In today's war for talent, social networks have redrawn the battle lines by empowering parties on both sides of the negotiating table with unprecedented networking, communications and brand-building tools.

In the past few years alone, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have changed the way companies of all shapes and sizes find and source talent. The recruiter-candidate relationship, once shrouded in formality, is now far more conversational and transparent.

“Tracking down the right people or opportunities used to require hours of phone calls and private-investigator-type legwork,” says Kevin Shigley, director of global talent acquisition at Coca-Cola. “Now the barrier to entry – information – is no longer a barrier. The Internet is the great democratizer of data.”

‘A Two-Way Street’

Just as online brokerage services revolutionized the personal investment industry in the 1990s by eliminating the middle man, social networks have created a similar self-service model for finding and landing a gig.

“You no longer need to know someone in-house to get an interview,” says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. “After a quick LinkedIn search, you can directly contact the people who can hire you and say, ‘I want this job,’ instead of crossing your fingers and hoping your name comes up in a keyword search. Recruiting is now very much a two-way street.”

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The Résumé, Revisited

In today’s social-media-powered job market – where recommendations have replaced references, connections trump cover letters and the résumé is a soon-to-be relic – who and what you know are critical. Savvy candidates are building their personal brands online by fortifying their LinkedIn member profiles with keywords that will get them noticed and by positioning themselves as thought leaders or arbiters of information on particular areas of expertise among followers and friends.

According to Schawbel, professionals who share articles or content with their network at least once a week are 10 times more likely to be contacted by a recruiter.

LinkedIn members can enhance their profiles by inviting connections to endorse them for a specific skill or, even better, post a written recommendation. Both features can boost a candidate’s visibility and credibility.

“What you say about yourself is important,” Schawbel explains, “but what others say about you carries far more weight. The hiring process no longer begins with that first handshake ... it starts with the Google search that takes place before the interview.”

The Value of Sharing and Connecting

Building a broad and deep ecosystem of connections is another must. A LinkedIn member profile with 500 connections is more likely to catch a recruiter’s eye than one with only 100.

“The more connected you are – and the more effort you put into staying in touch and building relationships – the more valuable you are,” asserts Schawbel, who has more than 7,000 connections on LinkedIn. “The trick is connecting with people who know what you don’t know and determining what value you can bring to the people you need to network with.”

From ‘Spray and Pray’ to Proactive Recruitment

Social media has empowered the other end of the hiring equation too. A recent Jobvite survey of more than 1,000 human resources leaders and recruiters found that 92 percent of respondents used or planned to use social media to source talent in 2012. What's more, 93 percent of people surveyed have used LinkedIn to find qualified candidates – up from 78 percent in 2010. Facebook (66 percent) and Twitter (54 percent) also continue to gain influence.

Gone are the “spray and pray” days of posting an opening to a job board and hoping a few qualified candidates respond before sifting through mountains of unqualified résumés. Companies are proactively finding and contacting professionals whose credentials make them the ideal fit for the job. And to provide the right context for candidates, they’re also crafting “employer brands” online by providing an insider’s look at the corporate culture – who works there and what an average day is like – in an authentic way through blogs, videos, apps and more.

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 Kevin Shigley, director of Talent Acquisition for Coca-Cola, shares his five tips for using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find your next job.

“Your brand is no longer just the messages you put out in the marketplace,” explains Leela Srinivasan, group marketing manager for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions group. “It’s a combination of what current employees and candidates who have interviewed with your company are saying about you. Those opinions come together with your corporate messaging to form a well-rounded, dynamic employer brand.”

More companies are using social networks to entice “passive” candidates – employed professionals who are not actively looking but are open to discussing potential opportunities. Annual LinkedIn research conducted in 2010 through 2012 shows that at any given time, 10-20% of the fully-employed workforce is comprised of active candidates seeking new jobs while 80-90% is passive candidates.

“Some of our members are looking for new jobs, but most are not,” Srinivasan adds. “They visit our platform to check out what’s going on in a particular discussion group, to catch up with business connections or to spruce up their profiles. As a result, we provide a great forum for recruiters to find the right talent and contact them directly.”

