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Boomerang employees—the talent pool hiding in plain sight

Too many corporations have a salty attitude when it comes to former employees. But these people are not the traitors or failures they’ve been made out to be in the past. They are valuable alumni, and they could be the answer for organizations facing skills and talent gaps.

Benefits of catching a boomerang

Boomeranging back into a company is beneficial to both the employee and employer. The first and most obvious example is filling jobs. One of the biggest challenges companies face today is staffing. During this record-low unemployment rate where quality talent is particularly hard to find, company alumni are not only a valuable talent pool—they’re unique. 

Potential rehires come with less risk. Sure, things might have changed during an employee’s time away, but there’s still less fear of the unknown for both sides. The time it takes to get a boomerang employee up to speed is likely to be faster than a typical hire. It takes less effort to recruit and train them, and less time to catch them up, so companies can expect to cut costs per rehire. It’s also quite a compliment to your employer brand if an employee applies to come back.  

Employees leave for many reasons. It’s rarely as simple as a lack of loyalty. An employee might step out to care for his children or parents, or because the role was made redundant, or she saw an opportunity to advance her career (which really should not be vilified). Whatever the cause, it’s reasonable to say that an employee who considers rejoining a former organization left on good terms. They already have a clear understanding of the organization and its culture, and the employer often has a performance record on file to review. Rehires are less likely to leave due to a lack of fit since they won’t be guessing and hoping it’s a match. It’s also likely a former employee continued developing his skills and leadership experience, and they often bring a fresh perspective and insights into how other companies handle situations that may benefit your organization.

Not all former employees are created equal

Of course, not allformer employees should boomerang back. If they were fired or if they weren’t missed due to performance or personality clashes or worse, pump the breaks. Don’t bring anyone back that left on bad terms or who would negatively impact the rest of your team.

Thinking of returning to a past employer? Answer these questions first

1. Did you enjoy working there?

If you’re applying for the same role you held before leaving, did you like it enough to do it again? Did you enjoy the organizational culture while you were employed there? Has it changed? 

Large organizations tend to change slowly over time, but new senior management could have come in and shaken things up. Check to see if the place is still what you remember, or how things have changed, whether for the better or worse. Touch base with a former colleague over email and check the company’s social media presence to gauge how it would be working there again.

2. Why did you leave? 

If you left because you hated your boss, is she still with the organization, and would you have to report to her? Did you need a more flexible schedule to balance work- and home-life, and will you have that now? 

Some details like a flex schedule might be covered in the company’s online job description but follow up on any unknowns with friends who still work there.  

Easy steps to become a boomerang

Search your old company name on LinkedIn and find people who still work there. You may already have first level connections with somemembers. Reach out to them and ask them what work is like now and ask them about the employee referral program to incentivize them to help you out.

Don’t shy away from any recently departed employees. See if you can discover what caused them to leave. If they left because someone else made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, that shouldn’t put a damper on your plans to boomerang. But if they left because a reorganization is happening because revenue or profits took a dive, now might not be the best time to return.

Check the open roles

After you’ve considered whether your former company would be a better fit this time around, scan the jobs they’re currently hiring for. If you see a role that aligns with your background, by all means apply!