A to Z of Soft Skills: F for Follow Up

I sent a message (SMS) to follow up with someone for an article that I had submitted. When I did not hear from her, I left her a message on social media. She just called me after that and said that phone messages were passé and she hardly ever checked them. Whatsapp is where she’s always available. Well! Point noted!

I was conducting a session for fresh recruits on corporate etiquette when the HR manager interrupted me. She told the class that she doesn’t appreciate getting messages on Whatsapp (definitely not at unearthly hours) The new kids who had just joined the workforce should remember that this is not professional.

Different people. Different stories. All about follow up. With so many ways to keep in touch, it is hard to figure out what works for people. And that’s why I thought following up is an important skill to know in today’s times.

There are many situations where you may need to get back to people. The recruiter who said you did great in the interview and will get back. The proposal you sent to your super-boss and never heard about it. The good acquaintance you made at the networking event who wanted to catch up the following week but hasn’t called up to fix anything. Should you follow up in such situations or just wait some more? The answer is a clear YES!

What stops us from following up?

We mostly feel awkward being the first ones to start the conversation – again. Is it ok to call first? Will I sound too pushy? Is it too early to contact? What should I say so that I sound casual and not direct? Should I even call or just message or mail? burdened with with self doubt, we decide to wait it out a bit more. And probably lose that opportunity forever.

Why is it important to follow up?

Whether you are looking for a job or making a sale, it is your job to keep the conversation going. Done the right way, you wont be bothersome. Your boss must get about a 100 mails a day and yours might have gotten buried in the pile. The recruiter might be meaning to call you but got stuck with other candidates. The person you networked with could have misplaced your card and might actually be happy to hear from you. In any case, you wont lose from following up.

How to follow up properly?

Now this is the million dollar question. Someone deosnt check phone messages anymore. Another one doesn’t want to be Whatsapped. So what do we do? Here are a few tips:

Always follow up: If you haven’t heard from someone you should, follow up! Or you risk wasting all the time and effort you put into meeting that client or going for that interview or networking meet. So silence the doubtful voices in your head and just go ahead.

Make a follow up schedule if possible: Try and set a timeline when you meet people. If the recruiter says he’ll get in touch, find out by when. Don’t sound demanding. But politely asking, “By when may I expect a call?” will definitely get you some tentative timeline. Apply the same thing in other situations too. You could also suggest, say, to someone you are networking with and who wants to meet up again, “How about I give you a call around Tuesday next week?”. Doing this helps you understand how serious someone is about actually catching up or getting back. And then you act accordingly.

Follow up sooner than later: Don’t let too much time elapse between your meeting and the follow up. We live in pretty fast times and our memories are fleeting. If someone says 3 days, follow up by the end of the week for sure. (maybe sooner, depending on what the follow up is about). If the indicated time is a week, follow up right at the end of it. Too early and you might be annoying. Too late and you may be out of sight, out of mind already. Use your judgment. 

Email first: This is the least intrusive of all media. In formal situations like clients and recruiters, email is the only way to go, unless permitted otherwise. Although, I think it’s okay to Whatsapp someone if you hit it well during the networking dinner. Some people may actually prefer a quick message than a formal mail.

Keep it professional and polite: Even if it is an SMS. Don’t sound persistent and ask to drop into someone’s office without being asked. Keep the tone professional. Refer directly to the reason why you are writing. And politely ask the status. If appropriate, ask if you could call up sometime for further discussion.

Be prepared: In case you are following up for an interview or a pending client meet, have free slots to give out. Don’t make them give you an appointment only to realise you cant make it. You pretty much lose that chance because of that.

Following up is another new age skill that we need because of the times we live in. These tips are general and can be selectively applied depending on who you are following up with. 

Here is an additional resource to indicate the kind of follow up emails you can send to people – What should my follow up email look like

This post is a part of A to Z of soft skills for #AtoZChallenge. I’m talking about 26 skills in 26 days and how to improve on them. Feel free to look around the blog for other skills I have written about so far. Do share and tell others about it too.

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  1. I think I am pretty poor in follow up etiquettes. When it comes to whats app or smses I am pretty quick however am extremely slow when it comes to emails.I totally forget about the task at hand and many a times lose out on opportunities

    1. Losing out on opportunities is a direct result of not following up. How about make a task list for such things so that you know a follow up is due? Just a suggestion 🙂

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