Based on recent surveys, social networks are leading the other recruiting channels in two critical areas. First, employers are investing more heavily in social networks relative to the other recruiting channels such as job boards. Second, these networks are yielding higher quality candidates for corporations than any avenue other than professional recruiting firms.

There is good reason for this trend. There simply is no better way for candidates and employers to quickly digitize referrals, market themselves, conduct research, publicize their opportunities, and connect with those who have similar interests. At milewalk, we’ve been supplementing our endorsement-based recruiting tactics (phone and live personal interactions to gather referrals and endorsements to the best candidates) with social recruiting since our inception in 2004.

A recent study by Jobvite (Q2 2010) showed that over 80% of the participants (600) that responded indicated their organizations are currently using or plan to use social media for recruiting this year. While Linked In continues to lead the way, Facebook and Twitter usage has grown by 15% and 32% respectively. Currently, 78% of those surveyed are using Linked In, 55% use Facebook, and 45% use Twitter.

Interestingly, the surge in social networking usage has had a profound effect on job board usage. 36% indicated they will spend less on job boards in 2010. While the survey indicated that employee referrals yielded the higher quality candidates (no surprise), participants indicated that candidate quality from social networks was substantially higher than that from job boards.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re an employer, recognize that higher quality (and often times passive) candidates can be found on these social networking sites. The key expression in the previous sentence is “can be found”. That is, you can build a platform that maximizes the use of these social networking tools to help attract those candidates, but these platforms are not a silver bullet. They still require you to research and recruit those individuals. These platforms will, however, provide you with more streamlined capabilities to research, manage, and aid the recruiting process. Many of them can even be seamlessly integrated into your applicant tracking systems, allowing you to import information from these pay or free sites. For example, at milewalk, we use Maxhire which integrates Linked In and hundreds of other sites using integrated software from TalentHook (which can also be used standalone).

Keep in mind, that candidates are using social media sites to research and connect to the company and its employees prior to applying for jobs. Therefore, you’ll want to create a clean, accurate company profile that has robust information about your organization and its offerings.

Employers that are truly maximizing the social landscape go beyond these free sites. The best organizations create a custom or tailored social network, typically powered by Jive’s Social Business Software. These tools not only allow you to tailor your offerings, but more importantly also allow you to actively “listen” to what people are saying about your company. These Social Listening and Monitoring Solutions can be developed using tools such as Filtrbox and SocialSense and are invaluable to tailoring the site to attract the people and customers you want.

Employers can also create Social Press Rooms to attract candidates and customers. These Social Press Rooms can be filled with offerings, news, awards, etc. The alignment and integration of these offerings with your Social Recruiting Platform can be a powerful combination that draws the best candidates and customers.

If you’re a candidate, realize that employers are investing more in these sites and are relying on them more heavily. Therefore, it is beneficial for you to establish a robust profile detailing your work experience. Pay special attention to the keywords you include in your profile because many employers will be performing searches on these sites according to their key skill requirements. You can also peruse these sites from time to time because employers are now investing in the recruiting packages on these sites that allow them to post job opportunities. This is not something that has been used heavily until recently.