Why I Turned Down An Interview By NTU Masters’ Programme Candidates

I’ve been receiving a number of interview requests this year, and if you don’t already know, I do accept most of them (in fact, just about all of them). I’ve done interviews with an SMU undergrad (whom I had to teach a thing or two about camera angles, how to pose questions, etc) and accepted interview requests from polytechnic students. So, why am I rejecting the NTU Masters’ Programme candidates?

Their Email:

Dear Grace

We are conducting an academic research project as part of our masters’ programme at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University.

The aim of the project is to assess the social media landscape in Singapore.

We are writing to you as working with grace is one of Singapore’s top blogs and your insights will be extremely valuable to not just this project, but in shaping the way organizations engage social media influencers like yourself in the future.

The study is strictly for academic purpose and your identity will be kept confidential in our submissions.

The face-to-face interview will not take up more than an hour; below are some of the questions that we’ll be asking.

  • How do you decide on the content to post on the different social media platforms?
  • How do you determine if a topic is worthy of writing or sharing?
  • If an organisation were interested in engaging you to be their social media commentator or to write an endorsement piece for them, what would be your consideration?

Could you please let us know if you would be able to participate in the interview by Thu, 31 Oct 2013?

The interview will be conducted between Fri 1 Nov and Mon 4 Nov, at a date/time convenient for you.

Alternatively, an email interview is also available. 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Thank you!

Best Regards

Priyanka, Elizabeth, Rachael & Truda (PERT)


Why I’m Saying No:

  1. They call themselves “PERT”, which could mean “impudently bold, saucy“. For a formal interview request, I’d rather they not do this acronym thing with their names.
  2. Secondly, I read the email twice and found no answer to the question “WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?” These ladies are telling me that this interview will be “strictly for academic purpose” and “(my) identity will be kept confidential”. So, WHY I would want to spend an hour of my time with them and help THEM with THEIR project/homework? What sort of blogger has so much time to spare?
  3. And they seem to know nothing at all about me or my blog, beyond that superficial comment that my blog is “one of Singapore’s top blogs”. I would have been DELIGHTED if they had managed to reference one or two blogposts they found exceptionally insightful or if they had read my book and loved it. Do they even read my blogposts???
  4. It seems like they are sending out a template email, to more than one blogger. What gave me that impression is how the name of my blog is in bold letters (“working with grace”) which is usually an indication to the email sender to change this field before blasting the email to the next potential interviewee. [2 of my blogger friends confirmed that they received the exact same email]
  5. They obviously have not read my book ‘Blogging For A Living’ or they would have been taught how to send interview requests. In the book, I share how I secured the interview with Peter Buffett (via email) without paying him, though my trainer friends had paid a 5-figure sum to interview Peter’s ex-wife.
  6. The deadline specified (for responding to them) is also a turn-off. ” Could you please let us know if you would be able to participate in the interview by Thu, 31 Oct 2013?” You send me an email today and EXPECT a reply by tomorrow? What if I have so many emails to clear that I don’t read your email till the day after tomorrow? These ladies apparently care more about themselves and their project, than me and my time. They can at least also pretend to be concerned that the interview would take up time I can’t spare, and I would have said YES to their request! 😉

How I Would Have Written That Email Request:

Dear Grace,

We came across your blog WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com and your book ‘Blogging For A Living’ and are very impressed by how you made your blog one of Singapore’s top blogs! We love that interview you did with Peter Buffett and got inspired by your interviews with other millionaires, celebrities and entrepreneurs.

We would be very honored if you could share with us some insights to be incorporated into our research project for the masters’ programme at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University.

We know that as a full-time blogger, you are very busy, but we would be really grateful if you could spare us an hour or two of your time. Please let us buy you lunch if you would be willing to come by our campus for the interview, and send you a copy of our research findings with other leading social media influencers after we conclude our study.

Would you prefer a face-to-face or email interview?

We look forward to your favorable reply.

Best Regards,

Priyanka, Elizabeth, Rachael & Truda


This, ladies, is how you ask for an interview and increase your chances of securing it (even IF you are sending this email to many people!) P/s: You don’t even have to buy my book. Though… if you had mentioned that you’d like me to come by to autograph it for you, I’d be more than happy to do the interview, and autograph the book. 😀 *wink wink*

*Update*: The PERT ladies reply… and why I think they STILL don’t get it.


