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Forecasting the future of recruiting operations with Jeremy Lyons

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Boomerang hiring: Build an awesome offboarding and (re)onboarding plan in just 3 easy steps [+ FREE interview kit]

Reconnect, rehire and reimagine your workforce for success. Master boomerang hiring today!

Employees may quit their jobs for several reasons, be it due to a lack of work flexibility at their current company or for career advancements. 

And while 87% of hiring managers would likely rehire those employees, only 30% of them would return. 

These 30% are boomerang employees

Our goal, through this guide, is to help you increase this number by improving your offboarding and (re)onboarding plan.

Let’s get started! 

Who are boomerang employees, and why do they come back?

Boomerang employee study

Boomerang employees are the employees who return to work for the same company they originally left. 

Although the term “boomerang” is typically used for those who were gone for over a month or two and then returned, there isn’t a steadfast definition for how long one needs to be gone to be considered a boomerang employee. 

💡Fun fact: In 2021, 4.5% of new hires on LinkedIn were boomerang employees, and even in 2024, this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Over the last 40 years, the average employee tenure with a company has remained unchanged at approximately five years

This means if a person works for 40-50 years of their life, they have enough time to work for a company, leave for better opportunities, and still be able to return to their former employer. 

But why do employees leave their jobs in the first place?

In April 2022, McKinsey & Company surveyed over 13000 employees from different countries to identify key issues that lead people to leave their company. 

Here’s the result:

Reasons why do employees leave their jobs in the first place

Today’s employees seek flexibility to pursue different job options without burning bridges with their past employers. 

A 2022 survey by UKG found that 62% of people who left jobs during the pandemic, or more than 15 million people, say the job they quit was better than their current job. 

Some (41% to be precise) admit they left the job in haste, and others ask, “Why not if it’s available?” The reason can be any (sometimes more than one!).

Reasons former employees return: 

  • Their former employer might have offered them a better job opportunity, such as a promotion or a higher salary.
  • They might miss the company’s culture and the relationships they built with their colleagues.
  • They might return due to personal reasons such as relocation or family obligations.
  • After leaving, they might have acquired new skills, experiences, or education and believe they can now bring more value to their former employer.
  • Sometimes, employees leave due to specific circumstances, like a particular manager, policies, or pay scales. If those conditions change (e.g., a problematic manager leaves or a new benefits package is introduced), they might be more inclined to return.
  • External conditions, such as economic downturns or job market changes, can also influence a boomerang employee’s decision to return, especially if they feel their previous company offers more stability.

Moreover, according to a survey by UKG, nearly half of the 47 million people who quit their jobs in the last two years feel they ended up worse off in their new jobs. 

In fact, nearly 1 in 5 employees who quit during the Covid-19 pandemic have already boomeranged back to their former positions. For those who have not yet, 41% would consider it if it were an option.

Why and why not to hire boomerang employees?

Boomerang hiring refers to the methods recruiters use to recognize and retarget ex-employees with excellent performance records – to generate influential ROI if rehired.

Though hiring boomerang employees is a personal choice of the company’s leadership and the HR department, here are some pros and cons you must keep in the front of your mind:

Pros of boomerang hiring:

  1. Since boomerang employees are the ones you’ve already worked with, you can skip time-consuming and expensive evaluation processes and save a ton from your recruitment costs.
  2. When you hire a boomerang employee, they not only bring new skills and experiences to the table but also your competitor’s information. You can use this knowledge to gain an upper hand in the market. 
  3. You and your ex-employee both already know all the ins and outs of each other, so you don’t need to waste time introducing them to everything afresh. You can directly jump to work.
  4. Employees only return if they trust you, which means you can expect 2X loyalty from your boomerang employees this time. 
  5. Employee qualifications, criminal records, security checks, etc., have already been evaluated during first-time recruitment. Now, you can just fast-forward through all the steps without compromising the quality of hires. 
  6. Boomerang employees fit into existing company workflow and team discussions better than entirely new hires.

Cons of boomerang hiring:

Yes, hiring boomerang employees can significantly benefit your company, but there can still be some downsides to it. Some being –

  • If your offboarding plan wasn’t exceptional in the first place, boomerang employees might bring bad blood back to the workplace. 
  • They might need more time to adjust if your company’s management, policies, and culture have changed.
  • Regardless of past performance, sometimes candidates are just not the right fit for the current position.
  • Boomerang employees can still leave quickly if issues from previous terms of employment remain unresolved. 

Remember, there is no harm in giving a shot to boomerang hiring. Just ALWAYS weigh your efforts and possible outcomes when doing so.

3 essential steps to implementing an effective boomerang hiring plan

The art of bringing back former employees – or “boomerang employees” – isn’t just a trend; it’s a strategy that recognizes the value of known quantities in an uncertain talent market.

However, the success of boomerang employees depends on two main factors- 

  • How did you treat your employees when they were previously working with you?
  • What can you offer today to catch their interest and retain them?

After all, 

“Boomerang hiring = A good offboarding + re-onboarding experience”

Keeping this in mind, here are three key steps to an effective “boomerang hiring” plan:

1. Create an exceptional offboarding plan and stay in touch

Departures need not be somber. A positive goodbye can not only preserve the departing employee’s perception of the company but also keep the door ajar for a potential reunion.

