When faced with competing priorities in today’s busy world, responding to everyone who reaches out to you is a challenge, but responding noticeably late (or not at all) is detrimental to job and business opportunities. More broadly, a poor response time reflects negatively on you as a professional, and in turn, on your personal brand. By not acknowledging communications, you impress upon senders a lack of respect for them or their business, indicate that you’re not on top of your workload or that you don’t pay attention to detail –- undesirable conclusions all around.
If your colleagues and business partners regularly need to follow up with you for an answer to an email or voicemail, your lackluster response time has tarnished your personal brand already. In contrast, when you’re known as someone who responds in a timely manner, this reputation will enhance important business relationships and strengthen your professional image.
Few excuses are acceptable for not keeping up with communications. Maximizing technology, together with good time management skills, will increase your productivity and reduce response time.
Here are 5 common situations where timely communication is important:
Replying to recruiters or hiring managers
If you’ve launched a job search and get that golden email or voicemail from a recruiter, hiring manager or someone in your network, respond quickly to convey interest in the potential role. Waiting days to reply could cost you the opportunity. If the sender asks for your availability to interview or an updated resume and you need time to produce it, inform the contact how much time you need (and then follow through!)
Even if you’re not interested in the particular position or plan to change jobs immediately, respond promptly. The recruiter or contact may consider you for an interesting opportunity down the road. Your timely response will make a good first impression that may lead to a better long-term relationship.
Accepting meeting invitations
Avoid putting off a response to a meeting invitation, as it can keep clients, colleagues, vendors or business partners in flux and cause frustration, both of which reflect poorly on your personal brand. If you’re unsure about your schedule, let the meeting organizer know and provide a timeframe by which you’ll confirm. Responding to others, even in this small way, sends the message that you value and respect their time.
Returning phone calls
While using phones and voicemail has dwindled, you may find that a quick call best communicates a particular idea or resolves a problem. Prioritize returning calls promptly. Some companies require that calls are returned within the same business day or 24 hours, especially to clients, to ensure the organization maintains its reputation for responsiveness.
If you don’t have time to return a call, send a quick email to let the person know that you’ll call back within a specific timeframe or arrange for a more convenient time to speak. If either you or the other party can’t (or don’t prefer to) call back, suggest that the conversation move to email.
Responding to LinkedIn invitations and messages
Connecting with new contacts to build lasting relationships — supported in part by timely responses to LinkedIn invitations — is an essential business practice that reflects your personal brand. If you see an invitation to connect and intend to accept it, do so within a few days at most (especially if the person took the time right after you met to send the invitation). The same holds true when responding to InMail and direct messages.
Build stronger relationships by helping others. If you promise to send someone information, invite them to an event, introduce them to a beneficial contact or set up a meeting, follow through sooner rather than later. Ideally, fulfill promises while you are still top of mind. Waiting a week or two before doing what you said you would diminishes the positive effect you wanted to achieve and might even cost you a potential client or business opportunity.
Building solid professional relationships and creating a strong personal brand requires prompt response time, regardless of your industry, job function or level of experience. When you delay responses to important messages, you may miss out on significant business or career opportunities. In contrast, when you build a reputation for timely communication, you’ll strengthen new and existing business relationships and ensure that your personal brand reflects promptness and dependability.