They quit, go to work for someone else and then come back to you – that’s a boomerang employee. In a recent Ceridian report, analyzing 850,000 Canadian employee records, employees who left their company and came back made up about a quarter of external hires. 1 Although another survey from LinkedIn reported that figure at a more modest 3.9% in 2019, boomerang hires were up by 4.5% in 2021, suggesting that rehiring is on the rise.2 Lately, boomerang hiring has even become an intentional approach to successful recruiting for some HR professionals.

For instance, there’s research that suggests that an average Fortune 500 company can save upwards of $12 million yearly by recruiting boomerang workers. 3

Welcoming back ex-employees can also be advantageous because…

  • Former employees are already familiar with the company. Training a new recruit costs time and money but a with a former employee it won’t take them as long to get up to speed. They’ll also have an awareness of your company’s culture, people, ethics and values, allowing them to settle in much faster than new hires.
  • Boomerang employees bring an outside perspective, new knowledge, experiences and techniques that can take your organization to the next level. This is especially evident if they worked in a similar organization and/or competitor company.
  • They’re productive and loyal. Boomerang employees tend to be more satisfied and committed because they’ve likely explored alternatives and found them unsatisfactory. One study of 13,000 employees found that returning team members were nearly always higher performers compared to new hires. 4
  • Rehiring can boost overall team morale. Recruiting a former employee could remind employees in the company that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. And when likable workers return to old jobs, former colleagues may be pleased with the decision leading to increased employee engagement.
  • Ex-employees are motivated to return. Four out of 10 people (43%) who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually better off at their old job.5 When you recruit a former employee, they’re more likely to be grateful to you and the company – and so there’s a better chance they’ll work harder and stay employed for a longer period of time.

4 Interview Questions to Ask the Boomerang Employee

Of course, embracing the boomerang talent comes with a lot of rewards. But the risks need to be seriously considered too. For example, boomerang employees could be resistant to change. They could be a flight risk as there’s not always a guarantee that the boomerang employee is in it for the long haul.

And while rehiring could be a quick fix, especially if you’re short staffed, it’s essential that you avoid getting tunnel vision. Hiring a boomerang employee could potentially mean you’re holding onto biases and ignoring stronger candidates.

However, if, after carefully weighing the pros and potential cons of boomerang hires, you decide to move forward, it’s important that ex-workers go through the interview process like any other candidate. Except, when it comes to interviewing former staff, HR should consider weaving in the following interview questions:

  1. Why did you leave the company? Revisit their exit survey and figure out if they parted on good terms. Did they have valuable feedback for the company that has now been acted on?
  2. Why do you want to come back? Dig deeper to find out what particularly interests them about the position and why they believe now is the right time to return. Are their goals aligned with business objectives?
  3. What did you learn while you were away? Boomerang candidates are typically employees who left the company no longer than 1 – 2 years. But that’s plenty of time for these types of employees to grow in their career and skillset. Perhaps their new knowledge could be an asset to the company.
  1. Are there any unresolved issues with colleagues or managers here? Are there any unresolved issues with the company? It’s important to understand how current employees feel about a former employee returning too in order to avoid disharmony within the workplace.

The bottom line: Goodbyes don’t have to be permanent. Boomerang employees certainly have a lot to offer, and it can be a great way to cut down on recruitment costs and improve your organizations’ processes. But it’s critical boomerang hiring is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure there’s alignment between the ex-worker and the employer. Only then can you be sure you’ve made the right hiring decision.

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