In a world of uncertainty with regards to job markets and hiring, boomerang employees are becoming a more common trend.
Boomerang employees are people who return to work for a company after they originally left. The term is typically applied to employees who were gone for over a month or two then eventually returned. However, there isn’t a steadfast definition for the amount of time someone needs to be gone to be considered a boomerang employee if they come back. Each human resources division will have their own standard.
Some reasons employees leave in the first place are because they were:
- Laid off or furloughed
- Left for a different job opportunity
- Unhappy with the direction or culture of the company
- Not getting paid enough
- Performing poorly
The boomerang employee trend is growing. In 2021, boomerang employees accounted for 4.5% of all new hires on LinkedIn, an increase from 3.9% in 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. Another survey showed that nearly 40 percent of employees said they would consider going back to an old employer.
“Boomerang employees are becoming more popular because of how much less risk hiring someone who knows the environment, company, culture, and role itself can provide,” said Caitlyn Maloney, a manager of talent acquisition at Insight Global.
You should hire a boomerang employee in 2023. Let’s take a look at why, from their advantages and disadvantages to tips on how to handle this type of situation and how you can re-interview a returning employee.
Advantages to Embracing Boomerang Employees
Hiring a former employee be a good move because they:
- Are more predictable
- Require less time and money for training and onboarding
- Typically produce results quicker from their time of hire
- Are familiar with your company’s values, expectations, and employees
- Know the industry your company is in
Returning to a previous employer could be a sign of loyalty to the company, a team, or even a certain manager or other employee.
You should consider recruiting and hiring an ex-employee on a case-by-case basis. (We’ll go over some tips in a moment.) You might find the experience they can bring back to your company useful.
Maloney pointed out that boomerang employees may also provide fresh ideas and unique solutions to existing challenges in your workplace. This is a great win-win for the boomerang employee and the company, especially if one of those challenges led them to leave in the first place.
Why do boomerang employees come back?
Employees leave companies for many reasons, but they also want to come back plenty of reasons, too. Keep these reasons in mind as we go through this post.
You can often look at the reason why an employee left to find why they want to return to your company. The process of bringing an employee back on board (if you choose to do so at all) will be informed by these reasons.
The most common reason is a lack of opportunity or lack of satisfaction with thier current job position.
Did your company have a poor culture? Perhaps efforts you’ve made to change that culture has made its way to the ears of people who left because of it. Were they laid off because of the company’s financial situation? Maybe as they see you rehiring, they want to return to a company they enjoyed working for. Some employees may have left a company at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, but they want to return to work as they feel more comfortable.
As the candidate expresses interest in returning, you want to make sure they have “general interest in the company AND in the specific role you are hiring for,” Maloney says. You don’t want to re-hire an employee who doesn’t want to work in your industry or the open job position. Sometimes former employees look to come back because it is a situation they’re comfortable with. That’s not always the best situation for your company.
“While I always encourage a manager to try to create a new role or bend a bit when it warrants it, you can’t bring back individuals who don’t want to be work in your industry because you won’t be able to retain them,” she said.
4 Tips if you’re thinking about hiring a boomerang employee
When employees eventually want to return to your company, there are a couple of tips you can follow in this situation.
1. Seek Out Former Employees
Boomerang employees won’t always reach out to you for opportunities. Sometimes you have you reach out to them.
Nearly every organization has lost talented employees before. Your company is not alone in this. If you know why those employees left in the first place, and your company made changes that may attract that talent to come back, reach out to them! There’s no harm in keeping a former employee updated on how your company is doing, especially if the changes are making a real positive impact on the company.
Maloney says you should let the candidate know you targeted them and you’re not just trying to bring everyone who has left back into the fold.
“Let the former employee know why you think they could be a good fit to come back specifically,” she said, “and let them know that you aren’t just reaching out to every single person that’s ever left.”
2. Share background information
In your conversations with a potential boomerang employee, talk to them about how their time away from the company has been. See what they like about their current position and what they don’t. Your company may be able to give them opportunity they’re seeking.
Also, share information about your company and how it has changed since they’ve left. Employees may leave because of poor culture or lack of a vision. If that’s changed, share those details. Your company may become a place of interest again after those sort of conversations.
