'Facebook better than ads for finding IT staff'
Recruiters believe social networking websites are more effective than print adverts at helping them find candidates to fill IT jobs.
About six in ten job agencies say the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn are a better means to source IT staff than running an advert in a magazine or newspaper.
Although job boards are the best way to find suitably qualified IT staff, nearly half of agencies say community-led sites will get them closer than internet banner adverts.
The advantage of these sites is that "they are not just another form of passive advertising", says the Association of Technology Staffing Companies, which commissioned the research.
"They offer something quite different: a dynamic, two-way dialogue between recruiter and candidate, which is very efficient form of communication," said Ann Swain, chief executive of ATSCo.
Online networks often reveal far more about the candidate than a telephone or interview would, giving recruiters a "psychological insight" into their potential recruits.
Moreover, because social websites put agent and job-seeker in touch more informally, they "make it very easy for recruiters to become trusted advisers to candidates", ATSCo added.
Yet in the research, job boards and cold calling emerged as the undisputed method for finding the most suitable IT candidate, with only 9 per cent opting for social networking sites.
Recruiters already spend time on these popular sites, however, as over 80% say if they're not using them to find staff, they're using them to network with clients.
Explaining the appeal of social networks online, Ms Swain said: "Specialist interest groups on social networking sites are an excellent way for recruiters to target vacancies and head hunt candidates.
"Roles in IT, for example, can be very specific and advertising in the press can be a very scatter gun approach to finding the right people, as well as expensive."
And when agents aren't trawling the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn, a significant fifth of the sample said they write blogs about market trends.
According to the association's research, not a single agency chose internet banners or print adverts as the best way to find a quality candidate for an IT role.
Elsewhere, the findings show that only 26% of agencies have built restrictive clauses into their consultants' contracts to asset ownership of contact lists built via social networking sites.
"Contact databases are the lifeblood of the recruitment industry, but companies need to do more to protect these valuable assets," Ms Swain said.
"This is currently an area where contract law is lagging behind social trends and an area of risk that the recruitment industry needs to pick up on."
Despite the uptake of social networks among ATSCo's IT members, the group hailed internet-based job boards as "the advertising medium of the future."