7 reasons you’re not hearing back about your job applications

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You know that feeling: although you apply to several jobs, you never hear back from recruiters or hiring managers. It’s frustrating, but definitely not unusual: A survey by Randstad US found that it takes job seekers an average of five months to be hired and, unsurprisingly, 82 percent of people called the process a “stressful experience.”

While it will always be a necessary ordeal for job-seekers, there’s no reason for you to have to guess your way through it. From the layout of your resume to following up with a recruiter, each application comes with a lot of balls to juggle.

“The job search process is complex and non-intuitive,” says Daniel E. Santos, CEO at Prepory, a career coaching company. “However, tailoring application materials to the companies and industries you’re interested in can greatly increase the probability of hearing back.”

Putting in additional time and energy knowing full-well you may never hear back from someone can definitely be annoying, but it will increase your chances of getting a response. Here’s why you may not be hearing back about the job you applied to and what you can do to get your inbox buzzing:

1. You didn’t follow the application instructions

When you’re on a job application spree, it’s easy to overlook the fact that each recruiter is looking for different information and resources. One might ask for examples of your past work while another may request your availability and salary expectations.

Neglecting to provide the information requested by not following the instructions given can lead to no response from a recruiter, says Brie Reynolds, a career development manager, career coach, and resume writer at FlexJobs, a site designed to help candidates find remote and flexible jobs. This is the first impression you’re giving the company so take the extra few minutes to ensure you’ve applied exactly as the instructions say. 

2. Your resume doesn’t reflect the job description 

It’s critical you tailor your standard one-page resume to each job you apply for. “Recruiters often use [narrowing, electronic] searches to find candidates after they have applied,” says Sarah Doughty, Director of Recruitment of TalentLab, an IT recruitment company. “Ensuring your resume uses the same keywords will push it to the top of the search results, so you know your profile will be reviewed.”

Instead of making it into a guessing game, take keywords directly from the listing. “The easiest way to tailor your resume: print each job description you’re applying for and grab a highlighter. Then, start highlighting the keywords you think are important and that describe your skills and experiences,” says Reynolds. “and make sure they appear on your resume.”

3. Your cover letter is generic

The cover letter was declared dead in 2017, when the Job Seeker Nation Survey reported that only 26 percent of recruiters considered it an important aspect of their hiring decision. But knowing how someone writes does matter for potential employers-hence asking for a cover letter is still standard practice in many application processes.

So, how to write one that stands out? “Before drafting a cover letter, thoroughly review the position’s overview and explore the company’s webpage,” says Santos.”Ask yourself, ‘How can I connect with the company’s ideals/culture?’ or ‘Are there any qualifications listed that may not be clear in my resume?’” It can be tempting to skip this step when a cover letter is optional, but consider submitting it nonetheless: it can set you above other candidates who leave it blank. 

4. You’re following up too aggressively

The process of searching for a job is definitely a test of patience, but the waiting game must be played. Aggressively following up with the recruiter or hiring manager directly after applying online is a big no-no. Doughtry explains: “I’ve even had candidates arrive in-person to my office within a few minutes of applying online to see if they have gotten the role, which only creates stress and negative association when the hiring teams consider the candidate in the future”.

While confidence in your abilities is important, when you follow up, don’t assume you have an interview or the job in the bag. “A candidate who doesn’t display patience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness during the application process is unlikely to get an interview,” she says.

It should go without sayin,g but berating a recruiter with nasty messages or demands for a response is a surefire way to be taken out of the running for a role. 

5. You didn’t follow up at all 

While following up too quickly or aggressively hurts your chances of getting the job, so does not following up at all. It’s all about finding that balance between too eager and just eager enough, right?

“Candidates should follow up on each application via phone or email approximately seven days after it was submitted,” says Santos. “You can encourage the hiring manager or recruiter to schedule an interview with you by providing your availability in an email and restating your interest in the position.” Stating your availability can go something like, “If you choose to move forward with an interview, I’ve provided my availability below for your convenience.”

6. You applied too late

It may be the case that you’re not hearing back from a job simply because the hiring process is in its final steps. “Sometimes applicants may be submitting applications for positions that are towards the end of the hiring process,” says Santos. “An easy way to avoid applying to these types of postings is to sort jobs by ‘most recent’ or ‘date posted.’ This will provide a bit more assurance that the candidate’s resume will be reviewed,” he says.

Of course, if a job was posted some time ago but looks like a great opportunity, there’s no harm in applying. If none of the applicants work out or a similar opportunity pops up in the future, then they’ll have your information readily available. 

7. You’re just not the right fit 

No matter how much you want a job, sometimes you’re just not the best applicant for it — and not because you don’t have the talent or the skillset. The Randstad US survey also reported that 38 percent of participants had applied to a job without reading the description. If you’ve been blindly applying to every job in your field with no luck, start paying closer attention to how well your particular skills line up with the qualifications requested. “You should take the application process seriously and never apply for a role where you don’t have at least 70 percent of the skills listed,” says Doughty, “as well as being at the right general level of seniority.”

With conflicting qualifications, such as having only five years of experience doing something when the job asks for seven, she says you should still go ahead and apply. Explain your relevant experience incredibly clearly for your best shot at being selected—and learn from each application as you go. 

More must-read stories from Fortune:

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—These cities have the most jobs with six-figure salaries
—Too good to be true? Beware of fake online jobs
—8 good reasons to turn down a promotion
—WATCH: Can you be a leader and an introvert?

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