What is a boomerang employee?

Boomerang employee

A boomerang employee is an individual who leaves a company to seek employment elsewhere, but later returns to work for the same company. This can happen for various reasons, such as pursuing other career opportunities, further education, or personal circumstances, like relocating.

Before rehiring someone, HR and employers should first ensure that the reasons for the initial departure have been addressed. This is to ensure a positive and productive work environment. Once this is accomplished, rehiring this type of employee can be beneficial for companies since the employee is already familiar with the culture, operations, and key stakeholders. Below is a list of several benefits of hiring a boomerang employee.

5 benefits of hiring a boomerang employee

1. Faster onboarding process 

Boomerang employees have previously worked in the organization, making them familiar with the company's culture, workplace expectations, and processes. This means they require less time to adjust and can quickly reach full productivity. 

Instead of undergoing a comprehensive orientation, they just need a refresher or an update on any changes that occurred during their absence.

2. Reduced recruitment costs 

Hiring a former employee often means reduced costs in recruitment advertising, screening, and interviewing. Since the employee already has a known track record within the company, less due diligence is required. This can speed up the hiring process and save resources.

3. Knowledge retention 

Boomerang employees not only possess the skills and knowledge they had when they left, but they also have new experiences and insights from their time away. This combination can be invaluable. It can provide a fresh perspective while maintaining institutional memory.

4. Strengthened employer brand 

When an employee returns to a former employer, it sends a positive message about the company's culture and work environment. It demonstrates that, after exploring other avenues, the returning employee still sees the company as an attractive place to work.

5. Reduced risk 

There's a certain level of predictability with boomerang employees. The company is already familiar with their work habits, strengths, and weaknesses. This prior knowledge can significantly reduce the uncertainties that come with hiring a completely new individual.

5 precautions when hiring a boomerang employee

While there are several benefits to hiring a boomerang employee, HR and employers should be cautious of issues that may arise. Some precautions to be aware of include the following.

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1. Unresolved departure

If the reasons for the employee's initial departure haven’t been addressed or resolved, those same issues could resurface. Whether it's a clash with management, dissatisfaction with job responsibilities, or workplace conflicts, unresolved matters can impact the overall work environment and team dynamics.

2. Perceived favoritism 

Current employees might perceive the returning employee as receiving special treatment or preferential opportunities. This can lead to a sense of inequality, affecting team morale and cohesion. To avoid such feelings, employers can actively ensure that no favoritism is taking place by offering the same opportunities to both current and returning employees.

3. Stagnation concerns 

Relying too heavily on boomerang employees might deter fresh talent and new perspectives from joining the organization. Over time, this can create an environment that resists innovation or change. 

4. Potential salary imbalances 

Boomerang employees, having gained additional experience outside, might negotiate higher salaries when they return. This could lead to pay discrepancies among team members, which could affect morale if not managed transparently.

5. Reliability concerns 

Some may question the commitment of an employee who has previously left the organization. Concerns about their long-term dedication or fears of them leaving again might arise, potentially affecting trust and teamwork dynamics.

Boomerang employee interview questions

Interviewing a boomerang employee is different from interviewing a new candidate. If the returning employee was considered a good fit for the organization once before, it’s important to make sure that’s still the case under new circumstances. Asking specifically tailored questions—such as those listed below—is the best way to approach this type of interview.

  • What motivated you to consider returning to our organization? This question gauges genuine interest and allows for a deeper understanding of the factors driving the employee’s decision.
  • How have your skills or experiences evolved since you left? This provides insight into what they’ve learned elsewhere and how it can benefit the current organization.
  • Were there unresolved issues or concerns from your previous tenure that you'd like to address? A direct approach to uncover any past problems or misunderstandings.
  • How do you believe your return can benefit both you and our organization? This question assesses alignment with company objectives and personal growth.
  • How have your career goals changed since you last worked here? To check alignment with company goals and potential future roles.
  • What changes have you noticed in our company since you left, and how do you feel about them? This offers a perspective on adaptability and openness to change.
  • How would you manage potential perceptions or misconceptions from your peers about your return? It’s crucial to assess their awareness of potential team dynamics and strategies to blend back into the team.
  • What would you need from us to ensure a smooth reintegration into the team and culture? To gather actionable input for onboarding and ensure a seamless transition.
  • What did you value most about our organization that influenced your decision to return? To pinpoint the organization's strengths from an insider's perspective.
  • Given your external experiences, what new perspectives or suggestions can you bring to our current processes or projects? This can highlight potential innovation and fresh approaches that the boomerang employee might introduce.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.