A lot of social media analysts see LinkedIn as being a tad one sided – there are plenty of people who consistently update their profile anytime they think of something new to brag about, but there aren’t many employers looking for new hires on the service. Most sectors have more jobs than people, so employers don’t feel compelled to strike out and search for that perfect new hire.

So LinkedIn sadly stagnates with page upon page of resumés.

I find this extremely disappointing – LinkedIn should be just as widely used by employers as it is by people looking for a job. Employers just need to learn how to make the leap and start using LinkedIn properly.

1. Compare and contrast applicants to their peers.
After a day of interviewing a barrage of candidates, you’d hope that at least a few of them would stand out. But sometimes they all kind of stink – it’s unfortunate, but it happens. When I’m stuck with a big pile of resumés from people I really don’t want to hire, I like to log onto LinkedIn and try to find the type of people I would like to see apply for this position. And, honestly, sometimes I can’t – I occasionally have an off day and just have to head home and tackle the stack of applicants the next morning. But if I can find a few people who are closer to the type of person I’m looking for, I know I should start my search over to target that sort of person. By simply tweaking the job description or the experience required, you can get an entirely different batch of candidates.

And, thanks to LinkedIn, you should be able to find a few great applicants in that bunch.

2. Check on employment history
LinkedIn should be the first place you check when you are thinking of hiring a new employee. After all, the website gives you every detail the applicant made public for absolutely free, allowing you to both cross-check their resumé and see what other experience they have. There could be quite a bit about your new hire that you didn’t know and never would have found out – now, no one is going to put anything negative about themselves on their LinkedIn profile, but at the very least you’ll be able to read any details that they could not fit onto a one-page resumé or application.

I warn you though – don’t go too far down the rabbit hole. Keep your searches professional and allow your employees to have their personal, social lives without having to worry about future employers scrutinizing every single one of their life choices.

3. Don’t be afraid to reach out and contact people!
A lot of employers are afraid to do this. It goes well beyond what we, as business owners, are comfortable with. Unless someone came highly recommended, I would never actually reach out and contact them. I’d expect anyone interested in a position to take the initiative and contact me. But you could be missing out on some great employees if you cling too tightly to that old world view. If you are looking around LinkedIn and see someone you’d think would be perfect for a particular job, someone who just screams management or sales or tech or whichever department you are hiring for, send them a connection request. If they accept, and their profile says they are looking for a job, send them a message asking that they apply. If they say no thank you, oh well, but chances are they’ll be flattered and willing to talk. Remember, a message over a social media tool is not a binding job offer – you can choose not to hire them if you’d like. But just taking the initiative could lead to some great new employees.

LinkedIn was made for employers – it allows anyone to post, in as much detail as they want, about their professional lives within an aggregated, easy to use database. But it still remains grossly underutilized by the business owners, managers, and HR representatives who have no idea what to do with it.

Trust me – spend some time actually using the website, and you’ll wonder how you ever hired anyone without it.