For many adults, Facebook is a way to connect with friends, old and new — find out what they’re doing, who they are with or where they are going. Although it is the most used social network today by all ages, the most active users are Generation Y – ages 18 to 29 years old, who have an average of 700 friends. Their networks continue to expand as they add co-workers, friends of friends, and anyone else they may know. But what is the significance of any of this when it comes to recruiting and hiring? Facebook is an inadvertent business network for Gen Y. So how can you take advantage of this on your quest for great employees?

New data shows that on average Gen Y users have 16 co-workers as friends. (The study also found that half have more than five employees as Facebook friends.) So when they’re away from work, they’re still connected to their workplace. Gen Y users aren’t intentionally using their Facebook for business. They are listing their past and current jobs – companies and title to inform their “friends”. Meanwhile, they are likely connected to great potential candidates! As a networker you have the ability to reach out to this generation by friending them directly or by contacting a friend of a friend in order to help reach this audience.

Gen Y spends an average of 23 minutes on the site per visit and they are connected to around 80 pages, events and groups. They are “liking” things and joining groups of interest or even their workplace and products produced by their company. Same basic principle applies to social networking as in business — 80% of Facebook interaction comes from 20% of the fans. Get fans and give them valuable information and content. You will have the potential to reach millions of talented candidates. It is not necessarily a direct link but connections and conversations can be made through Facebook. Simply put, you can drive great referrals by taking some time to think about those in your own network whose extended network which could be quite valuable to you. Really key though is to think about the target audience – make sure what you are pushing out makes sense and is relevant. If you aren’t cognizant of being a “spammer”, this could backfire, so it’s important to think before you hit enter!

Dave Barbato, CEO of Talent Retriever, whose recruitment consulting firm was an early adopter of Facebook as a candidate referral source has been sharing this insight with his clients and prospects. “I still often get odd looks from old line HR and Recruiting pro’s I speak with – those avoiding the use of Facebook as a recruiting platform will be sorry.” And this statement couldn’t be truer in our social media crazed world. Although recruiters and hiring managers are using other social sites such as LinkedIn, they should realize the platform for Facebook is still the largest and has the potential to grow out to an even bigger network. So – the takeaway — although it is not a recruiting “platform”, the referrals and connections being generated by smart usage of Facebook are invaluable.