There’s actually a dramatic sea change taking place in the job-hunting scene. More job candidates are being hired on the basis of what shows up on their social network pages, versus those one or two sheets of paper that are either emailed or snail-mailed into human resource departments.

The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Emma Silverman posted a piece on how some companies (albeit new media-ish type firms) prefer to examine a prospect’s social media profile, versus a few bullet points on a terse document.

The manager at one company that refuses résumés explained their rationale to WSJ:

A résumé doesn’t provide much depth about a candidate, says Christina Cacioppo, an associate at Union Square Ventures who blogs about the hiring process on the company’s website and was herself hired after she compiled a profile comprising her personal blog, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, and links to social-media sites Delicious and Dopplr, which showed places where she had traveled. “We are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think,” she says.

Along with social network profiles, some companies post games or challenges to winnow out applicants. (The “gamification” of hiring?) In her article, Silverman describes how IGN Entertainment Inc., a gaming and media firm, “posted a series of challenges on its website aimed at gauging candidates’ thought processes. (One challenge: Estimate how many pennies lined side by side would span the Golden Gate Bridge.)”

Most companies have fairly rigid standards for seeking out the best talent, which usually includes educational level achieved, the institution at which it was achieved, grade point averages, and past work history. Some forward-looking tech employers are looking past all those well-worn benchmarks, reports George Anders, author of The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Anyone Else, a newly published book that looks at the recruiting techniques of such fast-forward companies as Google and Facebook. (Excerpt published here in BusinessWeek.)

Anders relates the experience of Facebook, which, starting in its early days in 2006, published “gnarly programming challenges and invite engineers anywhere to solve them, involving “multi-hour tests of coding prowess.” As Facebook engineer Yishan Wong put it: “We developed this theory that occasionally there were these brilliant people out there who hadn’t found their way to Silicon Valley. They might be languishing in ordinary tech jobs. We needed a way to surface them.”

Google, for its part, initially sought out the best and the brightest from top Ivy-league and technology schools. However, the company found that “some of these geniuses weren’t quite as effective as it had hoped,” and worried that it was missing out on true talent. The company’s HR team began making a point of looking at the bottom of candidates’ resumes, where some hidden nuggets of interesting life experiences may pop out.

Now, a range of organizations are turning to non-traditional, or seemingly off-the-wall techniques to attract the talent that best fits their needs, Anders relates:

“A new era of talent hunting has begun. It’s happening not only at high-tech companies such as Facebook, but also at Army bases, ad agencies, investment banks, Hollywood studies, corporate boardrooms, college admissions offices, and even at nanny agencies. In all these fields, experts don’t just sort résumés. They pick people and build teams in a profoundly different way. Traditional measures of past achievement, such as test scores and academic degrees, are losing power, and companies are getting better at looking for those future superstars who deliver many times the value of someone who is merely good.”

Ironically, over the past decade, resume scanning systems have become the norm, and as a result, jobhunters are learning to do a form of “search engine optimization” to get key words up front in all the right places. This mechanized approach may be causing potentially great talent to slip between the cracks. At a time of heightened global competition, the companies that adopt the more innovative approaches to identifying and attracting talent will gain the edge.

Facebook’s problem-solving puzzles are one such off-the-wall approach. Anders reports that by 2010 about 118 of Facebook’s engineers — 20% of its technical workforce — came on board as a result of their ability to solve the company’s online puzzles. It became an “easy, fast, and cheap to evaluate entries automatically.”

Granted, the examples shown here are, again, new-media-ish type companies, not your average widget maker down the street. How prevalent is this trend among mainstream companies?

Most companies still take resumes, but it’s also a sure thing that candidates are also being researched across social media channels. And, as Michele Rafter explains at the Second Act site, there are some interactive techniques that jobhunters should  employ in order to increase their marketability. (I like the term “presume,” short for presentation resume.)

The ideal “presume” could include an online interactive slide presentation (SlideRocket is the platform cited), an infographic (yikes), a video resume, a something still printed — but on something unusual, with lots of eye-popping graphics.

The bottom line is it takes more than a piece of paper to get a job these days. The good part is that your accomplishments and interactions can flourish, they no longer need to be squeezed into a small 8-1/2-by-11-inch box.