Job candidates who have had a positive application experience more willing to accept a lower salary

Whether it's keeping candidates guessing about where they are in the application process or simply neglecting to acknowledge an application, some employers are unwittingly leaving candidates with a bad impression: and it's taking a toll on their business.

According to a new study from CareerBuilder, the experiences candidates have with a company throughout the application process can make or break their impression of the company, not only affecting their decisions to apply and accept a job offer, but also their loyalty as customers.

The 2015 Candidate Behavior Study, which surveyed more than 5,013 workers ages 18 and over and 2,002 hiring decision-makers between February 3 and February 18, 2015, sheds light on the differences between what candidates expect from potential employers during the job application process and what employers actually deliver.

Based on the study, here are six facts every employer should know about the candidate experience:

The candidate experience matters more than you know. According to the study, 82% of employers think there's little to no negative impact on the company when a candidate has a bad experience during the hiring process. The reality, however, is that the majority of candidates do not take poor treatment lying down: 58% are less likely to buy from a company to which they've applied if they don't get a response to their application, 69% are less likely if they have a bad experience in the interview, and the same is true of 65% if they don't hear back after an interview.

Conversely, a good candidate experience can have the reverse effect: 69% of candidates are more likely to buy from a company to which they've applied if they're treated with respect throughout the application process, and 67% are likely to do the same if they receive consistent updates throughout the process.

Employers may be missing opportunities to connect with candidates. Jobseekers may be searching for jobs in a lot of places where employers don't have a presence. Candidates consult up to 18 resources throughout the job search: including job boards, social networking sites, search engines, and online referrals: but the majority of employers (58%) don't use tracking or coding technology to learn where candidates are coming from and ensure they are making efficient use of their recruitment marketing efforts. Without any data on where their candidates are coming from, employers may be missing opportunities to connect with candidates where they are actually searching.

Candidates expect more than you're giving them. For some candidates, the myth of the application "black hole" is all too real. More than half of employers (52%) respond to less than half of the candidates who apply. What these employers may not realize, however, is that not only do most candidates expect an automated reply that acknowledges their application, the majority (84%) also expect a personal email response, and 52% anticipate a phone call. Even when the news isn't what they hope for, candidates expect a response: one in four candidates (25%) expect to hear if they're not invited for an interview.

Ongoing communication is critical for candidates. When it comes to communication, employers seem to be falling short of candidates' expectations. Thirty-six percent of candidates expect to be updated throughout the application process, and 41% expect to be notified if they weren't chosen after they interviewed with the company. Yet only 26% of employers proactively communicate with candidates about what stage of the hiring process they're in. Even when candidates made it as far into the process as an interview, many are still left in the dark. Nearly three in four (73%) candidates who interviewed with companies said they were never given an explanation for why they didn't get the job.

Candidates are frustrated with the application process. When it comes to keeping candidates engaged and interested in their opportunities, a company's application process can be its own worst enemy. Forty percent of candidates feel the application process has become more difficult in the last five years. Of those, 57% complain the process is too automated and lacks personalization, 51% are frustrated that they have no idea where they are in the process, and 50% say the process has so many more steps than it used to have.

A separate CareerBuilder survey found that three in five candidates do not complete the application process if they feel it is too long. Employers can help by taking time to respond to candidates, keeping the lines of communication going, and minimizing the number of steps candidates must go through during the application process.

Candidates are more willing to accept lower salaries from well-reputed employers. Treating candidates well is good for the bottom line. More than three in four candidates (77%) are willing to accept a salary that is 5% lower than their expected offer if the employer created a great impression through the hiring process; even more (83%) would do the same if the company had a reputation as a great employer. Candidates would also accept a lower salary if the company had a lot of positive press recently (69%) and had great online reviews (73%).

These findings underscore the importance of having a strong employment brand. More than half of employers (52%), however, do not have a clearly defined employment brand: giving the other 48% an edge when it comes to capturing in-demand candidates at competitive prices.

View full results and the executive summary here.