*Final update*: For the Masters’ or PhD people or whoever you are, if you’d like to leave a comment saying that I SHOULDN’T publish the PERT ladies’ names, please don’t be silly. How else would you know what PERT means, and how silly it is for them to make this PERT acronym from their names? And it is after all, only their first names, not their full names, without their photos, and not linked to their LinkedIn profiles or whatever. [I could so definitely find their pictures or profiles online if I REALLY wanted to (quote) “name and shame” them. I didn’t publish their email address too (if you’ve realized).


22 thoughts on “Why I Turned Down An Interview By NTU Masters’ Programme Candidates

  1. I do hope our NTU students Priyanka, Elizabeth, Rachael & Truda take Grace’s six-point comments, critical though they might appear initially, as an introduction to the blogosphere. Your generation need to embrace Social Media, more so when you are masters candidate in the field of communication and information.
    In life, we learn, tell stories and ask for help. It is so easy for people on the other end simply to say ‘no’. So what are the tips to write a request well? I find Grace’s PEA Method simple and effective. What’s my advice? Make your request with a strong dose of Emotional Intelligence.
    Emails can be a bad thing, made worse with cut-and-past, The ladies’ email to Grace has no fewer than four different fonts. Yes, four! Even from the start, “Dear Grace” was already in a font so different from the first five paragraphs. Using a template is OK, but at least use the same font.
    With my years of corporate life, working and living overseas, I can still learn from Grace’s advice about blogging. She has walked the talk, making a living by blogging and sharing generously in her book and her workshops.

  2. As a researcher myself, I hope to help clarify some issues here. I should think the girls really do not have a choice but to send you a template invitation. As part of the procedure for academic research, the institute’s Internal Review Board (IRB) expects to see letters of invitation to participants (i.e. sample), consent forms for participation, etc, as part of an elaborate document/proposal submitted to the committee prior to carrying out a research. This process is called ethics clearance. Any change, no matter how minor, would require the researchers to hold back their research by another month or more. In a quantitative research where a sizeable sample is anything 30 and above, it would be difficult for the researchers to craft individual or customized letter of invitation to participants. Even for qualitative research where the sample size could be smaller, like in my case, 6 participants, it is also a template invitation. So, please pardon the girls for using a template invitation.

    In addition, buying you a meal may not be viable for the girls. Again, sample size here would mean they have to dig deep into their pockets especially when they are students. Even in research carried out by organisations or established academia, the token of appreciation for participation does not come from the researcher(s) themselves, but from the sponsor/funder. So, it would have been difficult for these girls to offer every blogger interviewed a meal or token of appreciation which again, has to be approved by the IRB and is standardized for all participants. Acknowledgement of receipt for token of appreciation also has to be signed by the recipient, and a witness too. The bureaucracy and rigor for ethics clearance do not afford these girls the freedom to “customize” their invitation to you as you have suggested. Still, what you’ve suggested is great, if the researchers are not restricted by budget and institutional regulation.

    Nonetheless, I fully agree with you on the deadline portion and the WIIFM. I don’t know when they sent the invitation to you but it should not be last minute. They have to recognize that a star blogger like you would not be sitting around waiting to be interviewed by researchers. A wider window for the proposed interview period would show sincerity and sensitivity to busy bloggers like yourself. As well, although they shouldn’t identify the individual participants in any research, they should have thought through more carefully how your contribution to their research can add more value society, knowledge or learning and be specific about the contribution, not simply “…your insights will be extremely valuable to not just this project, but in shaping the way organizations engage social media influencers like yourself in the future.” Your suggestion for them to send you a copy of their research finding is excellent. This is definitely doable for any researcher and would have minimally met the WIIFM criteria.

    I must say I do really like your suggested letter of invitation. :))

    • Thanks, Cuz!

      1) I see your point. Never knew about “ethics clearance” before this. In any case, the letters of invitation need to be better written, avoid tell-tale mass-emailing signs, and offer a bit more sincerity. 😉

      2) I don’t even mind if they don’t buy me lunch. The main thing is in offering something. Not simply demanding my time. Because I owe them nothing.

