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Boomerang employees: Tips for rehiring former workers

Robert Half International

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It's a competitive world out there for companies seeking to hire employees at higher skill levels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers 25 and older is about half the overall rate.

Shortages of qualified job applicants are prompting some companies to rehire former workers who left the organization on good terms. But there are pros and cons to weigh before recruiting so-called boomerang employees.

Former employees are likely to be familiar with your operations and culture. They also may know many of your current employees and clients. And they may require little or no training to start making contributions.

But if your company has been through a lot of change since they left, a transition back into the fold may not be so easy. People change, too -- so there's some risk these individuals will have a different attitude toward work, and your organization, than before.

You'll also want to be sure any issues that caused the former employee to leave the company have been resolved or are no longer present so the person is more likely to remain with the organization this time around.

A final consideration: How will your current staff feel about a former colleague rejoining the team? Before rehiring a former employee, make sure you've fully evaluated your existing resources. Are you certain there's no one already in-house who couldn't learn the open job or assume the duties -- and, more importantly, would appreciate the opportunity?

If the best answer is to rehire a previous employee, be sure to explain to your team why you're pursuing that avenue. Here are some additional tips to help ensure success:

Be thorough. You want to ensure you're hiring the most qualified people, so approach potential rehires as you would previously unknown candidates. Focus on those with outstanding performance records, both with your company and in their endeavors since.

Ask for and check their professional references. Administer skills tests, if needed, to ensure their knowledge and abilities are up to date. Find out what they've been doing since they left your organization. Still working in the industry or field? Pursuing a degree?

Also, don't be afraid to ask tough questions such as, "What do you think you can offer our company now that some of our priorities and service goals have changed?"

Debrief returning staff. Depending on how much time has passed since they last worked for your organization, rehires may need to be brought up to speed on the new status quo. For example, who will they be reporting to? If they're being hired for a position they've held before, how have the responsibilities changed? How will performance be evaluated?

Encourage questions, and provide them with a go-to person in the department who can offer assistance navigating the work environment during the first few weeks on the job.

Monitor progress. Even if you take the time to formally onboard rehires, they may be reluctant to ask for assistance out of worry you'll question your decision to bring them on again. Make a point to check in regularly to ask how they're adjusting, what they're enjoying about being back to work at your company and what concerns they may have.

Even though boomerang employees may be familiar to you, they still need you to show sincere interest in their progress. Transitioning back into your organization may be somewhat uncomfortable for these workers at first, especially if there's been a lot of change since they left. Being sensitive to their needs can help rehires adapt more quickly and feel even more positive about beginning a new chapter at your company.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit

Last Updated: 26/02/2013 - 2:57 PM

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