3. Fully vet the candidate’s motives and interest
If someone has been terminated from their last position, ensure there were valid professional reasons. Take care when interviewing them, and check their references thoroughly. It might be worth getting another opinion by asking around with their former workforce, especially those who may have been around when the termination occurred.
Conversely, the candidate should vet your motives and interests, too. Both sides doing so will provide a healthier relationship long-term. That leads to…
4. Make a strong commitment to the candidate
If you make the decision to bring back a former employee, make a significant commitment to them. That might mean offering more money, paid time off, benefits, and/or responsibilities to a candidate.
“Be open and flexible to changing the role or pay structure a bit if the candidate warrants it.” Maloney said. “In my opinion, the worst thing a manager can do is rule a boomerang employee out because they don’t fit the current mold.”
If your company offers employment contracts, look at offering something beyond the initial one or two years you may typically offer. This should show the candidate a renewed commitment to them.
Interview questions for boomerang employees
Once you decide you may want to bring a boomerang employee back in the fold, they should still go through an interview process. You don’t want to show preferential treatment. A round of formal interviews can give you insight to how the employee has changed since they first work with you.
Here are some questions you can ask a boomerang employee in an interview.
What skills have you developed since you last worked here?
Whatever the interviewee responds is probably the most important information you can get from someone who used to work for you. If they’re the same employee with no additional skills, you have to think about how they’d fit in the role you’re hiring for. Perhaps the skills they have are in high demand and they know how to get the job done efficiently, but you also don’t want to hire employees you believe may stagnate in a role or have no interest in professional growth.
However, if the employee has developed a trove of new skills stemming from new responsibilities in other positions, they could be great to re-hire–even in a higher position of responsibility.
How do you think your most recent manager would describe your performance?
Ask a potential boomerang employee what they think their last manager thought of their performance. While they may not have had an excellent relationship with that manager (part of the reason they could want to come back to your company), you’d hope the candidate reveals positive qualities about themselves. These include things like:
- Problem solving
- Leadership skills
- Completing tasks in a timely manner
It also shows an ability to look inward and evaluate themselves. That’s important for future growth.
Why are you interested in returning to our company?
This question gives insight to why the potential employee wants to come back. Did things they didn’t enjoy about the company previously (managers, benefits, etc.) change? Do they want to jump back into the fold after a period of growth for your company? Did new positions on their career path open up at your company?
A potential boomerang employee may have been let go from your company. Asking this question can still be appropriate, because you want to know what drove them to still want to come back despite the potentially awkward situation.
What did you like and not like about us during your last term of employment?
No matter how long the employee was there previously, there were likely things they did and didn’t like about your company. Some of the things they didn’t like may have been why they left in the first place, which you could’ve found out in your last question. It’s key to get these potential issues out in the air before either party makes a decision on employment.
Would it make sense to bring a candidate back in the fold if a candidate’s main reason for leaving was benefits, but those benefits haven’t gotten better? However, if there were managers or company structures that drove them to leave, changes in those positions could mean the candidate would remain at your company longer than they did before.
It’s also great to find out what they liked previously at your company, as you can ensure some of those things are still in place.
How do you see yourself growing in our company now?
If someone wants to return to your company, ask them about their professional goals. You should ask this question to anyone you interview, but potential boomerang employees have unique insight into your company already.
Encourage them to be open about what their professional goals will be in your company. Goals change over time, and their present aspirations may line up more with what your company offers.
Potential Cons of Boomerang Employees
While any cons of hiring a boomerang employee can largely be nixed if you have your hiring process locked down, Maloney says, there may be some potential repercussions of hiring a boomerang employee. These include:
- There may be lingering negative feelings from the last time the employee worked at the company, whether it’s with them or other employees
- Boomerang employees may resist change that has taken place since they left
- They could leave again quickly if issues from their previous term of employment haven’t changed
However, if you’ve interviewed the candidate, fully vetted their interests, think they are right for the role you are hiring for, and are transparent through the hiring process, you should be able to avoid these.
Are you ready to hire a boomerang employee? They can be advantageous to your hiring plans, especially if that employee is vetted thoroughly in the interview process.
When you’re ready for fresh perspectives on your team, check out the Insight Global hiring page, and we’ll instantly connect you with top talent.