      3) I received their email on Oct 30, and they wanted a reply by Oct 31 😉

      One of my fellow bloggers actually replied to their email (see, they DID mass-send that email) and this is what he told me, via my FB page:

      “Just to let u know. I replied them, by email. Only becos they are from my same school. I got a reply… These are not the answers we want because we have more questions but thanks. Somewhere along that line. Regretted wasting 30 min of my life typing a reply.”

      These ladies don’t seem appreciative of bloggers’ time at all.

      I just HAD to remind them that we owe these masters’ prog candidates NOTHING at all. So, they should definitely put more thought into their emails, and especially in their replies. 😉

    • Haha. Looks like they do indeed have lessons to learn especialy in communication. It’s ironical that they’re from the WKWSCI.

    • Think all of us can continue learning how to communicate better and clearer. Wars, family feuds and loss of friendships do often arise from “mis-communication”. If only we can just write them in mathematical equations. Template is fine, but not 4 font types in the same email. 🙂

  3. Almost everyone in Singapore is focused on the task and seldom on the process.

    While being focused is good in some situations, we must realise that human contact in our very crowded world demands the focus on being connected and with empathy. This value is missing and I can blame it all on managers, seniors, leaders and people with authority who set targets, goals & KPIs.

    Yes, thanks for sharing too!

    • Yes, Henry. It’s not just empathy. It’s also sincerity. The email I received lacked sincerity. I owe these ladies nothing at all. So if they had considered that an hour of my time is precious to me, or bothered to find out more about me and my blog, I would certainly have said YES.

  4. Yup, definitely used a template. I’ve received similar letter bef (quite some time ago and not fr the same group of ppl) and I rem that letter sounded similar. And nope, I didn’t bother to reply them becos i couldn’t tell if they’re sincere, and I dun wanna do someone’s homework for them.

    • Yes Cloudywind, somehow there are people out there who think the world owes them something. I’m certainly not gonna do their homework for them. They can ask nicely, and I may consider. *wink*

  5. Exactly, shared your opinion they are too mechanical in their request. Lost any personal touch in total.

  6. After reading this post, I could not help it but to comment. 1) I work in one of the Uni in spore now and I see this kind of email request everyday 2) I use to get lots of request for event sponsorship from uni students in my previous employment. 3) Both jobs these students made me puke blood from their lack of tact, understanding of the situation and circumstances they are in, KPI & ROI….. 4) Most of the time I can only stare in amazement at their emails and wonder how the hell they became uni students. Really if this is the kind of students being churned out we are not giving them a proper education from our education system.

    • I really am ok with such emails if they are from secondary school students, or polytechnic students. I would close one eye to their “lack of tact, understanding of the situation”, etc. 😉

      I suppose I am especially harsh on these PERT ladies because they are Masters’ prog candidates (and proud of it) from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information. I expected better from them. 🙂

    • Grace

      I’m curious why you thought poly students could do worse. Already the uni students are showing they are no better off in tact and communications. Hmmm…

    • Mark, I’ve NOT “thought poly students could do worse”. I’m just more accepting if they mass-send emails and don’t even get my name right. I expect more from NTU Masters students.

  7. Pingback: The NTU Masters’ Prog Ladies FINALLY Get It? Or… Maybe Not | Working With Grace

  8. I hope these girls learnt a thing or two from this before entering the real world, where other people value their own time as well. And if they used a template invitation, shame on them; a research interview is work and they should be putting effort into tailoring a template to suit their request.

    Whether we have humor or not, an interview request should be formal and no acronym such as ‘PERT’ should be anywhere in the letter. A clever professional joke thrown in before/after the interview process could be appreciated, but ‘PERT’ is not a good opening for them. For masters candidates, this was childish and careless.

    • Hey Silvia,

      Yes I do HOPE they learnt something. The main thing I hope they learn is to not take other people’s time for granted, as no one owes them anything, whether they are MASTERS candidates or not. Anyway, it’s no big deal being a Masters candidate – there are so many of them around in our paper-chasing society. 😉

      But “PERT”… well, I’m really quite amused they came up with this… for an academic research project, no less. 😀 I would have thought that a lecturer should have vetted their email before they sent it out – no one told them PERT sounds funny? LOL!

  9. Agreed.

    But this is very typical of Singaporeans trying to make contact.

    It’s funny in a way but lots of us try to be ‘formal’ and ‘atas’ and forget that at the end of the day, we’re still dealing with people.

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