A boomerang employee is a worker who leaves their job and returns to their former employer at a later point.
Reasons behind employees returning to their previous employer vary. Still, this increasing trend holds opportunities and challenges hiring managers and recruiters should know how to address and leverage.
How common are boomerang employees
The practice of rehiring former employees has become more common over the past years with a significant increase in 2021, accounting for 4.5% of all hires, according to LinkedIn. Boomerang employees are likely to become more common as hiring habits change, influenced by many factors, including:
- More flexible approaches to working in younger demographics like Millennials and Gen-Z
- Workplace-changing events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation
- A labor market that favors specialized employees
- A focus on DEIB
What drives employees to leave
Employees look for new jobs for various reasons, personal or circumstantial, ensuring their needs are prioritized at a given moment. Understanding these reasons can help HR teams improve employee retention and company culture, potentially driving top talent back to the organization.
Traditionally, employees have left their jobs for reasons that include:
- The desire for higher pay
- Lack of company culture
- Insufficient work-life balance
- Lack of recognition and rewards
- The need for better career path opportunities
More recently, however, employees have been driven back to the job market by more personal reasons. These include:
- The desire for change or to explore personal passions
- Lack of hybrid or remote work
- The need to focus on private life events
- The desire for more flexibility
- Lack of DEIB initiatives
What drives employees to return
Reasons that drive employees to boomerang often involve aspects of the new job not matching their expectations or what was advertised. These can be powerful drivers for workers to return to an environment they are more familiar and comfortable with. These include:
- Company culture might not be what they expected
- Benefits may not be as good as advertised
- The role might not be what they planned for
- Personal or professional development might be limited
- Conditions may change in their life that make returning a viable option
Benefits of hiring a boomerang employee
Boomerang employees bring new skills and experiences. These fresh insights can be extremely valuable in helping companies improve processes or cultural practices. However, there are other advantages to hiring a former employee, whether for the same, or a different role.
- Lower onboarding effort
- Better hiring cost/efficiency
- Tested company culture fit
- Existing knowledge of staff, departments, and processes
- Higher motivation
Risks of hiring a boomerang employee
Even if the previous working relationship ended on good terms, rehiring boomerang employees comes with some risks. HR professionals and hiring managers should be on the lookout for:
- Longer acclimatization due the the change of company dynamics since the employee’s departure
- Possible negative feelings related to the previous period
- Reduced benefit from the returning employee’s previous experience at the company, due to changes in the workplace
What to ask a potential boomerang employee during a job interview
Knowing what questions to ask potential returning employees ensures an effective hiring process. Your HR team should come up with a series of interview questions that specifically relate to the topic of returning, and discuss them with potential boomerang employees during the interview.
Consider asking some of the following questions:
- Why did you leave the company initially?
- Why do you want to return?
- What skill sets did you develop that are beneficial for the (new) role?
- Why are you leaving your current role?
- Why are you applying for this role?
- How will your experience be beneficial to the team, or company, should you be hired?