The number of employers who use social media and social networking websites to recruit job candidates continues to rise, according to research released this month by the Society for Human Resource Management. In the SHRM survey, 77% of respondents currently say they use social networking for that purpose.

“Social media is changing how HR professionals do their jobs, most dramatically in recruiting,” says Alexander Alonso, SHRM’s vice president of research

In 2011, 56% of surveyed organizations used social networking sites to find and communicate with job applicants; back in 2008, it was 34%. Asked about their reasons for using social sites for recruiting, respondents cite their ability to recruit passive job applicants who might not otherwise apply (80%), their ability to target job candidates with specific skill sets (69%) and increasing employer branding and recognition (67%).

LinkedIn is by far the most popular website for HR professionals engaged in recruiting, with 94%. Facebook trails with 54%, Twitter follows with 39% and professional or association networking sites are used by 29%.

The majority of employers target non-management salaried employees (87%) and management at the director- or manager-level (80%) when searching for job applicants on social media sites. Forty-eight percent go after non-management hourly employees and only 41% seek executive or upper management.

“SHRM’s research shows that HR professionals are using social media mainly as a recruitment tool with four out of five saying its ability to recruit candidates who might not normally apply as a chief reason for their use,” Alonso says.

Most employers (57%) have no formal or informal policy in place on the use of screening potential employees via social media.

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