Many people assume that rehiring former employees is a risky move, but there can be good reasons to do so. People leave companies all the time, some for their own reasons and others because the business ended their employment.
Let’s take a look at the steps involved in rehiring former employees (called boomerang employees), as well as the pros and cons you should consider before making that decision.
How to Rehire Former Employees
When filling an open position, you have options for the type of employee you hire for the role. If you have decided to rehire a former employee, you still need to follow a structured process. Just because someone has worked for you before doesn’t mean you can skip steps in the hiring process. Here are some key steps to take.
Revisit Their Exit Interview
When you offboard employees, it’s vital that you conduct exit interviews. These discussions can shed unfiltered light on the employee’s reason for leaving and any internal issues you may need to resolve. If you’re considering rehiring a former employee, review their exit interview and look for information about why they left your company.
Consider their boomerang status—they left once and could leave again. While that’s true of any employee, the reasons for their departure will give you clues about whether they might jump ship again. If the employee left because of a conflict with their manager, will they report to the same person in this new role? If the employee left because they weren’t promoted fast enough, do you have a clear growth plan for them now? This information can be gathered from the employee’s previous exit interview, giving you the necessary tools to ensure the rehired employee is set up for success.
Conduct a New Interview
Do not skip the interview. Yes, you’re dealing with someone you already know, but even if they left recently, you’re most likely not hiring them back for the exact same position. You need to understand their skills and potential contributions, just as you would with any other applicant.
Conducting an interview will give you the chance to dive deeper into questions you may have based on their exit interview notes and whether their reasons for leaving your company still exist. You should ask the former employee the same questions you would ask of anyone who applied to your open position.
Consider including colleagues in the interview process, especially those the former employee would work closely with or even supervise. Having a panel interview gives you more insight into how other employees feel about rehiring someone. They may also spot red flags you don’t see. Conversely, they could be more enthusiastic about rehiring the former employee.
Talk with current employees who were around when the former employee worked for you and get their feelings too. You should get the agreement and support of your team members who will work closely with the former employee.
Check Your Rehire’s References
Just because you know what the employee was like when they worked for you before, that doesn’t mean you know what they’re like today. Whether the former employee left years ago or just a few months ago, people change. Speaking with recent references will help you understand what type of employee the person is today.
Talking to their most recent supervisor can be challenging, especially if the company doesn’t know the employee is looking. The best way to manage this situation is to make an offer conditional upon successful completion of reference and background checks. This way, if their current manager does not give them a good reference, you can reevaluate your decision.
Onboard Your Rehire
You might think that you can eliminate this step or reduce the onboarding process burden for a rehire. That’s not a good idea. Onboarding new hires sets the tone for their employment with your company and ensures you train them on the systems and processes you use. Rehiring a former employee is no different.
Especially if a former employee has been gone for several years, it’s likely that your small business has changed a great deal. Colleagues may have left, software may be different, and you may even offer new or different products. Rehired employees should receive the same onboarding experience as any other new employee, so they have the tools and knowledge necessary to do the job you’ve hired them to do.
Rehire Reporting Requirements
Most states require businesses to report new hires. This is done in part to ensure wage withholding orders are enforced.
While every state is a little different, each state requires employers to report new hire information to them within a few weeks after their first day of employment. For most states, this includes rehired employees. Employees out on leave, such as maternity leave, would not fall under this requirement.
Should You Rehire a Former Employee?
The decision to rehire a former employee ultimately rests with you and depends on many factors specific to your small business. We can help you understand the considerations you should weigh by looking at some common pros and cons of rehiring a former employee.
|Previously proven their value||Values and work ethic may have changed|
|Reduces company cost to hire||May expect special treatment|
|May show existing employees the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere||Could create a drop in employee morale|
|Could bring fresh ideas and motivation||May be complacent and less motivated because you chose to rehire them|
When your small business has a new opening to fill, your mind may immediately go to a former employee you believe is the ideal candidate. Not only do they have the knowledge and skills from their prior experience at your company, but hopefully they’ve gained some new knowledge in the interim that will result in fresh ideas and added value.
Here are some other advantages of rehiring a former employee.
You Know Them
You already know the employee’s work ethic, personality, and skills. They’ve shown you their value and the quality of work they can produce. You also know their red flags and what challenges you may face managing them as well.
They Know You
A former employee knows your company and culture and what you expect of your employees. Even if they would fill a position different from their previous one, they still know what’s expected of them. They also know your company processes and procedures, reducing the time and even some associated costs you’d spend getting them up and running (though you should absolutely still train them, as we discussed earlier).
Increase Employee Morale
Many employees leave a company because they think the grass will be greener elsewhere. If a former employee returns, what brings them back says a great deal about your company. Returning could be humbling for the employee but employee morale could increase as existing workers learn that the grass isn’t greener on the other side.
- They left their previous position with your company on good terms
- The former employee had positive performance reviews
- The former employee showed respect for their colleagues and supervisors
Although rehiring a former employee can have significant benefits, there are disadvantages you must also consider. For one thing, people change, and the employee may violate your expectations by having a different work ethic and values.
Other disadvantages of rehiring a former employee include:
Could Reduce Employee Morale
If the former employee was overly negative, left on bad terms, or had a poor relationship with their colleagues, rehiring them could cause a drop in employee morale. This is an important consideration because, even if the former employee could bring much-needed skills to your company, their behavior could alienate your existing team. You may even want to discuss this topic with trusted team members and get their take.
Prior Employment May Have Ended for a Good Reason
Employment relationships often end for a good reason—poor performance, interpersonal conflicts, and lack of cultural fit, among others. It may have been a long time since the former employee departed and you’ve forgotten the reason they left. This is a good reason to keep detailed personnel files.
They May Feel Entitled
Even though the person has worked for your company before, they’re still technically a new hire if you hire them back. But they may not see it that way—they may feel like they can simply jump back in and pick up where they left off, entitled to special privileges. They may also become combative with other new employees and try to intimidate them into doing things “the old way” even if that’s not how your company operates today.
- The former employee was terminated or left on bad terms
- They had poor performance or tense relationships with their colleagues
- They required constant oversight from their supervisor
If you decide to rehire a former employee, make sure you go through your regular hiring process. It’s a good idea to include colleagues in the process and have a blunt conversation with the former employee to set clear expectations. Some former employees can be a great fit for a role you need to fill. Others may not. Ultimately, it depends on many factors unique to your small business. Remember to be honest with yourself and make sure the decision you make for your company and employees is the right one.