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11.03.2022 Hiring process

Hiring boomerang employees: The pros and cons

Hiring boomerang employees: The pros and cons

Boomerang employees are workers who have left your company, but who after a while (whether it’s months or years) decide to work for your business again. The question is: Should you rehire these boomerang employees?

At the moment, recruiting top talent seems more difficult than ever. The combination of the global COVID-19 pandemic and countries struggling with ageing populations has resulted in large shifts in the recruiting landscape.

In the United States, what’s been dubbed the Great Resignation has led to record numbers of workers quitting their jobs. And although considered to be less dramatically affected, countries in the European Union are struggling with steadily rising job vacancy rates as well.

No wonder boomerang employees seem like they offer the ideal solution for recruiters. After all, this talent doesn’t have to be attracted and acquired anymore. But is hiring boomerang employees always beneficial, or are there downsides to them as well?

Find out the pros and cons of rehiring employees below. We also share a list of points to bear in mind when you do decide to rehire, as well as interview questions specifically tailored to boomerang employees.

The what and why of boomerang employees

Boomerang employees are employees that boomerang back to your business. They decided to leave your company in the past but now, months or perhaps years later, they want to join you once more.

Some employees may leave to follow a different career path (one that you can’t offer at that stage). Others simply need to take some time off, perhaps to explore the world or to spend more time with their family.

You can learn more about the reasons why an employee might decide to boomerang and get a more precise definition in our dedicated glossary article: what is a boomerang employee.

Whatever the reason, the important thing is that the employee decides to rejoin the ranks. And that’s great news! Right?

The pros and cons of hiring boomerang employees

Employee turnover is normal and employees and companies sometimes just end up at a crossroads. As long as there are no hard feelings between both parties there is no reason why their paths won’t cross again later down the road.

But is it beneficial for companies to rehire employees?

Boomerang employee benefits

Let’s first take a look at the benefits of rehiring boomerang employees.

  • You know what to expect

They’ve worked at your company before, so you already know whether they will be a good cultural fit (or culture add) to your team. And the less time elapsed between the moment of resignation and the moment of rehiring, the more accurate your image of the employee and how they will work in your organisation.

This not only makes the hiring decision easier and less of a leap of faith, but it can also help reduce your hiring costs.

  • Lower recruiting and hiring costs

In many cases, the boomerang employee and the company will have actively stayed in touch and/or connected via LinkedIn. As soon as the company has a suitable opening or the employee is thinking about coming back it only takes a message to reconnect. This can strongly reduce spending on talent sourcing and attraction.

The same applies to the next steps in the hiring process. For example, the interview process can generally be shortened as initial steps like phone screening aren’t necessary. And once the hire has been made, a boomerang employee will require a shorter onboarding process as they already know the company.

Especially right now, with the Great Resignation still underway and the available talent pool seemingly shrinking by the day, boomerang employees can be extremely valuable for your business.

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  • They know what to expect

They have worked for you before, so they already know what your company culture is like (and whether they like it). The same for your internal processes, the tools you use, and the ways you work.

They know what they’re getting themselves into, so the chances of them resigning after a month are much lower than with a new employee.

  • Can boost employer branding and retention

If an old employee returns to your company they are acknowledging that you as a business did something right. Otherwise, they wouldn’t want to return and work for you again. Other employees (especially ones that are new to your business) may see this as a vote of confidence.

This can give both your employer branding and your employee retention rate a welcome boost.

Boomerang employee downsides

Unfortunately, there are also downsides to rehiring employees. Here are the main reasons why you might want to reconsider hiring back an employee.

  • They left for a reason

Even when the employee and employer separated on good terms there can still be some lingering resentment or negative feelings on either side. And there’s a chance that the original reason for leaving might resurface.

Perhaps you still can’t offer the exact career path they want. Or perhaps you still haven’t changed certain processes that contributed to their decision to leave in the first place.

They left for a reason before, why would things be different this time?

  • Both parties have changed

Both employers and employees aren’t static. The company will (hopefully) have grown in the meantime and processes might have changed. Equally, the employee might have matured or grown accustomed to different ways of working.

Often boomerang employees (and the rehiring employers) expect things to go back to how they used to be, but that’s often not the case. This can result in expectations not being met or either party resisting change.

  • Current employees might not like it

Perhaps some of the current employees didn’t like (working with) the employee who left. Or perhaps the boomerang employee is rehired for a job that the current employees had their eyes on themselves.

In many cases, the social dynamic of someone being both new to a team while having experience working in that team already can be challenging.

  • Contract negotiations can be difficult

They almost always are, but this is certainly the case with boomerang employees. The biggest problem is deciding whether to treat the rehire as a new employee or not.

Will they receive a new probationary period? How about accrued vacation days or similar processes based on the years of service in the company?

Starting from scratch might cause resentment with the boomerang employee, which means you might be off to a bad start.

Two women at a desk signing contracts to represent rehiring employees
Photo by Romain Dancre, Unsplash

Rehiring former employees who quit

You should carefully consider boomerang employees’ pros and cons before making the decision. In most cases, studies have shown that boomerang employees tend to outperform new hires, but research on the topic is certainly still not conclusive and not all studies find the same result.

Have you decided that you want to rehire a former coworker? Then take the following points into consideration:

  • Carefully assess why they left in the first place. Is there any reason for potential resentment? Were there parts of this employee’s performance that you didn’t like (and why)?
  • Decide how to handle the contract and be clear and upfront in your communication about this. You don’t want the employee to be annoyed because they had to start with a probation period again.
  • Check with your team. As an employer, you don’t always see or hear everything that’s going on between your team members. Ensure there’s no bad blood or unresolved issues before letting a former colleague rejoin the team. You may also want to check that nobody else was hoping to get the position the boomerang employee will fill.
  • Don’t assume things will be ‘back to the good old days’. Think of how your business has grown and changed since the employee left and clearly communicate this to them. Equally important is for you to assess how they have changed. It might turn out that the both of you are simply no longer compatible with each other. Be sure to assess this during the interview process.

Extra interview questions for boomerang employees

As mentioned, the interview process will be different than usual when hiring boomerang employees. You won’t need to get to know each other as much and the initial screening process can probably be skipped over altogether.

But there are also some extra interview questions you should ask the potential boomerang employee. Interview questions tailored to their situation and to identify any potential problems with the rehire.

Example boomerang employee interview questions:

  • Why would you like to work with us again?
  • How has your career path been since you left the company?
  • What new skills or ways of working have you adopted since you left?
  • What do you miss the most about working with us?
  • Why do you think now is a good time for you to return?
  • Our company hasn’t been standing still and some things have changed. Name three things that you hope have stayed the same since you left.
  • Why did you leave the company before, and how likely is the chance that the same factor will lead you to leave our company again?

Do you need some more inspiration for general and job-specific questions to ask your boomerang candidate? Then check out our interview questions templates!

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