Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time an employee resigned, a new position was created or you were having trouble filling a critical role, you had the names of several suitable candidates right at your fingertips? That’s the idea behind a talent pipeline, a long-range recruiting strategy that minimizes the likelihood of hiring mistakes, saves time and money and helps organizations plan for their futures.

According to Microsoft Executive Recruiter Heather Parrot, that’s what talent pipelining is all about. “Talent pipelining … is building long-term professional relationships with passive talent for future opportunities.” She adds this “requires a shift from reactive recruiting to proactive recruiting. Your mindset should switch from recruiting to fill an open position to thinking about who your company will want and should hire in the future.”

Despite the benefits of talent pipelining, only 38 percent of employers consistently recruit throughout the year, according to a recent study by ERE Media. And of those who continuously recruit, 66 percent say their strategy shortens their time to hire and 54 percent say it lowers their cost per hire.

So what are some of the best ways to fill your talent pipeline? Focus on your internal recruiting efforts, reveals LinkedIn’s annual Global Recruiting Trends report. “Currently, most internal hiring occurs on a case-by-case basis with very few defined programs in place. Not only should talent leaders formalize the internal recruiting process, but recruiters should maintain relationships with candidates post-hire and keep them in their long-term pipeline.”

Here are a few recommendations to remain ahead of the game and build an effective talent pipeline strategy:

1. Know your business

Don’t be caught recruiting by the seat of your pants. Pay attention to what roles and departments have the most turnover, and be ready with a list of potential candidates. Keep abreast of your company’s plans for growth and expansion and be aware of upcoming projects so you can anticipate and recruit for hiring needs well before they arise.

2. Network, network and network

Many busy professionals believe they don’t have time for networking events. Actually, these quasi-social functions provide vital opportunities to build your pipeline. The same theory holds true when it comes to holding informational interviews. While there may not be time to meet with every potential candidate, it’s worth holding informational interviews with those candidates who come highly recommended or have promising resumes and social media profiles. The professional contacts you make through networking will save you time and money in the future.

3. Use your contacts

Employee referral programs aren’t going away any time soon as they start to emerge as a long-lasting trend, according to LinkedIn’s annual Global Recruiting Trends report. Currently, there’s a huge opportunity to get ahead and strengthen programs. Solicit referrals from leaders inside and outside of your company. People already employed at your company or extremely knowledgeable about your industry will have a good sense of the sort of people who are most likely to fit into your company culture. Also consider instituting a referral bonus program for employees who refer friends who are hired.

4. Make communication strategic

Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to candidate communications is not nearly as effective as tailoring messages to the different groups of workers. For example, some potential candidates may prefer email communications while others respond better to receiving information via social media.

5. Keep in touch

Regardless of what strategy you choose, don’t let the relationships in your pipeline stagnate. The key to effective pipelining is maintaining communication with potential candidates in the long term.