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Post by Rich Moy on Dec 13, 2017 12:00:00 PM

You have an opening on your engineering team, and you know someone who’d be a great fit—except you’ve rejected that person in the past. There’s no chance that developer will ever engage with you again, right? Not always.

Why is that the case? Think back to the last few tech candidates that you’ve declined. Some of them probably didn’t have the skills that your team was looking for, but others might have been talented programmers that you just didn’t have a role for at the time. If you maintain the relationships with the latter, the door is far from shut on a reunion down the road.

That begs the question: How do you maintain those relationships, and what should you do when you want to re-engage with someone that you’ve rejected in the past? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Keep Detailed Notes of Every Conversation

This might sound like an obvious tip. In a lot of ways, it is 100% obvious. But let’s talk about why it should be your default.

Put yourself in the developer’s shoes for a second. Now, imagine that a company that you met with in the past reaches out to you again. Would you want to describe your entire work history, list of accomplishments, and sell yourself to them for the second time? I doubt it. The same can be said for the tech candidates that you’ve passed on before.

If you want to stay in touch with a rejected candidate, don’t toss out your interview notes. When you chat with them again, bring a notepad and take even more notes. Not only is this a necessity from a relationship-building standpoint, but it also makes it easier to give that developer a positive candidate experience if he or she decides to interview with you in the future.

Shorten The Interview Process for Them

Hiring the right developers for your company requires a thorough interview process. But when you re-recruit someone you’ve rejected before, the reality is that he or she has successfully passed most of your interview stages.

You could make them redo the entire process, but you won’t learn anything new that will make you feel more (or less) confident about their candidacy. Plus, they might bristle at the idea of interviewing with you again after learning that they’ll be starting from scratch.

Ask yourself the following questions before you ask a developer to interview again. In all likelihood, your answers will probably tell you that you can shorten the interview process for most candidates you’re reconsidering.

  • How long ago did this developer interview with us? If you met with this person within the last 12 months, feel free to skip the phone screen and culture fit assessments.
  • How did this person perform on his or her coding test? Unless you had any significant hangups about their coding skills, don’t give them the same test again. Instead, ask your engineering managers if you can show them live code and structure the conversation around how they would optimize it.
  • Why did we reject this person? Sure, if you weren’t convinced in the past, go ahead and reassess their skills. But if the only reason you declined a developer was that you didn’t have a role that suited them, talk to your team about skipping most (or all) of the interview process and jump ahead to selling them on your company.

Refer Quality Candidates for Jobs at Other Companies

If you have an open role, you should always re-consider tech candidates that you’ve passed on. But what if you don’t have an opening? Should you keep these talented people a secret as long as possible? For the sake of maintaining your tech talent pipeline, that would make sense. But at the same time, it could have a negative effect on your relationships with those developers.

As a tech recruiter, I bet you’re friendly with other recruiters who have similar challenges finding and hiring developers. When you know that someone you’ve interviewed could be a great fit somewhere else, offer a no-strings-attached introduction. You’ll probably catch the developer off guard, but in a very positive way. Plus, it’ll put you in a stronger position to recruit that person in the future if he or she decides to make another change.

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