Social media has had a huge impact on our personal lives over the past decade or so, but the effect it’s had on the business world has been no less pronounced – some sectors have found the ways they work fundamentally upturned by networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Recruitment is one area in which social media has spelled a sea change. For a start, professionals in all spheres now have LinkedIn at their disposal. The business-oriented social network announced it’d racked up an impressive ten million UK members last year – some four out of five British professionals, all supposedly furthering their careers without looking to traditional jobs boards.

However, there’s evidence to suggest that UK recruitment agencies are actually lagging behind their European rivals in terms of using social media to headhunt talent. According to the latest Kelly Global Workforce Index – a survey of more than 120,000 employees across 31 countries – just 40 per cent of UK workers have been contacted through networks like LinkedIn about job opportunities in the last 12 months. In comparison, 55 per cent of German and Polish respondents had been approached by recruiters through social media.

Not many Britons have actually secured jobs through these channels in the past, either. Just 11 per cent of UK respondents told Kelly they’d found employment on social media, compared to 28 per cent in Norway. This means there’s a real opportunity for recruiters to capitalise – despite so many Britons being signed up to LinkedIn and other services, they’re evidently not necessarily using them to find work yet.

What are the actual benefits to using the likes of Facebook and Twitter to secure your agency’s talent, though? As it turns out, there are many. Here are five ways social media can help you recruit.

It speeds up the process

It’s easy to overlook, but using social media to find talent can be much faster than sifting through CVs or posting adverts on jobs boards. According to a infographic based on a survey of North American recruiters, one in five said using social networks sped up the hiring process.

The reasons for this are fairly self-explanatory – most professionals carry smartphones, meaning they’re checking their social media accounts several times a day. As a result, contacting a potential hire via Twitter, say, represents a more direct line of contact than many traditional channels.

It also cuts down on tedious administrative tasks like writing job adverts – instead, you can get in touch with the candidate as soon as the position opens, explaining the role in terms they’ll understand.

It helps you access more candidates

With ten million UK professionals signed up to LinkedIn, but just 11 per cent of Britons having actually used social media to find jobs, it’s clear that many people on social media aren’t proactively looking for work. They might not be looking at jobs boards, either. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t decent candidates – and using social networks to recruit will help you access this pool of talent.

Some candidates aren’t using traditional channels any more

Despite only a few UK professionals having used social media to find jobs, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say these workers will be inclined to do so again – especially given they probably found it quick and convenient. Recruiting via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will help you make sure these candidates don’t pass you by in future.

It helps you build fruitful relationships

To be sure, there’s a lot of talent on social media, but it’s important you don’t approach it as a simple repository of candidates. Instead, sites like LinkedIn represent a huge networking opportunity. According to the infographic, almost a third (31 per cent) of recruiters who used social media saw an increase in employee referrals compared with traditional channels, meaning your potential contacts are more open to mutually beneficial relationships than you might expect.

You can screen candidates

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, a social media profile tells you far more about a person than a CV and cover letter does. According to a recent survey by Oil and Gas People, more than four-fifths (81 per cent) of employers have looked up their candidates’ online personae – and 64 per cent have rejected an application based on what they found.

Many social media users are relatively savvy when it comes to presenting themselves to the public – or at least managing their privacy settings – but there’s still often useful information you can glean. A person’s tweets might tell you more about what they care about than a dispassionate list of their past jobs, for instance.