Around 11:15 on a recent morning, employees at Red Ventures' Charlotte headquarters concluded a meeting on how to recruit 30 new workers.
By 11:20, one worker at the Charlotte Internet marketing company had used Twitter to spread the word to 300 or so people.
A minute later, one of her Twitter connections forwarded the message to about 200 more, and soon after, a handful of people had submitted resumes. Red Ventures has already lined up a few interviews and has had to enlist 20 workers to help sort through the growing stack of resumes, officials said.
As the recession continues to squeeze professionals, pushing unemployment to record highs and flooding the job market with qualified candidates, more job hunters are turning to the Internet for help. Now, more companies and recruiters are mining the sites for candidates, too. More than ever, experts say, a profile on an online networking site could actually turn into a job.
"It's almost like networking on steroids," said Jenny Smith of career coaching firm Right Management in Charlotte. "You can meet so many people in a short time."
Facebook, one of the best-known social networking sites, says it has more than 175 million members.
LinkedIn, a networking site with 37 million members worldwide, has seen connections jump 26 percent in the last month and double in the last year, spokeswoman Krista Canfield said.
Job searches were up 48 percent last month from a year ago, and over the last six months, the number of applicants per job listing on the site has doubled, she said.
"It's amazing how, in such a short period of time, online social networking sites have exploded in popularity," Smith said. "During times of uncertainty, people like to gravitate toward one another."
'No magic Web site'
Still, experts caution that not every online profile will lead to a job. Not every company taps into the resources, and even the best online profile can't make up for a lacking resume or personality, Smith said.
"I don't think it's an end-all solution," she said. "Unfortunately, there is no magic Web site."
Steve Aparicio of the Dilworth area of Charlotte started expanding his LinkedIn network soon after being laid off from Wachovia in August -- figuring the larger his network, the better his chances of landing another job, he said.
Aparicio, 51, started with a handful of contacts and a profile. Then, he reached out to friends and friends of friends, joined groups of professionals with similar backgrounds and identified recruiters in those fields. A few months later, he'd racked up more than 800 contacts.
The engineer found a job recently as a project manager at Westinghouse Electric. -- through a career fair, not online -- but said the networking site proved more helpful than traditional job boards and overcrowded in-person events.
At Red Ventures, using social networking sites is a way for the company to cut back on job board expenses and find forward-thinking candidates. Company officials are training employees to contact channels from college alumni networks to their own social networks.
But just because people are savvy enough to find that information doesn't make them an instant fit, said Dan Feldstein, Red Ventures' chief marketing officer.
Charlotte IT consultant Gary Zukowski recently launched TweetMyJobs.com, a site that uses Twitter to send job postings to users' cell phones. Recruiters and human resources teams are already on board, and more than 2,000 people have subscribed.
Finance recruiter Mary Mallett of Charlotte just returned from an annual recruiters conference where a major discussion topic was using social networking sites effectively, she said.
She has seen recruiters and job-hunters using the sites much more over the past six months, partly because they can see results instantly -- "click, click, everyone knows someone, get the word out," she said.