Boomerang Hires

Pros and Cons of 'Boomerang' Hires

Ask The Expert

Q: Does it make sense to pursue and hire former employees? We’re having trouble finding enough candidates to fill our openings, and we thought this might be a solution.

A: It’s true that in our current “applicant’s market”—where most organizations are struggling to fill openings with qualified candidates—one solution is to bring back people who worked for you before. These returning hires are also known as “boomerang” employees.

Of course, you should only consider bringing back an employee who left you in good standing. You know the one: that great employee you tried to retain but who left for their “perfect job.”

If you’re considering rehiring a former employee, make sure you have a thorough understanding of why you want to bring them back. Here are the pros and cons of boomerang hires:

Savvy organizations keep in touch with great employees who leave. Some organizations have a person on their recruiting team whose job focuses on keeping in touch with former employees.

Pros: 

  • You know the quality of their work.
  • They know your culture.
  • They’ve gained experience since they left your organization.
  • They return with new ideas.
  • If they joined a competitor, they may return with important market information.
  • Your current employees may gain confidence in your organization as an employer when they see people voluntarily return. This can help you retain current staff.
  • You potentially save recruiting costs (especially if you use headhunters to hire).

Cons:

  • They may expect that everything has stayed the same since they left and therefore resist change.
  • You must determine how to handle issues like vacation and any other policy or practice based on years of service. Do you credit them for their previous experience with your organization? (I suggest the answer is yes.)
  • You may have an inaccurate memory of their performance. There may have been a good reason why they chose to resign.
  • Current employees may resent a former colleague being hired back for a job they think they should have.

Savvy organizations keep in touch with great employees who leave. Some organizations have a person on their recruiting team whose job focuses on keeping in touch with former employees. They do this by sending occasional emails when there’s exciting news to share, like promotions or a major achievement. This allows the former employees to stay connected, and when a job opens up that fits their skill set, they receive an email inviting them to apply for the position.

After you’ve carefully considered the pros and cons of boomerang hires, it might be worth trying this approach and seeing whether it brings you more qualified applicants.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Hiring Employee Retention