Non-radiative recombination plays an important role in the performance of optoelectronic semiconductor devices such as solar cells and light-emitting diodes. Most textbook examples assume that the recombination process occurs through a single defect level, where one electron and one hole are captured and recombined. Based on this simple picture, conventional wisdom is that only defect levels near the center of the bandgap can be effective recombination centers. Here, we present a new two-level recombination mechanism: first, one type of carrier is captured through a defect level forming a metastable state; then the local defect configuration rapidly changes to a stable state, where the other type of carrier is captured and recombined through another defect level. This novel mechanism is applied to the recombination center Te(cd)(2+) in CdTe. We show that this two-level process can significantly increase the recombination rate (by three orders of magnitude) in agreement with experiments. We expect that this two-level recombination process can exist in a wide range of semiconductors, so its effect should be carefully examined in characterizing optoelectronic materials.