What is a boomerang employee?
A boomerang employee is a worker who returns to a previous employer after leaving. The employee may have left voluntarily, experienced a layoff or been terminated. Seasonal employees may also return to previous jobs or pursue new positions with the company.
Boomerang employee rehire rates vary by company, but it’s not uncommon for workers to rejoin a previous employer. Some employers have strict policies for rehires, while others have no problem accepting returning employees. Check with HR about your company’s policy for boomerang employee rehires before discussing opportunities with a former team member.
Why do some previous employees return?
A returning employee is often someone who discovered a new opportunity wasn’t quite what they expected. Some workers are enticed by the pay, benefits or flexibility other companies offer. These employees may also leave because they’re tired of a long commute or promised a leadership role with a competitor.
After test-driving a new opportunity, workers may miss the company culture your business provides. A warm, transparent company culture is essential as the average full-time employee racks up 8.5 hours of work during each scheduled shift. When an employee spends more than one-third of their life working, they may bond closely with coworkers or even decide they can’t stand them. When the latter occurs, an employee may realize your company was a better fit and ask to return.
Employees also leave to take care of a sick loved one, focus on college or prepare for a major life event, such as a wedding or overseas trip. These workers often quit because life is hectic, not because they are unhappy at work. When a loyal employee leaves, they may want to rejoin your company after taking care of personal matters.
Are all boomerang employees excited to rejoin a company?
Unfortunately, some returning employees don’t truly care about your company or its values. A boomerang employee may reapply because they’ve drained their savings and need a job—any job—to get some money flowing.
Some workers return after learning other local employers don’t want them. This can be the result of a struggling economy, but sometimes it’s because workers lack crucial skills or have a history of tardiness, a poor work ethic or multiple job terminations.
Occasionally, an employee may return to gain information about your company that a competitor can use. Make sure you vet returning employees thoroughly to weed out any bad intentions.
Pros and cons of hiring a boomerang employee
Returning employees can be a valuable asset for your company, but they can also create drama or tension in the workplace. Make sure the perks outweigh the disadvantages before you rehire a boomerang employee.
- Reduced expenses for training or certifications – returning workers likely already have the necessary qualifications for employment
- Improved employee morale – workers see that you don’t hold grudges when someone leaves
- Increased sales – a boomerang employee may bring an existing client base or encourage former customers to return
- Reduced risk – returning workers are more likely to stay long-term, and there are also fewer surprises associated with hiring someone you already know
- New ideas – rehires can bring fresh ideas to your team thanks to their outside experience, which can help your business grow
- Workplace drama – an employee who left because of problems with a supervisor or a workplace romance gone bad may create issues
- Overlooking better candidates – a previous worker isn’t necessarily the best fit for your company, but it’s easy to overlook other applicants when a trained employee asks to come back
- Flight risk – returning employees may leave quickly if issues from the past aren’t corrected
- Changed personality – a boomerang employee may have new personality traits or expectations that make it hard to mesh with your corporate culture
Every returning employee has different skills and personality traits, so welcoming boomerang employee rehires back should be a case-by-case decision. Consider this when determining how a former worker’s return may impact your team.
Interview questions for boomerang employees
Cookie-cutter interview questions don’t work when you’re getting to know a returning employee, but there are a few things you should always ask. The HR team should learn why a worker left your company, whether they have a current employer, and what they expect if you let them rejoin your team.
Here are some good interview questions for boomerang employee rehires:
What have you been doing since you left?
Lead your interview with this question so you can get a feel for a returning applicant’s intentions and understand more about why they left your company. An applicant who responds with “focusing on my family” may have had a sick spouse or a newborn baby. Applicants may have also been busy with volunteer work or pursued a new position that didn’t pan out well.
If you are currently working, why do you want to leave your employer?
Pay attention to a boomerang employee’s answer to this question, as it may indicate a character flaw rather than a company issue. It’s also wise to note whether a worker is leaving a current employer for a problem that exists at your company.
For example, an employee might quit a job because they hate working every Saturday and missing their child’s soccer games. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t make sense to rehire this employee if weekends are also mandatory at your company.
Why did you leave your position here?
Don’t assume you know why an employee quit, even if a resignation letter was provided. It’s important to learn the truth so you can prevent the same issues from happening again, especially if you’ve been tracking retention rates and turnover rates for your company.
Why do you want to return to this company?
Make sure an employee is returning because they feel they’re a good fit and miss working with your team. It’s a red flag if an employee can’t find work elsewhere or doesn’t seem passionate about rejoining your company.
What salary do you have in mind?
A returning employee may expect higher pay than they previously received from your company. This is a reasonable request if the employee has incurred some valuable experience during their absence. Perhaps the worker completed a college degree, or maybe they learned new skills from a new employer.
If we rehire you, how long do you plan to stay with this company?
A rehire can save your company time and money, but not if they’re just going to quit again right away.
What would make you leave the company again?
If a worker left because they were unhappy with your company, they might not last long as a boomerang employee. Make sure you’ve addressed the issues that caused employee turnover before you let a previous team member return.
If you leave your current employer, will you be bringing any existing clients or customers?
A skilled employee may return with a customer base they accumulated at a new employer, which could help your company grow. However, you may feel conflicted about the ethics of profiting off a competitor’s client list.
Whether an employee left for personal or professional reasons, you may consider letting them rejoin your company. Weigh the pros and cons, then find out a returning employee’s intentions so you make the right decision for your team.