting me, they’d realize I’m not a recruiter! So while I certainly could turn up and share a number of examples of good correspondence, if needed, my primary mission for this latest article was to simply warn people to avoid the “instant delete” response that usually occurs with materials that are utterly generic…

  3. Matt, I would like to see an example of an email that you would consider responding to. Could you include that in a future blog?

  4. Yes, Matt, we live in a highly connected world … and the unfortunate thing about it is that we have lost the ability to appreciate the necessity of building relationships. One of my favorite habits from The 7 Habits of Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is habit #5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood. And you might wonder what that has to do with your topic. One of the basic ways of building relationships is to really care about what the other person cares about. To get inside their head and and truly hear what they are saying when they talk, when they dream, and when they long for something … like for success. Today, there is no barrier to learning as much as you can about another person before you meet them or reach out to them. Of course, I am preaching to the choir here with you. And, yet, does it not amaze you how so many people never take the time to listen and learn? This always tickles me. I remember being in a meeting about 5 years ago with a nationally known author and a man who wanted to sign him to a contract for audio books. Imagine my surprise when the man asked the author, “so, what books have you written?” I could not mask the shock on my face. (I would be a horrible poker player!) Are you kidding me? The internet could have easily provided him the info he needed prior to the meeting. Suffice it to say, he did not get a contract. The author was kind during the meeting and graceful. Afterwards, I asked him about it and he said that kind of thing happens all the time. People are only interested in their own stuff and getting what they want. With that said, I do know many people (you included) who do make time to build relationships and I, for one, am actually always more interested in helping other people get what they want … it always seems to work out well for everyone in the end.

    You do make a good point though about the overwhelm with the inbox. What I have learned over time is how core people always respond within 24 hours AND those folks are the true gems in my life!

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