Green Sourcing: Recycling Candidates

recyclingJoining recruiting is accepting that you’re now part of a rejection hotline. We’ve all been rejected by candidates. If you haven’t, you’re either the greatest closer of all time or you just started last week.

But here’s my real question: what did you do in the face of rejection? I’ll bet that you wrote them off. Your notes reading something like “nice knowing you” or “don’t ever work with him again.”Maybe you’re even more spiteful and make another notation as a red flag candidate. You were probably seething as you wrote it, depending just how purple that squirrel was and how long it takes you to source. The more time that goes into, the more it begins to feel like a bad breakup and you just never want to see them again. That candidate is now dead to you and your firm. Am I right?

I’m here to tell you just how wrong you might be.

Database Diving: Digging Through Old Searches

A few years ago I had a tough job to fill. It was a Program Manager with full SDLC (software development life cycle) experience and a Full Scope Polygraph clearance.  The clearance alone is tough enough, let alone the software element. 

When I recieved the requirement, the prime contract holder had been looking for a while. The story with government contracting seems to always go this way. The larger firms can’t source or attract talent so they go to the sub vendors to help. We are, in a way, a private staffing firm working for them exclusively and they think we have a magic database just full of these types of folks waiting with bated breath for my phone call.  If you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona I’d like to sell you. 

The search took me a few days but I did find two people that were almost perfect fits. While I know better than to think there is a perfect candidate, these two were really close. After the initial intake call I knew they were going to get an interview.  They did and the client was ecstatic. As is often the case, they liked them both but one just nudged out the other.  They called me, I called the candidate. This was amazing. I knew this candidate was ready to go. 

Waste Not, Want Not: Recycling Candidates In Action

Here’s the twist. This candidate had zero desire to work for this client. After the interview, he knew without a doubt that this wasn’t the best place for him. I tried everything I could short of bribing him to take this job. I was at a loss. We had lunch the following week at my insistence so I could learn more about what scared him off. His bottom line was that he didn’t trust the prime contractor. This was an issue I couldn’t fix so no harm no foul. We were able to have a great conversation and he asked me to keep him in mind. “Of course I am,” I thought. This guy is a tough find and having to do a search like that again would be silly.

After a year passed, a new contract was out and the RFP (request for proposal) was for the same contract as the year before.  The program manager we needed was a carbon copy of the person that turned me down.  I reached out to my old candidate on a whim. If nothing else he might be able to point me to others that might be a good fit. You know how it goes, good people know good people. Guess what?  He was updating his resume.  I did my recruiter happy dance that instant.  I didn’t have to sweat yet another search or post and pray situation. The hard work paid off, even if it was a year later all because I didn’t write the guy off.

There always seems to be a new way of doing things in this industry, and so many fail trying to solve problems with a new tool or a new tactic. But the lesson here isn’t about the new, but rather the old school ways. Keeping in touch with great people and building relationships. 

This is a relationship business no matter what anyone tells you.  Instead of finding the new person every single time for roles that you’re constantly filling, I say start by recycling candidates in the network that you have. Take notes to your advantage and don’t pass on someone because they weren’t the right fit for one opportunity. Tossing aside a good candidate is not only detrimental to them but you as well. #truestory

Derek ZellerAbout the Author: Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. He is currently serves as Technical Recruiting Lead at Comscore.

He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.

You can read his thoughts on or or his own site  Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • Mike Wolford

    Yes! Green recruiting vs Spam and inmaul (our version of slash and burn)

  • Beth

    Talent pools and even boomerang employees are more helpful than most employers/recruiters know! This article talks about how Steve Jobs was a boomerang employee:

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