Should You Consider Former Employees for New Openings at Your Company?

Boomerang Employees

Former employees, people that the organization either let go or ones that left at their own behest, can be a polarizing subject amongst managers and recruiters. 

When you need to fill a post, you may come across situations where a former employee has applied for the position, or you may be considering recruiting someone who had left under positive circumstances. What is the best plan of action? After all, a former employee could be an extremely useful addition (or, more accurately, re-addition) to your organization, and many of us often find it easier to trust “the devil you know.” Colleagues are likely to have strong feelings about hard and fast rules on the topic based on positive or negative personal experiences in the past. However, we believe there is no absolute rule that fits here. Rather, there are a number of variables that you should examine when considering employing a former team member.

The upside to hiring a former employee

There is plenty of potential upside to re-hiring an individual. For example, a former employee usually requires a shorter orientation process and fewer resources to get them up to speed on the business, the industry, and their area of responsibility, resulting in cost and time savings. Moreover, they will also be familiar with the culture and atmosphere of the company, and likely still know a number of current employees, meaning a smoother transition or dynamic, than integrating a new team member. Another reason to consider a former employee is that, after leaving your company, they probably have not been sitting at home binging Netflix; they have been working in different companies and environments, gaining experience and exposure to improve their skillset. Also, a former employee returning can do wonders for a company’s image, acting as the living embodiment of the phrase “the grass is not always greener.” They not only boost current employees’ confidence in the company, but also incentivize employees from the organization they left to consider your company. All in all, re-hiring a former employee can be a smart move from a productivity and cultural perspective.


The flipside of bringing back former team members

Of course, every coin has two sides, and hiring former employees isn’t without potential pitfalls. The perfect storm can also be kicked off, not only reflecting a bad hire, but also causing turmoil and negative consequences for the forward momentum of the team.

Boomerang employees are likely to have an established image of the company and current employees based on their earlier employment experience. As a result, they may find it hard to adapt once they realize that the company has moved on from its era and employs new policies and/or a new workplace culture has been established. Sometimes, former employees continue to harbor grudges / bad feelings or feel as if they deserve the same status and position in the organizational hierarchy they previously held, leading to tensions and a lack of collaboration. If everyone does not start culturally with a “clean slate,” the upside of recruiting a former colleague could quickly be eroded by interpersonal conflict and ultimately, decreased productivity.


Effective evaluation practices to capture the best candidates

No one wants to, or can afford to, miss out on identifying candidates that are a good fit for a specific role. Ultimately, the organization needs to have a purposeful and exhaustive interview design and decision-making process that provides for an objective determination of whether an applicant, regardless of whether they are a former employee or a brand-new face, is right for your company’s culture and workspace productivity.

Our prejudice regarding the right approach may be transparent, but we believe in establishing a comprehensive Cipher® to provide the best hiring outcomes, especially when considering a former employee, to ensure alignments with the specific needs of the company.

In addition to leveraging the Cipher® as the foundation to your process, in this unique situation we recommend:

  • Review in detail with the candidate their short- and long-term aspirations, to ensure their vision aligns with the company’s goals. Don’t assume that you know the answers based on what they articulated in a prior life.
  • Have a clear conversation, one that is more explicit than you think is necessary, around your expectations in the new role. Let them know that the Cipher® lays the groundwork for performance evaluation and this document, rather than their past experiences, will drive future success in the role.
  • Conduct comprehensive background checks with internal staff and to the extent possible with bosses/direct reports of their current company, to calibrate your understanding of their interpersonal dynamics.

In conclusion, having a strategic and planful approach to recruiting and hiring such as the Cipher® is the best way to ensure and scale success, whether you are evaluating a former employee or a new face for your team. With a little extra thought and evaluation, former employees can be a savvy option when bringing in the talent you need in today’s competitive employment market.

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