When it comes to hiring new employees, sometimes you’ll be surprised at how close to home you might find someone.

According to a new survey, 85% of HR professionals said that they’d received job applications from people that had been employed with their company in the past, with 76% of employers open to hiring them. Boomerang employment has become fairly common in recent years but whether it’s a good idea to hire an old employee is very much up for debate.

While allowing someone back might seem counterintuitive given they’ve already decided to jump ship once, their reason for leaving the first time may not have had anything to do with the company. Upon examining the reasons why employees would leave a company and then return to it, Abbie Shipp found that a negative personal shock like the death of a family member was one of the leading factors, alongside cash incentives from another job offer. When compared with people who stated they would never return to their old job, it was found that the boomerangs were a lot less likely to have left because of dissatisfaction with their employment, and had had shorter first-term tenures on average.

Rehiring an old employee can be highly valuable for your company; after all they’re very familiar with how things work and what is expected from the role. The second time around there is a clearer understanding of what the benefits and setbacks of the job are, and that perhaps there aren’t better jobs for them out there.

However, whether all this is actually the case is down to the type of person that the prospective new employee is, and having worked with them already it’s vital that you refer to prior knowledge when considering their application. You know for a fact whether or not they were a good employee before, and while some things may have changed both in the office and in their lives, they’re not likely to be too different from what you remember.

It’s important not to become too emotionally involved in the decision-making, particularly when it comes to former employees who were always of an average quality of work. As much as you might hope they’ve finally excelled, unless you’ve clear proof that they have then it’s better to err on the side of caution. If they’ve worked elsewhere during their time away from your company, find out what skills they’ve developed and whether this can successfully translate to what you’re looking for in the role available.

There are definitely potential downsides to bringing old employees back into the office. Cynics would declare that these people are traitors who weren’t good enough for their last job, and they’re only coming back to your company because they see it as the easy option. This is definitely true in some cases, but not all.

A big concern that you might have as an employer is that rehiring might set a bad precedent for the rest of your team. Employees who see that it’s possible to return to the company after leaving may not see the value in staying if they’re already being tempted by other job offers. It can lead to the mindset that they’re free to go off and try out other ventures because your company will be there waiting for them if they ever decide they want to come back.

Ultimately, the hiring of former employees can only work on a person-by-person basis with everything taken into consideration. It’s best to note that there may be the expectation of a pay rise compared to what they used to work for, especially if their reason for leaving the job in the first place was related to higher-paid offers elsewhere. Whether this is something you deem worthwhile will depend on your financial situation and desire for that specific employee, but it’s certainly something you may need to take into account.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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