In January, Forbes named 2013 “The Year of Social HR.” The definition Forbes gave for Social HR is “organizations integrating social technologies into the way they recruit, develop & engage employees.”

Because that’s a pretty significant statement, let’s take a look at the answers to three questions many people have about the relationship between social media and HR:

Are Companies Actually Using Social Media?

Yes, companies’ HR departments are using social media in two primary ways. First, they are using these sites for recruiting. One of the advantages of recruiting through social media is not only can the sites themselves make screening easier, but the more casual nature of social media allows companies to build a pipeline of potential candidates. Even if someone isn’t currently looking for a job, companies still have an opportunity to connect and build relationships with top talent. Best of all, this type of pipeline can be tied into a company’s staffing software.

Second, companies are also using social media for screening. However, because the legal and regulatory aspects of this practice change on a regular basis, many companies are less open about talking about this type of usage “on the record.” In addition to those two primary uses, companies can also catch the attention of talented potential hires by building a strong social media presence.

What Social Media Mistakes Might You See Job Seekers Make?

The most common mistake job seekers make is posting information or photos on their social profiles that employers view as inappropriate. The second most common issue is if a candidate specifically talks about drinking or drug use. Another typical concern is if someone looking for a job uses their profile to talk badly about a past employer. Finally, candidates sometimes lie on their resume, only to have that information contradicted by what’s on their Facebook page or another social profile.

Although plenty of job seekers are actually hurt by their social media profiles, many convey a professional image, show their personality in a positive way, have a wide range of interests, and demonstrate creativity.  Make sure you browse candidates social media profiles with an open, objective mind.

What’s the Best Way for HR Professionals to Use Social Media?

Since each of the top social media sites has its own unique set of characteristics, let’s look at the best way to integrate each one into the recruiting and hiring process:

  • Facebook: Conducting searches filtered with a hashtag or other piece of criteria can be a useful recruiting tool.
  • LinkedIn: Keywords can be used for both candidate searches and to make it easy for interested individuals to find your company on their own. Looking through groups and even buying advertising can also work well for finding the right talent.
  • Twitter: Because many people now use Twitter for personal branding, it can be an easy way to get an idea of a candidate’s industry knowledge, as well as their overall influence.

Although specific uses and strategies will likely change as social media continues to evolve, it’s safe to say the relationship between social media and HR is here to stay!