Although everyone knows how arduous and burdensome the job search process can be, few employers feel they have the ability to change that, even for the kinds of applicants they want most.

That's not because of some character defect. Instead, the problem is how challenging hiring is for employers, too. With low unemployment today, it takes so long to bring on quality talent--and costs so much--that employers are hard pressed to take time out and consider what sorts of perks or pleasantries would appeal to harried job searchers caught in the fierce competition for talent.

There must be some escape from this catch-22, right?

In fact, there is.

It's true that many employers may simply lack the luxury of independently improving the application experience of the candidates they want to hire.

And as the hiring process is dragging out over time, candidate sourcing costs are climbing dramatically. On Workpop's hiring platform, we watched as applicant sourcing costs rose over 80 percent across our partner job boards between August 2015 and August 2016. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that, on average, employers confront a tab of $4,129 just to hire someone at all.

In a different job market, those pressures might be expected to lessen over time. But right now, top analysts agree that, for the foreseeable future, questions about how to afford a successful candidate search process are going to stay front and center.

In a new survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and executive advisory group Visage International, University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin discovered that "the biggest challenge confronting firms is their need to expand hiring in an already-tight labor market."

According to a report issued by the National Federation of Independent Business, cited by the Journal, "the share of small businesses with few or no qualified applicants for job openings hit a 17-year high in November," receding only slightly at the end of last year.

What To Do

It's clear that employers can cut down that cost and speed up the process by improving the application experience. Even just quickly responding to a candidate can produce a significant increase in the likelihood of hiring. (Message a candidate within six hours of their application submission, instead of a week afterward, and the odds of that candidate responding increase 30 percent.)

Of course, a smooth and user-friendly application experience involves a lot more than prompt communication. But the tools that enable and encourage speedy, easy messaging are part of the same suite of services that make a job search a positive experience. Job candidates told us they prize efficiency, convenience, and transparency from the application process.

And all those qualities arise from the kind of application process that most employers can't build or substitute for on their own--one that gives them a consistent edge in a market as tight as today's. Research from The Aberdeen Group, to take one example, reveals that companies prioritizing candidate experience become more than twice as likely to improve cost per hire relative to those that don't.

What Happens Next

For the foreseeable future, candidates want the tools and resources they need for a smooth and satisfying application process--and employers need to offer that experience in order to attract the kinds of applicants they desire most. Technology affords the opportunity to deliver potential employees next-level application process that harmonize with the kind of experiences they've come to expect from the social and professional platforms they use every day. They want--and can be delivered--benefits like access to feedback, readily understandable updates on their place in the application process, and job hunt tips shared from employers and fellow job seekers.

Today's job market, with unemployment under 5 percent, is likely to stay tight. In order to attract the best applicants who make the best fit, employers need to deliver an application experience that squares with those candidates' expectations and hopes. And they need to do it without breaking the bank--or moving so slowly that they're aced out by competitors.