Once upon a time, I found a job and fell in love. I applied for the job, and dreamed of spending a lifetime happily ever after in that job. That's where the story ends. Actually, where it ends a lot.
I was complaining about this to my brother, "I apply for jobs, and nothing happens." And he asked my what the HR person said about my application. I was slightly appalled- you can't just talk to those people. And he explained, with the patience of someone who still remembers finding their first job, that 'no, you must talk to those people. That is, in fact, their job.' Then I was really appalled, "If the job of the HR person is to find and hire good talent, then there is a reason she never called back, and I don't really want to have that conversation." Again, the patience and logic won out, so I tried the experiment. This was well past the day I was told there would be some follow up, so I had already decided I didn't have the job. He convinced me to call and ask. If I was right, I can ask how to do better next time (valuable to know, if painful to ask), and if he was right, I could ask how long the process might take. I spent 20 minutes sweating and hyperventilating in an abandoned conference room before I dialed her number. "Hi, I applied for your posted position, I was wondering if you could tell me about the status of my application?"
She was actually quite happy to hear from me, it saved her looking up my number again. And actually, I wasn't out of the running for this job, they were very interested in me for this position. I don't recall much else of what was said, because when you go from that nervous to that relieved you sometimes get light-headed. Basically, the update was that they hadn't made up their minds yet, but they were pleased to know I was interested enough to check in. I called back every week until it became clear the project would be unfunded. Every time I called, the HR person said she'd been meaning to call, and it comes back to what my brother was trying to tell me.
The HR person is basically the door keeper to these mid-size company jobs. Their normal job revolves around keeping everyone paid, and on occasion, they get an additional project to hire someone. They don't know about you or your expertise, they are going to try to match the description someone else gave them to your application- try to make that as easy as possible with every aspect of your application. From there, decisions have to be made in a very human way, usually by someone feeling a little overworked and under-appreciated. Sometimes the hiring choice is made by someone who would be your manager or peer, and the same goes for them. Calling reinforces your interest, and the silly reasons you make up to call might give you more insight about the job. What is the next step in the process? Is there someone I can talk to and get more info about the specific duties?
The trouble I am running into now is that many of the jobs I am applying to, I can't find a person or contact to call. The next round of this experiment will be to follow-up more aggressively with the recruiter or Contact Us info that is available to see if I can track down someone who can help. This is more work then just uploading my resume, but when I've found someone to talk to it's been worth it.