A quick checklist to follow:

  • Conduct a thorough exit interview. It will provide you with an invaluable opportunity to delve into the reasons for the employee’s departure. While some reasons might be personal and beyond your control, there might be organizational factors that the management can address. The feedback derived from these sessions can be a treasure trove of insights that can guide internal improvements.
  • Facilitate a structured knowledge transfer process to mitigate the potential knowledge void after the employee leaves. It should involve transitioning projects, responsibilities, and any proprietary insights they might have accumulated to ensure continuity in ongoing tasks and demonstrate respect and appreciation for the professional rigor of the departing employee.
  • Whether through a formal acknowledgment in a team meeting, a written note, or even a small farewell gathering, recognize and vocalize appreciation for the contributions of departing employees to cement positive memories associated with their tenure.
  • Even as employees venture into new roles or companies, express a genuine interest in their future endeavors and maintain an open line of communication. Even a simple message on special occasions will reflect on your company’s culture and keep the connection alive.
  • Ensure a constructive, rather than confrontational, offboarding experience.

Remember: While offboarding is, in essence, a process of disengagement, its positive execution can be the starting point of a future re-engagement. 

The professionalism and respect shown during this phase can become the company’s ambassador, carried forth by the departing employee into the broader industry.

2. Reassess profiles and entice them with exciting offers

People grow, learn, and evolve. Before approaching a potential boomerang employee, research what new skills or qualifications they’ve acquired while away.

Here’s a list of 12 things you must consider:

  • Skills and new perspectives they’ll bring to the table
  • The cultural impact – Boomerang employees may help reinforce your culture and retain employees as they tell others how “challenging” work-life is elsewhere.
  • Employee loyalty – They left the first time. They may leave again if issues remain unsolved.
  • Their past performance/behaviors and if they are acceptable in your current workplace
  • Candidate’s eligibility – Not every boomerang employee may be eligible for a particular role
  • Their previous transition out of the company + the reasons behind it
  • Any concerns you have about their time away (Both personal or work-related)
  • Their relationship with other employees in your company
  • Their future SMART goals and growth plans
  • The plus points of your company that made them want to return
  • Their track record including employment history, performance appraisals, etc.
  • Their strengths and weaknesses – Have they worked on turning their weaknesses from last time into strengths?

Once you have found a boomerang employee that fits your job description, show them you’ve got an ideal place for them. 

Be upfront about what you’ve accomplished since they left and how they can contribute to the company’s continued success.

Also, remember boomerang employees are often in high demand, so they may have other job options available to them. So, make sure your offer package is competitive enough. (Both monetary and beyond)

Finally, if you are really interested in hiring a particular boomerang employee, don’t be afraid to follow up with them multiple times. (But in a non-irritating way!)

3. Readjust your reboarding checklist and celebrate

While welcoming and training employees differ depending on “why” you need to reboard them (which is never constant), you can follow this approach to create and adjust it every time. 

First, answer –

  • Who you need to reboard – Different employees may have different concerns, preferences, and needs upon which your reboarding strategies should depend.
  • What do you need to achieve by hiring boomerang employees? 
  • How are you going to do that?

Your answers to the above three questions will decide your re-hiring timeline, budget, and efforts. 

 Quick tips to follow:

  • Assign a mentor or buddy to help them reintegrate.
  • Announce their return through internal communications.
  • Schedule periodic check-ins during their initial months.
  • Organize a team lunch or coffee break.
  • Share their story in a company newsletter or intranet.

Remember: Boomerang hiring isn’t just about rehiring an old employee; it’s about recognizing and capitalizing on the value they bring in their second stint. 

By following these three steps meticulously, you can harness the full potential of your returning talents.

Important –

What if you messed up your hiring process the first time? Can you still dream of boomerang employees?

Absolutely! This guide will help-

10+ essential interview questions for boomerang employees

A boomerang employee interview slightly differs from a new-hire interview in that it considers the reasons for the employee’s initial departure, their experiences while away, and the motivations behind their decision to return. 

You can’t take them as an “easy” option and sit back! 

Instead, you must readjust your interview kit by adding these ten questions to it:

#1: Why did you originally leave our company?

Purpose: This question seeks clarity on the reasons behind their initial departure, which could provide insights into potential organizational challenges.

#2: What new skills and experiences have you gained while away?

Purpose: To gauge the additional value they might bring upon their return.

#3: How will these new experiences benefit our company?

Purpose: To understand their perspective on how they can contribute differently or more effectively this time.

#4: What motivated you to consider returning to our company?

Purpose: To understand the pull factors that make the company attractive to the boomerang employee.

#5: Have your career goals and values changed since you last worked here? If so, how?

Purpose: To ensure alignment between the employee’s aspirations and the company’s objectives.

#6: Were there specific challenges or circumstances here that contributed to your initial departure, and if so, how do you perceive them now?

Purpose: To discern if previous issues might resurface and if the employee’s perspective on them has changed.

