Being active is better than being passive 99.9 percent of the time, and that makes LinkedIn a natural fit for talent scouting. Because of the nature of participating bank alumni organizations, special interest groups and user profiles, LinkedIn is an electronic conference reception that puts HR execs in the middle of the talent pool.

"In recruiting we've known for a long time that leveraging a personal network is the best way to identify talent. Social networking allows us to automate the networking process," says Paul Barnes, employment and executive search manager for BB&T.

BB&T has more than 50 recruiters in the Southeast using social media sites - mostly LinkedIn - to post job openings, and perhaps more importantly, to immerse themselves among their own LinkedIn contacts and banking special interest groups to search out the best job candidates. It's a talent procurement method that's catching the eye of many firms who see it as a compliment to traditional print and online job postings. Use of LinkedIn, and other sites like Naymz, is still in the very early stages, but it's potential as an alternative to Web ads and headhunters is immediately apparent.

"Using social media is like Web 1.0 versus Web 2.0," says Jacob Jegher, an analyst for Celent, who suggests one of the major differences between social media job searches and "old school" Web postings is stickiness: People apply for jobs posted online and then move on. On LinkedIn, people discuss jobs and general opportunities with peers and potential employers, and have personal profiles complete with an electronic record of peers, skills, certifications, prior jobs and recommendations. It's in the special interest groups where the potential of social media is particularly noteworthy. In these groups, colleagues engage in industry chatter about job openings and executives on the move. But this "gossip" gives hiring managers a front row seat to news about who's looking for jobs, their talent level and how that talent matches the jobs that are available.

Since the social media-as-recruitment-tool phenomenon is relatively new, detailed penetration numbers are hard to come by. But bank HR professionals and social media experts say almost all banks are at least dipping their toes in the water by posting ads on sites like the six year old LinkedIn, which has about 35 million users and is generally preferred over Facebook as a recruitment tool. Facebook is also used, but it's appeal is more geared toward general entry level recruitment of younger workers.

"Beyond locating candidates, we also get benefits in terms of name recognition," says Chris Anderson, a spokesperson for Country Financial in Bloomington, IL, which has six staffers with recruitment duties who use LinkedIn to search for qualified prospects for new jobs. The bank is also active on Facebook, which is used for college recruiting. "It's free and it lets younger candidates know who we are," Anderson says.

A recent check of postings on LinkedIn found that more than three dozen banks - including large banks like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, US Bank and Bank of America; as well as myriad other banks across the size spectrum, had posted more than 100 jobs in about two weeks in late March and early April. And the jobs were on almost all levels of the corporate ladder, from customer service reps and tellers to svps and department heads.

"I would say it's a better way to find people than going through a regular placement. The [recruiters] have their own way of finding matches, but you'll pay a good buck for that," says Ken Jablon, director of the Chase Alumni Association, which has about 5,000 members.

The alumni organization has a special interest group on LinkedIn, and most individual members have their own profiles. There are also similar alumni groups for Bank of America and Citigroup. "We have a lot of people in the group are still working for banks and search firms that are members because they are eligible [they have an employee who once worked for Chase]," Jablon says. "If you're recruiter, you'll already know a lot about them because of the site."

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