What you need to know about hiring boomerang employees
Hiring 6 minute read

What you need to know about hiring boomerang employees

Andra Mircioiu | July 19, 2022

Boomerang employees are aptly named. They’re former employees who are rehired at a company, typically in the same or a similar role as before—but are they worth the risk?

According to a recent study of 15,000 job seekers, “more than one-quarter of those who left work [during the Great Resignation] are reconsidering whether they made the right move”. With many people finding the job market increasingly insecure due to the potential incoming recession, 42% of employees who left their jobs in the last year and switched roles or industries “say that it hasn’t lived up to their expectations”.

With all that in mind, is it worth rehiring a boomerang employee if they decide they want to return to their former position?

While it was taboo just a few decades ago to rehire an employee who previously quit, industries are now becoming more accepting of hiring boomerang employees. 

There are certain advantages to hiring former employees, just as there are disadvantages. Most notably, boomerang employees are what Glassdoor calls informed candidates: candidates who are “well-researched and engaged with your company, which means he or she will turn out to be the right fit and—once hired—get onboarded faster and exhibit greater productivity”.

There are many advantages to hiring boomerang employees. One advantage in particular is that they require less training.

Unless your company underwent a merger or significant culture changes, a boomerang employee is familiar with your organization. They know your policies, understand your corporate culture and values, and don’t need to ask anyone where to find the washroom. 

Since a boomerang employee has past knowledge of the inner workings of your company, they’ll require less onboarding time and less training, meaning they can be productive quicker. The return-on-investment (ROI) of a boomerang employee is higher than that of a new hire who’s unfamiliar with your organization, making boomerang employees a cost-effective choice.   

Boomerang employees have also gained more experience and new knowledge since they last worked at your organization, and might give you insights into processes or policies that ultimately benefit your organization. 

A boomerang employee can also be your poster child for retention since they’re proof that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side (or at another company). 

A boomerang employee is, to borrow a legal term, a flight risk. Since they’ve quit once before, they’re more likely to quit again.

Hiring a former employee has its advantages. However, there are some disadvantages too. 

Before making an offer to a boomerang employee, consult your exit interview notes or former managers to learn why the employee quit. If the issue(s) still persist at your organization, a boomerang employee won’t be your best hire. 

There’s also the possibility that a boomerang employee brings “bad blood” back into your organization, negatively impacting the morale and productivity of the rest of your team. A fresh hire, however, has the opportunity to forge new connections and positively contribute to the team dynamic. 

And while a boomerang employee may have prior knowledge of the role and your organization, your needs or requirements may have changed—meaning that a boomerang employee may not be the best fit anymore. 

You should ask lots of questions to your potential boomerang employee to better understand their thinking. 

If a former employee wants to return to your organization, you can use the following or similar questions to better understand their mindset: 

  • What made you want to return at this time?
  • Are there any unresolved issues with former coworkers?
  • How have you increased your skill set since you left?
  • Have you kept in touch with anyone from our organization?
  • What are your expectations regarding the role? 

You can also ask trusted individuals in your organization for their insights on an employee you’re thinking of rehiring. People who interacted with the former employee may have knowledge you don’t—knowledge which may convince you to either rehire them… or put them on a permanent do-not-hire list.

If there was tension previously, you could risk losing other employees if you bring back a boomerang employee. It’s important to understand both why an employee left your organization and why they want to come back before making your decision. 

A company-wide policy on boomerang employees can help provide guidance and clarity on your hiring processes. 

Your policy can either be to ban the hiring of former employees or have it occur on a case-by-case basis, which gives you more flexibility to either hire or turn down past employees.  

When an employee quits, you can introduce the possibility of them returning at a later time. Invite them to reapply to suitable positions in your organization but be clear they’ll be considered together with other candidates rather than be a shoo-in for the role. 

A former employee can recommend job openings to their network, helping you find strong candidates and reduce the time it takes for you to hire someone. 

Traditionally, former employees are just that: former, with no ties to the company except through LinkedIn connections and coworkers-turned-friends.

However, they can be more than that.

They could also become your client or a brand ambassador, particularly if their reasons for quitting had nothing to do with the quality of your product or services. 

Former employees are most likely still working in the same industry and they can unlock resources and knowledge that your current employees might not have access to. 

An alumni network helps former employees stay aware of your company’s successes and future goals and gives them the opportunity to contribute. It’s also a passive candidate pool for your organization and helps strengthen your employer brand as an organization concerned with the advancement of its people, current and former. 

Alumni networks can be as simple as an email list that sends relevant updates to former employees, including new opportunities, changes in management or other company news that can help them onboard even faster should they decide to rejoin your organization. 

While there’s some inherent risk to consider when hiring boomerang employees, with the current labour market it may be a risk worth taking.

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