Boomerangs, Referrals, and Bullpens, OH MY!

It’s the end of the first quarter of 2017, and HR professionals are still struggling with recruiting quality talent. In a research report published last year by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), sixty-eight percent (68%) of HR professionals are experiencing difficulty recruiting candidates. While the reasons for “the struggle” are numerous, skills gaps and lack of experience lead the way.

According to SHRM, it takes an average of 42 days to fill a vacant position. With this potential loss of productivity, it’s imperative that companies be able to locate, interview, and hire new employees as quickly as possible, while maintaining an effective and accurate vetting process of candidates.

With the speed of technology and the continual influence of social media, HR personnel are inundated with potential new hires, but a larger pool of candidates doesn’t necessarily equate to a larger number of qualified potentials.

Here are 3 methods to consistently finding quality candidates:


While it depends on the situation, giving former employees an opportunity to return to work for you again can be a great solution. An employee who is coming back into the fold can bring a working knowledge of your company that brings him or her to full productivity much faster than an outsider. Many times, boomerangs return because there is something that they truly miss about your company, whether it’s the opportunity, the nature of the work, or even the company culture. In a real, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” some people want to recapture the sense of good feelings they had working previously. The reciprocal can be given on behalf of the company toward the employee.

What is important in this situation is to address any reasons why the employee left in the first place. If the employee “started a fire” on the way out last time, obviously returning is probably not a good idea. But if he or she left on good terms in search of opportunity, there’s no reason not to at least evaluate whether he or she would be a good fit again. If there are underlying issues, make sure they are discussed, and most importantly, resolved. If the underlying issues are not taken care of, be rest assured that employee will boomerang out of there again, if they even consider the position in the first place.


Employee referrals continue to be the most effective way of locating potential candidates for your company. Your employees know your business, they understand your culture, and more than likely, they’re going to be very honest with the people they know about the overall feel of your company. If you have an employee who isn’t happy with his situation, you can almost bet that he’s talking about how miserable his job is, not trying to sell it. So when an employee “sells” your company to a friend, acquaintance, or associate, you can feel confident that he’s effectively recruiting someone for all the right reasons.

Make sure to have an open and rewarding process in place for your current staff members to refer potential candidates.


Every baseball team needs a strong bullpen, and businesses can utilize a bit of the same philosophy. This is a little more unique approach, but consider what it might look like if you could continue to engage the large numbers of people who are in the workforce, even if they aren’t currently a fit for the position you’re hiring. By leveraging technology through blogs, email, social media, and more, you can continue the conversation with people as they develop their skills in other places…and keep them in your “bullpen”. As we often see, the world really revolves around “who you know.” If you have candidates that come through, and you never communicate with them again, you are missing an opportunity to develop relationships that could prove fruitful down the road.

Give candidates who have passed through the process, opportunities to continue to learn about your company, your culture, and the available jobs in the future. Even marketing material or content designed specifically for them can continue the conversation as they work elsewhere. This developmental process only works if you give them a great experience through the interview process, of if they don’t make it to the interview, make sure to give them a great experience just interacting with your company. Let them know as soon as possible if you’re passing on them at this time, or if something has changed about the job. Find a way to communicate with people who are looking to work for you, even if you don’t have use for them at this time. If you do the work to develop relationships, you may be able to call in someone from the developmental bullpen, so to speak, who is ready to go when you need it!

By leveraging boomerangs, referrals, and bullpens, you can develop a steady stream of potential candidates for whenever there is a need. There’s no need to wait for a job opening to develop future candidates. Keep the conversation and process going through communication and relationships. If you can master the use of these 3 methods, you may very well find the recruiting process to be much easier and more effective in long-term retention.