In today’s fast-paced job market, it’s becoming increasingly common for former employees to rejoin the company after a period of time away. Rehiring a former employee can offer a lot of benefits, but it also has the potential for drawbacks too—it all comes down to why the employee left the company in the first place. 

What is a boomerang employee?

A boomerang employee is one who previously worked for a company and has been rehired in the same role or a different one. Boomerang employees may have left voluntarily or they have been laid off in a downsizing measure.

The phenomenon of rehiring former employees used to be rare, but the rise of job-hopping trends has made it a more common occurrence. Widespread layoffs during recessions and economic uncertainty have also contributed to the rise in boomerang employees: Some companies lay off a portion of employees in tough times, only to rehire them later once the business recovers.

Why should employers consider hiring boomerang employees?

There are multiple reasons why employers should consider rehiring former employees who previously worked at the company. First, onboarding is simpler and faster for boomerang employees. They require less training than brand-new employees and can start doing revenue-producing work faster, which contributes to the bottom line.

Boomerang employees may have gained new skills and knowledge at their interim jobs and will bring those back to the company. In other words, the business benefits from the professional development they gained at their other jobs. 

Boomerang employees bring new perspectives and processes from their interim jobs as well. Their input can help your company make improvements that you didn’t even know that you needed.

When hiring boomerang employees, your HR team also has a deeper understanding of their working style due to their previous tenure. The employee’s first time working for the company essentially serves as a “trial period” that you can use to assess their skills and personality. 

Boomerang employees are also ideally a reliable cultural fit for the company since they have already worked there, and looking back at their old personnel files will ensure that they still align with the company’s values.

Finally, boomerang employees can boost morale among the existing workforce. If a business experiences intense periods of turnover, having a former employee come back can highlight the company’s strengths to other employees.

Read more: How to Hire For the Future of Work

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What are the risks of rehiring former employees?

There are definitely some risks to rehiring boomerang employees as well. For one, the convenience of rehiring a former employee might cause you to ignore stronger candidates in the hiring pool. Sometimes it’s worth it to onboard a totally brand-new employee if they are bringing a lot of unique skills and knowledge to the company.

Bringing back an old employee can sometimes reignite old conflicts, especially if many of their old colleagues are still working there or they will be placed on the same team as before. On the other hand, if your company has undergone a lot of changes since the employee last worked there, boomerang workers might not necessarily be a better cultural fit than a new hire, either.

Boomerang employees may harbor resentment if they were laid off, especially if the layoff process wasn’t handled well. This resentment can negatively affect their individual work ethic as well overall team morale. If the employee left voluntarily for better opportunities, they can represent a flight risk, especially if they have a demonstrated history of job hopping.

You may also want to think twice about rehiring a former employee who was let go for performance issues. Sometimes it works out if they come back in a different role or are assigned to a different department, but in other cases, the performance issues are too deep for a simple switch to fix. And you should never rehire an employee who was let go for personnel reasons such as bullying or harassment.

Read more: The Top Recruiting Tools for Effective Employee Hiring

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What are examples of interview questions to ask rehire candidates? 

You will want to carefully vet a boomerang employee just as much as you would a brand-new hire. However, the interview questions should different slightly for potential rehires. Here are the top rehire interview questions that you should be asking every boomerang employee:

  1. Why did you leave the organization before?
  2. How likely is it that these circumstantial factors may arise in the future?
  3. What made you want to come back?
  4. Why are you interested in this particular position?
  5. What skills did you learn at your interim jobs?
  6. What would you change about our organization?
  7. What did you like about working here? What did you dislike?
  8. What was your relationship with your team like prior to your departure?
  9. How would you feel about working with your old team?

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Tools and tactics to help with rehire decisions

There are many resources and processes at your HR team’s disposal to help them determine whether or not they should rehire someone. First of all, you should consult your company’s rehire policy and procedures to confirm that the candidate is actually eligible for rehire.

Once you confirm that a candidate is eligible, thoroughly vet them during the interview process to make sure they are still a good fit. Boomerang workers should go through the same interview and evaluation process as every other candidate to ensure that the hiring team is making the best choice. Using an applicant tracking system can help the hiring team to ensure that all evaluations are fair and see how boomerang employees stack up against the rest of the hiring pool.

If the company had an offboarding system in place when the employee left, pull up their records to understand why the employee left and gather other helpful contextual information. The hiring team might want to supplement by talking to former teammates to confirm that there are no performance issues or personality conflicts that didn’t make it into the employee file.

If you do decide to rehire an old employee, track their ongoing performance with KPIs to ensure they are meeting benchmarks and not getting a pass because they have worked there before. Performance management software will help to standardize performance assessment and make it easier to award merit-based raises and promotions accordingly.

Looking for tools that will make it easier to find the right boomerang employees to rehire? Check out our HR Software Guide to discover our top picks for recruiting, onboarding, performance management, and more.

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