A common question that recruiters are often asked is “what is the best way to find the best candidate?”

It is a pretty loaded question.

The answer can be subjective – differing across every position. It is hard to respond without knowing more about the job and the company.

There are many different ways recruiters or hiring managers can find the right candidate to fill an opening: you can advertise the job in a wide variety of channels, you can source directly from your competitors, hire a recruiting agency, and utilize powerful social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

While each approach can deliver results, what if I told you there was one fail-safe program to find that dream candidate all of our hiring managers want?

That answer it is a lot simpler than one might think: invest in your employee referral program (ERP). By doing so, companies can save themselves the time it takes to fill openings, save marketing resources and sourcing dollars as well.

Good employees who are solid performers tend to affiliate and network with other similar-minded and skilled professionals. Whether it be past colleagues, school mates, or mutual connections, recruiters can leverage these connections to their benefit. In other words, good performers tend to know good performers.  The result – a higher caliber of candidate – which can be traced back to an ERP, further proving why such a program can work so well.

The best time to ask for referrals is immediately after you’ve made a hire. Personally, I would encourage you to find out right at the time of a new hire. It is likely that if this individual is leaving an organization, that there could be others in a similar situations.

Your new hire is going to be excited about their new job and their new organization, they will want to spread the word.  It is likely that a referral will not be made unless there is 100% confidence in the individual being recommended. Therefore, if the new hire is deemed a good fit, chances are, the referral will be a good fit as well.

Additionally, employee referrals tend to be the individuals who stay with the organization longer, who grow within the company, become leaders, and take on additional responsibility.

Many organizations talk a lot about hiring referrals but they often fail to identify what the ERP is looking to achieve in terms of hire ratio – the percentage of total hires that come from the ERP. This can be a difficult question to answer.  A lot of organizations tend to shoot for around 30-35% ERP hires.  While this is certainly a solid percentage for any organization, I would encourage your hiring managers to aim higher.  If you can push your employee referral ratio to 40% or higher, you will be on the right track.

When putting together your sourcing strategy for your next client meeting, consider how much time, energy and effort is going into the employee referral programs.  I assure you that this will almost always be money well spent.