Not sure whether you’re being too timid or crossing into “annoying” territory by following up? Us too. That’s why we asked these experts how they do it.
Take action immediately
“The worst thing is a follow-up that takes too long,” Alexandra Levit, author of Blind Spots: 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe, says. “A lack of responsiveness with business-related communication will kill your career. Make it practice to routinely respond to emails, or recap deliverables discussed over the phone or in person, within 24 hours.”
Then, once you’ve made contact, remind them of who you are straight away. “You might, for example, say, ‘I’m following up based on the conversation we had at lunch yesterday’, so they aren’t wracking their brain trying to remember where they met you,” Alexandra says. “Also, exude enthusiasm. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and that you are looking forward to another conversation – and then ask about their availability for that conversation right away.”
Remember your manners (and professionalism)
When you’re writing a follow-up email, focus on being polite. “Make sure the tone of your email is a gentle reminder, not a demand for attention,” career management coach Jane Jackson says. “Also be concise – as it’s a follow-up email, don’t waffle – get to the point and offer to provide additional information should they require it to make a decision.”
The last thing Jane suggests to entice a response is to add value. “You could include an attachment or a link to information or an article that would be of interest or add value to them. This will show you have done your research and are willing to go the extra mile to make a difference to them,” Jane says.
Once you have all the pieces in place, don’t hit send until you’ve checked for typos. “When following up on a business email, the worst thing you could do is not to proofread your message. Sending a follow-up email with typos is broadcasting your lack of attention to detail, potentially shoddy work in the future and it just looks sloppy,” Jane says. “Remember that your email is an extension of your personal brand – what you put out there is a reflection of who you are, your professionalism, the way you do things and whether you really care.”
Has a week passed and you still haven’t heard back? “I would send another follow-up. It’s very easy for emails to get lost in the system these days and you might have caught that person in a busy moment,” says career advisor Katie Roberts. “There’s no harm in doing that as you are not demanding anything. All you are doing is just sending a follow-up email to put you back in their mind.”
If, after that second follow-up attempt, there’s still no response on the other side, Katie says it’s okay to make a call. “I’d just say, ‘I’m just following up, I’ve sent a couple of emails regarding (whatever it is), just wanting to check if you have received it.’ It could be as simple as that,” Katie says. “Little things like this can help you stand out and show that you are enthusiastic. I think it’s important to do that.”
Want to follow-up on a job you’ve applied for? Roberts has this advice:
When: “Follow-up once the closing date for applications has passed. If there isn’t a closing date listed, wait approximately a week, then call or send an email,” Katie says.
What: “As far as the content goes, the first thing is to explain who you are and why you are writing to them, the reasons you feel you are the right person for the job and the value that you can offer the company. It might just be three key points, keeping it brief and using bullet points, so it’s easy to read.”
Case study: “I actually hired a girl few years ago who I had originally put into the ‘no’ pile and then she called me out of the blue just to follow-up. She talked to me about the reasons she thought she was right for the role and I ended up interviewing her. If she hadn’t called me that day, she wouldn’t have the job. It just shows that it’s really worthwhile.”