#7: What did you appreciate most about your new role/company, and why did you leave that behind?

Purpose: To uncover potential best practices or areas of improvement for the company.

#8: How have you handled situations in the past where you’ve had to re-adapt to a previously familiar environment?

Purpose: To gauge their adaptability and ensure a smooth transition back into the company.

#9: What expectations do you have from us this time around, and what would you like to see done differently?

Purpose: To align the employee’s expectations with what the company can offer.

#10: If rehired, how would you handle questions or comments from colleagues about your return?

Purpose: To assess the employee’s potential response to internal reactions and ensure a harmonious reintegration.

#11: Do you have any unresolved issues with the company or with former coworkers?

Purpose: To identify any potential conflicts of interest or sources of tension that could impact the employee’s ability to be successful in the role.

These questions aim to ensure that the return of the boomerang employee is beneficial for both the individual and the company, mitigating any potential challenges and capitalizing on new opportunities.

How to build a perfect scoring sheet for boomerang employees?

Building a perfect scoring sheet for boomerang employees requires focusing on areas unique to their situation, combined with the traditional aspects of candidate evaluation. 

Here’s a three-step guide:

1. Start with standard evaluation metrics:

  • Skills and experience: Does the candidate still meet the necessary skill set? Consider any new skills or experiences they have gained.
  • Cultural fit: Assess their compatibility with the company’s culture and values, considering their previous tenure.
  • Role fit: Evaluate how well they fit the role they are being considered for. This might differ from their previous position.

2. Rate them on various scales:

Reason for initial departure:
  • Positive departure (e.g., higher education, personal reasons): +2 points
  • Neutral departure (e.g., better opportunity, relocation): +1 point
  • Negative departure (e.g., conflicts, performance issues): 0 points

New skills and experiences gained:

  • Highly relevant to the new role: +3 points
  • Moderately relevant: +2 points
  • Slightly relevant: +1 point
  • Not relevant: 0 points

Reason for return:

  • Organizational pull (e.g., company culture, previous positive experiences): +3 points
  • Role-specific (attracted to the new role’s challenges and opportunities): +2 points
  • External factors (e.g., economic downturn, job market): +1 point

Feedback from the previous tenure:

  • Excellent feedback: +3 points
  • Good feedback with minor issues: +2 points
  • Mixed feedback: +1 point
  • Negative feedback: 0 points

Adaptability (Based on responses to questions about reintegration):

  • High confidence in smooth reintegration: +2 points
  • Some concerns but manageable: +1 point
  • Many concerns: 0 points

Peer and team feedback (If possible, get feedback from those who worked with them previously):

  • Eager to have them back: +3 points
  • Neutral about their return: +1 point
  • Hesitant about their return: 0 points

Growth and development perspective:

  • Seeks new challenges and growth within the company: +2 points
  • Content with a similar role without much change: +1 point
  • Unclear about growth prospects or development: 0 points

Commitment and longevity (Try to gauge their commitment to staying this time):

  • Long-term commitment expressed: +2 points
  • Medium-term (a few years): +1 point
  • Uncertain or short-term: 0 points

Overall compatibility with current organizational goals and vision:

  • Highly compatible: +3 points
  • Moderately compatible: +2 points
  • Low compatibility: +1 point

 

3. Tally the points:

Structured evaluation for boomerang employees

  • 25-30 points: Strong candidate for rehiring.
  • 15-24 points: Potential candidate with some reservations.

0-14 points: Consider other candidates or dig deeper before deciding.

The above scoring sheet provides a structured way to evaluate boomerang employees by weighing their past experiences within the company and their growth outside, ensuring a balanced assessment. 

Adjust the points and categories based on your company’s specific needs and priorities, and you’re good to go!

So, are you ready to hire boomerang employees? They can be a great asset to your hiring plans, especially if they are vetted thoroughly from start to end. 

We can help you create a seamless candidate experience for guaranteed talent resurgence. 

Plus, our mobile app can help your busy recruiting team collaborate and keep candidates engaged 24/7.

Frequently asked questions

Q1 – How does boomerang hiring differ from traditional hiring?

Boomerang hiring, often referred to as “rehiring,” is the practice of bringing former employees back into your company after they’ve left for other opportunities. 

It differs from traditional hiring in that it involves individuals who already have experience working with your company and understand its culture, processes, and values. 

This results in shorter onboarding times, reduced risk, and a faster contribution to the team’s productivity. 

Q2 – Are there industries or roles where boomerang hiring is particularly beneficial?

Boomerang hiring can benefit various industries and roles, but it’s especially valuable in sectors where specialized skills or knowledge of proprietary systems are crucial, like IT, healthcare, engineering, and manufacturing. 

Additionally, leadership roles or positions requiring deep institutional knowledge can greatly benefit from boomerang hires, as their experience can lead to immediate contributions.  

Q3 – Are there legal considerations or potential pitfalls to be aware of when hiring former employees? 

When hiring former employees, be cautious of non-compete agreements, maintain fairness in the hiring process, protect confidential data, and ensure clear communication about expectations to avoid legal and operational issues. Consultation with legal experts is recommended.

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