(CareerBuilder.com) -- You write a killer cover letter, tailor your résumé to highlight skills described in the job ad and double-check your application before sending to make sure it includes everything the company requested. All that is left to do is sit back and wait for the employer to contact you.
But as days turn into weeks without hearing a peep, questions arise. Did they get my material? Has the job been filled? Did they just not like me?
Here, experts weigh in on what might be behind that silence -- and what you can do to get the conversation rolling.
The reality of the situation
Companies truly are glad that people want to work for them. Unfortunately, many places simply do not have the manpower to offer individualized responses.
"Given the volume of applications an HR office receives, you should not expect a response beyond an automated 'we received your application' unless they are interested in interviewing you," says Pennell Locey, senior consultant for Keystone Associates, a career management consulting firm headquartered in Boston. "In the event there was no auto-response, you can send a note via snail mail to someone in HR along with your résumé to ensure that they received it."
But is there anything one can do besides play the "wait and see" game?
"After submitting a job application, it is wise to follow up with a telephone call to the appropriate contact within a week to 10 days," says Mary Massad, vice president of talent acquisition and retention strategies for Administaff, a professional employer organization headquartered in Houston, Texas. "Some individuals might feel that following up may be perceived as being pushy, but this actually demonstrates to the employer that you are conscientious, organized and professional."
When following up, Massad recommends asking if the application was received and if any additional information is needed. (Of course, if they didn't get your application, offer to send it again.) "It also is important to restate your interest in the job, but don't be overzealous."
Locey suggests trying to stand out from the masses by seeing if you can find a contact at the company who can single you out to the hiring manager and speak to your strengths. "That can be beneficial to you (you may get an interview) and to the company (finding a candidate who someone is willing to vouch for)."
The waiting game, part 2
Job seekers who are fortunate enough to generate employer interest may feel like their days of waiting are over. In truth, however, an interview (or even two or three) may simply usher in a new era of frustrating silence. According to Locey, if you have interviewed with a company and not heard back within two weeks, chances are that one or more of the following is happening:
• They are talking to several candidates and it is taking awhile to get them all scheduled.
• They can't get the interviewers together to discuss the candidates post interview.
• You are not the first choice but are strong enough that they do not want to say "no" yet.
• Having talked to several qualified people has changed the hiring manager's view of the job and he is working behind the scenes to upgrade or shift the role.
"The best thing you can do is try to set some expectations during the interview about what the company's process is," says Tracy A. Cashman, partner and general manager of the information technology division of Winter, Wyman -- one of the largest staffing firms in the Northeast. "Ask when you can expect to hear if you are selected for the next round. Take that date, add a few days to it and then don't be afraid to politely follow up."
Sending a thank-you note immediately after the interview can help set the stage for further contact. Follow-up strategies later in the game may include:
• Sending an e-mail that reiterates interest and offers to provide any additional information.
• Finding an article on a topic discussed during the interview and sending it with a note as a way to show you are thinking about the company.
• Phoning the person who interviewed you to thank her again, to ask if there is an update on the position and to share anything you might have forgotten in the initial interview. While employer silence is anything but golden to an eager applicant, stay positive by remembering that the day will come when the quietness will be broken by the sweet sound of a job offer!
© CareerBuilder.com 2011. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority.