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Why Your Next New Hire May Be a Former Colleague — and 3 Tips for Successfully Recruiting Boomerangs

Source | | Kate Reilly | Writer, Content Strategist, Marketer

Steve Jobs may be the most famous “boomerang” of all time — he left Apple in 1985, and then returned 11 years later. Even back then, rehiring former employees wasn’t as common as it is today. Companies like SodexoEY, and Microsoft all boast double-digit rehire rates. 

The uptick is due in part to changing attitudes about job tenure. Employers no longer expect lifetime employees, and employees, especially younger ones, are quicker to switch companies to advance. Today, the average tenure with employers is 4.1 years and only 2.8 years for 25-34 year olds. Social media is another driving force, having made it much easier for companies to stay connected to their alumni.

The pandemic may be the latest catalyst for boomerang hiring. With 9.4 million jobs lost in 2020, millions of others having left the workforce for caregiving or health reasons, and so many companies now having to rebuild, a key question is: Should you rehire your former employees? The short answer is: It depends. Below are some pros and cons and three tips for success.

The upsides of boomerang hires

They ramp up faster. Not only do you avoid sourcing and vetting boomerang candidates from scratch, they can hit the ground running from day one. They’re already familiar with your culture and need less training and hand-holding compared to new-hire counterparts. 

They perform better in the short term, especially in certain roles. Research shows boomerangs outperform both internal and new hires in the short term, so long as they originally left for neutral or positive reasons (e.g., spouse relocation, more schooling). They don’t tend to perform better if the reason for leaving was negative (e.g., poor performance.)

Role type matters. Boomerangs initially outperform new hires when the work requires high internal coordination of people (e.g., HR specialists, customer-service representatives) or administrative processes (e.g., purchasing managers, IT project managers). This makes sense, as boomerangs have a head start because they already know how to get things done. 

They’re less risky. Overall, boomerangs’ job performance is on par with their performance the first time around. And when they leave again, their reasons usually mirror the reasons why they left initially. Especially in this uncertain time, knowing what to expect from people can bring added security to hiring decisions.

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