What companies should do when an employee wants to come back

Work Wisdom

What companies should do when an employee wants to come back

In the post, “What employees need to consider when returning to a former employer,” we discussed what employees need to think about when they might want to reapply for their old job or a new opportunity. If that happens, what should the company do?

There’s no rule that companies can’t rehire former employees. It happens all the time. In fact, in today’s challenging labor market, it happens quite often. But those employees left the company for a reason. Now, the company (and the employee) need to make sure whatever caused the employee to leave the first time isn’t going to happen again.

The good news about considering a former employee is this is a person the company knows. And the former employee knows the company. However, to make sure this is the right decision for everyone, it could make sense to have a pre-interview conversation. The purpose of this conversation isn’t to talk as much about the work, unless there have been major changes. Instead, it’s to make sure re-engaging makes good business sense for everyone.

If you’re a small business owner, work in HR or otherwise involved in hiring at your company, here are six questions to ask in a pre-interview talk:

  1. Why do you want to return? Even if you called the former employee and asked them to consider returning, try to find out why they would consider it. Is it because they don’t like where they are? Or that this new opportunity sounds fantastic?
  2. Why did you leave in the first place? Is whatever caused the employee to leave resolved? You know what the employee wrote in their resignation letter. Now you want to find out if there were other reasons the employee left out — and whether those other reasons still exist in the company.
  3. What did you learn while you were away? This is a big one. The employee should have gained some knowledge or skills while they were working for the other company. Or at minimum, have learned a few lessons they can share.
  4. How will you interact with the team? The manager knows what the team dynamic was like with the employee. It’s important to discuss what the team dynamic will be like if the employee returns. If the employee had some conflicts, then you need to know what the employee will do to resolve them.
  5. What do you expect the relationship with your boss to be like? Like the co-worker situation, the former employee and their manager need to talk about their relationship. The good news is they have some kind of relationship. But you can’t assume it will simply return to the way things used to be.
  6. What will you do the next time you’re unhappy at work? The last time the employee was unhappy … well, they decided to leave. There should be some sort of conversation about the next time the employee gets frustrated. The answer cannot always be to resign.

The former employee’s responses to these questions will let you (and the former employee) know if having a formal interview about rehiring makes sense. Once the conversation takes place, it’s good to let the former employee know the outcome of their status. Some organizations simply don’t respond to candidates when they’re no longer being considered. But this is a former employee. It would benefit the organization to treat them like an internal candidate and follow up.

An increasing number of organizations are considering boomerang (rehire) employees. It can be very advantageous for the company and the employee — but only if both parties go into the conversation with eyes wide open and asking the right questions.

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