Turning Employees into Talent Scouts

Organizations are now encouraging employees to serve as unofficial talent scouts by sharing job openings through their own social networks. That's because candidates sourced through referral channels are hired more quickly and are more likely to be a long-term fit for an organization. According to Jobvite research, one in seven referrals land the gig, compared to one in 100 general applicants.

As a fast-growing company, steadily recruits across functions, with a focus on account executives and sales engineers. CEO Marc Benioff recently emailed his sales team and asked them to spread the word via their social networks. Within 24 hours, sales team members posted 350 status updates on LinkedIn linking to the company’s career page. The updates were visible to around 159,000 professionals at more than 40,000 companies.

Kate Israels, program manager, Talent Acquisition at, led the effort.  “Marc’s email got the ball rolling, and the sales team’s efforts resulted in a 60 percent increase in sales employee referral submissions in week one,” she said. “Referrals are a primary source of hire for In fact, employee referrals are 10 times more likely to be hired than other sources. Our recruiters are thrilled by the response…we have a world-class sales team, and great people tend to know great people.”

According to Shigley, current employees have the greatest insight into the type of talent that will succeed at their company because they understand the culture.

“When we have our own people driving the search for candidates, we see a much stronger success rate compared to when we use search firms,” he said. “In fact, we analyzed our source of hire from 2004 to 2008 and found that search candidates turned over two-and-a-half times more frequently than employees found either through our own networks or referrals.”

Social tools have reduced the time and money companies spend searching for the right talent. Coca-Cola has cut its search-firm costs by more than 50 percent over the past four years – from $15 million in 2008 to $7 million in 2012. “That’s $8 million we can invest in marketing and innovation,” Shigley notes.

Recruiters at Sodexo, a global food service and facilities management company, have been using social networks to engage potential employees since 2007. “Even though we’re the world’s twentieth largest employer, we don’t have the same level of recognition or cachet as most consumer brands,” explains Arie Ball, VP, sourcing and talent acquisition, Sodexo USA. “Our legacy is in food service, yet our service offering is now much broader. Social media has helped us highlight this fact and share that more than one third of our job openings are outside of food service.”

According to Ball, nearly half of Sodexo USA’s hires use one of the company’s many social platforms – which include a popular blog and mobile app – to either find their job or prepare for an interview.

“What ends up happening is the people who take time to learn more about us are better prepared and, as a result, more successful,” Ball says, adding that the company’s quality of hire, candidate experience and employee engagement metrics have improved over the past five years.

No Comment Left Behind

Intel embarked on a similar journey in 2008 to amplify the company’s voice online and build a stronger rapport with tech-savvy talent. “What we found from candidates was that we were largely seen as a closed-off company,” recalls Sejal Patel (@smileysejalee), a social media strategist with the Santa Clara-based chipmaker. “Few people outside Intel knew what it was like to work here.”

So the employer marketing and branding team built an integrated social presence that showcases Intel’s evolving product portfolio and culture and facilitates a dialogue with job seekers.

In addition to promoting open positions, the Jobs at Intel website, Jobs@Intel blog and mobile app (available on iTunes and Google Play) feature résumé-building tips and employee testimonials about why they love working at Intel. The Jobs at Intel Facebook page also includes a tab to search open positions, and the Intel Student Lounge on LinkedIn targets college-level talent. Teams of campus relations managers even pass out “handshake cards” with links to Intel’s social careers sites, QR codes and their personal Twitter handles to give students multiple ways to connect.

A “no comment left behind” policy keeps Intel recruiters on their toes and ensures that every post, comment or question receives a prompt, personal response. “We want all candidates to feel like they have a friend here, and that they’re getting the inside scoop,” Patel says.

In 2011, 20 percent of Intel’s total U.S. college graduate hires came from virtual (online only), up from 3 percent in 2010, and the company has cut its virtual résumé-to-hire ratio in half.

Intel’s employer branding and social recruiting efforts are not limited to the U.S. Offices around the world – from Israel to Costa Rica to Malaysia to India – tailor established guidelines to meet the needs of their talent target.

“We began our journey four years ago with a certain degree of fear and uncertainty ... many of us wondered if we were opening up a Pandora’s box,” Patel says. “But our biggest learning has been that people want these connections we are creating. By taking a more transparent approach, we are building a more positive candidate experience and humanizing our brand.”