The exploding popularity of social networking sites has created a new Wild West in the recruitment landscape, where few boundaries, guideposts, and rules exist. But recruiters and job seekers are rushing in for possible rewards.
A Hiring Helper?
A recent survey of hiring professionals put social networking sites -- such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter -- as the second-most effective job-search tool, behind [old-fashioned?] networking. Internet job boards ranked next, with newspaper classifieds and job fairs at the bottom of the list, according to the survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
However, another survey of health-care recruiting professionals  found that social networking sites brought in a very small number of external hires, compared with print and job-board postings. The research, released this summer by Shaker Recruitment Advertising & Communications, put social networking sites in last place, with 75% of respondents calling the category "not applicable" for recent external hires.
Maybe the perception hasn't caught up with reality in many hiring departments?
More Mixed Messages
For job seekers, similar disparities exist, so it's hard to gauge how much energy to devote to social networking site strategies. In a recent poll on Yahoo! HotJobs , only 36% of site visitors said they had used LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter for help in finding a job.
Younger job seekers are using the sites most for job hunting, but the strategy hasn't been very effective. Recent college grads rated social networking sites last in terms of effectiveness for getting a job, even though 80% used the sites for job searches. Job boards ranked highest. (For more on this, see the analysis at Cheezhead.com )
The bottom line is simple: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Social networking sites can be extremely helpful, but don't overlook the benefits of job boards, niche sites, print classifieds, and, especially, general networking.
Here are some good resources that can help job seekers with making good use of social networking sites:
- Social Networking Basics for Job Hunters 
- Tweet Your Way to a New Job 
- 8 Little-Known Trick for the Job Hunt 
Whatever you do, don't ignore this open frontier of opportunity. To borrow a rallying cry from the Village People, "Go West!"