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Boomerang employees: tips for hiring and onboarding


Have you considered hiring “boomerang employees?”

These are former employees who left your company and are seeking to return – usually at a more senior position.

Either they decide to apply for an open position, or your HR professionals ask them to consider returning for a hard-to-fill job.

Here’s why you should (and shouldn’t) rehire boomerangs and how to onboard them into your company.

Why you should rehire boomerang employees

Already knowing the candidate for the job helps with hiring efforts — beyond saving on time, recruiting and hiring costs:

  • Not only will boomerangs be familiar with job duties and expectations, they’ll understand your company culture. Plus, you’ll have access to employee files (and memories) to ensure there’s a good company-employee fit.
  • Your company can benefit from recently acquired knowledge and perspectives from ex-employees who gained new skills.
  • Boomerangs save you money. You’ll spend less time recruiting and training ex-employees. Their shorter ramp-up time to full productivity means companies can typically lead to significant cost reductions when hiring a boomerang over a typical applicant.
  • Former employees are great for talent retention. Boomerang workers are proof that your company is worth returning to, and they can help spread the message that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. These returning employees can be effective culture agents for your organization.

Why you maybe shouldn’t rehire boomerang employees

Your business might be better off not rehiring the former employee if they departed as a result of:

  • Poor performance
  • Violation of company policy
  • Lack of employee-company culture fit

Investigate the reasons why the employee left your company. Probe during the interview process to learn if their return will be problematic because they:

  • Don’t believe in your organization’s mission
  • Don’t agree with the job expectations
  • Don’t like the work environment

What if that employee does not get along with others who are still with the company?  

Bring up your company’s conflict resolution policy and discuss the issue upfront — before hiring.  If employee relations will be problematic because the boomerang returns, that’s likely the person is not a right fit for the team.

Taking a hard look before extending a job offer will prevent issues later when the returning hire doesn’t work out after all.

Interviewing the boomerang employee

Interviewing a boomerang employee is a bit different from conducting a new-hire interview. In addition to eliminating any reasons not to rehire a former employee, consider asking these additional interview questions:

  • What have you done since you left the company?
  • How have you added to your skill set and capabilities?
  • Do you have unresolved issues with the company or former co-workers we need to know?
  • Why are you interested in returning at this time?

Once you decide to rehire a former employee, it’s time for onboarding and training, with some adjustments.

How to onboard the returning employee

Onboarding a boomerang still requires an orientation that every new employee should receive, so plan on dedicating some resources to that process.

If the person is returning in a more senior position, the situation is no different from if they had stayed with the company and gotten promoted. Address the change in status upfront with the employee and support the conflict resolution process as needed.

If the person was not gone long, at a minimum, go over the changes in your organization since they left. Update their employee files as needed and make introductions to new colleagues as necessary.

Otherwise, the rehired worker should participate in the same onboarding and orientation process as new employees. Their ramp-up time to productivity will be shorter since they have experience, but plan on checking in with periodically to make sure they are adjusting well and integrating with their new team.

Because each company is different, there is no blanket recommendation on the length of time since the employee’s departure before the boomerang must fill out new onboarding paperwork and undergo orientation and training.

Review or develop your company policy on how long an employee must have left before losing their seniority. Chances are this question will come up eventually if you continue to rehire former employees.

A structured onboarding process benefits all employees, regardless of tenure. A weak or nonexistent employee onboarding program can lead to:

  • less productivity
  • lower morale
  • lower employee engagement
  • higher employee turnover

All of these will cost your company in time, resources and money.

Remember to stay connected

When it comes time to conduct your next exit interview, remember to keep the doors open for high-performing employees to return.

According to the same Workplace Trends survey, 80 percent of workers say their former employers have not reached out to encourage their return.

Adding departing employees to your company applicant tracking system and developing an alumni network of former employees can help cut down on valuable recruiting time and energy.

For a guide to building a team that supports your company’s goals, download our complimentary e-book: How to build a top-notch workforce that accelerates your business.