Finding a good technical professional is like finding a good date: The best candidate out there is probably a friend of a friend."The IT world is a tight-knit community" where people are familiar with one another\u2019s strengths and weaknesses, says Bill Pajeski, a consultant with HerbaSway Laboratories, a Wallingford, Conn.-based herbal supplement company. He estimates that 75 percent of his tech hires have been via referral.Referral programs, in which companies reward employees for new hires, are one of the most cost-effective ways to find quality candidates, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management and HR software vendor Referral Networks.Employment agencies charge a quarter of a year\u2019s base salary?often more?for finding good IT professionals. That\u2019s a lot more than the $2,000 you would award an employee for finding an ace programmer.An added bonus: Employees hired via referral tend to be better."Good people hang out with good people," says Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, an executive IT search firm based in Stamford, Conn. "People you already know and respect who are high performers at the job?those are the people to tap into."Brendan Kelly, a Web developer at the recruitment advertising company TMP Worldwide in New York City, puts it more bluntly: "Solid professionals are always in demand, so a company is more likely to get mediocre talent on the open market."