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Rehiring former employees: The good and bad of a rehire


Skilled, well-mannered, conscientious employees have choices about where they work, and for whom. Your company, as an employer with skilled managers, competitive pay and benefits, has choices, too.

In today’s competitive hiring environment, are you plumbing all the possible places to find top candidates? Have you considered rehiring former employees?

Every company should have a formal, legally vetted policy to address the hiring of former employees. It should outline basic rules, restrictions and eligibility for rehire. For instance, some companies forbid the rehiring of employees who were laid off.

Beyond the policy, when your company and an employee part ways, is it ever okay to hire that person back?

The answer: It depends.

Definitely a good candidate for rehire

There’s always a question mark surrounding the hire of an unknown employee and whether he or she will be a good fit for your team. Significant benefits can come from hiring former employees. In most cases, you know these people, their personalities, their work ethics and why they left your company.

When you’re rehiring former employees, they already know your products, culture and service delivery model. This can drastically reduce training costs. Rehired employees can start adding value to your bottom line in much less time than brand new employees.

For example, a line employee may have left on good terms. Maybe he thought the grass was greener and quickly found out it was not. Or, maybe he was laid off due to downsizing. If there were no performance issues, this may be a great employee to bring back, especially if he was previously a top performer.

Another type of former employee to consider: Managers who have moved through two or three progressively more responsible positions before coming back to you. These people have likely gained new experiences from their other jobs, which could result in new, positive perspectives for your company.

General wisdom says these types of rehires tend to increase their level of commitment to the company because they appreciate aspects of your business and their job that they previously underestimated. You could even find yourself with an employee for life.

Definitely not a good candidate for rehire

Employees who were terminated for poor performance or personnel issues are not good candidates for rehire. It might seem easy on the front end to hire someone who requires little to no training and promises that things have changed.

Remember, the underlying behavior behind performance problems and personnel issues, such as sexual harassment or bullying, is not easily changed. Someone who was a problem employee before will probably be a problem again. Rehiring former employees like this might be a decision you will regret.

Maybe a good candidate for rehire

Employees who left the company for better opportunities could be risky because they may leave again for “better opportunities.”

Another potential danger: Former employees who really need jobs rather than really want to return to your company.

Ask yourself: Did this person leave to find a new opportunity not available in your company? Was this person one of many to leave a problem department? Was he or she negative about the company before?

Another caution: Employees who were laid off may harbor resentment. If they bring back their toxic attitude, it could be tragic for your team.

It’s your job as the hiring manager to determine if former employees want to come back for the right reasons. So, how do you do that?

Things to consider before rehiring

Make sure to ask former employees all of the same questions you would ask unknown candidates. This should still be a very thorough, professional interview. Find out about new experiences they have gained since leaving the company, as well as reasons they left those jobs.

Ask specific questions about their reasons for leaving the first time and what they have learned since they left. If they were laid off, dig into how it made them feel and how they overcame those feelings, if those feelings were negative.

You also need to consider how this will affect the team they will be joining. Are your rehires joining a new team or their previous team? How will former team members feel about this rehire?

Finally, consider the reasons former employees left the job initially. You need to remember what was great about them as well as what they needed to improve. Weigh the positives and negatives.

A young, immature employee may have wanted and needed to get experience elsewhere and has gained maturity, as well as valuable knowledge. On the other hand, maybe the potential rehire is dissatisfied wherever she works.

It’s a tough job to hire the right person. Former employees may offer a pool of terrific candidates. They may not. It all depends.

For more tips on implementing proven recruiting strategies, download our free guide, Talent Acquisition: 13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent.