Major Players told PRWeek it was witnessing not only a general lack of understanding but also a deficit of those with the right expertise to fill specific social media roles.
The agency said candidate CVs for a variety of PR jobs across different levels lacked even a cursory mention of social media buzzwords such as 'blogging' or 'Twitter'.
Out of a sample of 4,500 CVs received in the past two years, just six per cent referenced social media, nine per cent mentioned Twitter, and a meagre two per cent talked about blogging. Thirteen per cent included 'Facebook' - although in some this was merely highlighted in the 'interests' section.
This compares with around 33 per cent of recruitment searches by employers being for digital and social media expertise, while a further 28 per cent require a general understanding of social media, generally in consumer roles.
Major Players head of PR Lorraine Barker said: 'PR candidates need to recognise the importance of social media and how potential employers will increasingly require a clear level of understanding in this area.'
A knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) is something employers also see as an important part of the PR mix, yet only 4.7 per cent of resumes include the term.
Meanwhile, rival recruiter JFL Recruitment managing director Ros Kindersley said that while there were fewer older candidates with social media skills, younger candidates had an 'innate skill'.
'Everyone under 26 has excellent social media skills. It's integral to what they do. For them, it's a natural part of PR,' said Kindersley.
Cake CEO Mike Mathieson said he was seeing a dearth of strategy and planning people, adding: 'We have spent time and effort retraining existing staff in the past two months.'