How to Become a Boomerang Employee

How to Become a Boomerang Employee

A “boomerang employee” is one who has left an organization (usually quit rather than fired) to work somewhere else or to drop out of the workforce for a while and is then rehired by that organization.

These employees are like boomerangs returning to the original location.

Over 2% of all employees (over 3 million people!) quit their jobs in March, 2018, according to the US Department of Labor JOLTS report.

And, this number has been increasing steadily for several years as the economy has improved and people feel they have more options.

So, many of us have former employers we could work for again, if we wanted to…

[This works much better if you gracefully left the job rather than walked out without notice or left angrily.]

The Rise of Boomerang Employees

In the past (pre-2000), the majority of employers had a never-rehire policy. Once you left their employment, you could not return. Done. Over. Never working there again.

Times have changed…

Today, many employers are reconsidering that policy, viewing it as a bit short-sighted and, perhaps, no longer realistic.

A survey by Robert Half showed that 94% of hiring managers were interested in hiring good former employees.

Time and a tighter job market combined with a better understanding of the benefit of having new employees who understand how things work. The preference is for employees who quit rather than those who were fired, not surprisingly.

Boomerang employees “hit the ground running” because they are familiar with the organization and how it works. Like people referred by an employee, boomerangs are typically more successful — their internal network and knowledge of the organization make it easier for them to be effective very quickly.

Smart employers often actively recruit former employees through a “corporate alumni” group on LinkedIn or Facebook because of the obvious benefits in hiring someone who doesn’t need to be trained for several months.

Employers also search Google and LinkedIn for former employees. This is a very good reason to publicly make positive comments about all former employers, and include meaty descriptions of your former jobs in LinkedIn Profiles where former employers might be looking.

Benefits of Being a Boomerang Employee

A colleague recently was re-hired by a former employer, a place where he had worked 5 years earlier. He discovered they had a job open when a friend (a current employee) told him about the opportunity, which was a step above his previous job there.

My colleague was employed but not particularly happy in his job, so he sent his friend an updated version of his resume. That friend passed his resume on to the hiring manager. This is an employee referral — employers favorite way to hire, by far!

Within a month, my colleague received a job offer from his former employer which was essentially a promotion from his previous job with a nice increase in pay. And, the friend who referred him may have received a nice bonus, too.

I’m sure that returning doesn’t always work out this well — a promotion and a pay increase with a bonus for the referred employee. But this probably happens often enough to consider checking out a former employer, particularly if you have friends who still work there.

If you think you would be happy working there again, look into it. Reach out to former coworkers or managers still employed there, and check the company website.

Things to Consider Before Boomeranging

Before you jump at a job offer to boomerang, carefully consider these issues to determine if you would be happy — or happier — working there now. If you have the time, informational interviews can be extremely useful to learn if returning would be a good idea for you, and they are also great for building and reinforcing your professional network.

Some questions to answer before you boomerang:

  1. Did you enjoy working there?  

If you didn’t enjoy working there in the past, has the organization changed enough so that you would be happy working there again? Large organizations, in particular, change very slowly unless new senior management has decided to shake things up.

If you didn’t like the way you and/or other employees were treated (or how customers/clients were treated) in the past, check to see if things have actually changed for the better since you left.

If you hated working there in the past and nothing has changed, you probably won’t like things now unless experience has changed your mind or your perspective.

  2. Is the reason you left still valid?  

People leave jobs and employers for many reasons.

  • A wonderful opportunity appeared with a different employer. Since it was too good to ignore, you took it.
  • The most common reason people leave an employer is because they don’t like their boss. Perhaps the boss you hated is still there, and you would still be working with or for that person. Or, maybe that person has left the organization, so you could enjoy it again?
  • Maybe the work was boring. Perhaps, a different job, at a higher level, would not be boring. Or, perhaps the old job would have changed enough that the job would no longer be boring. Or, maybe, a boring job is appealing to you now.
  • Possibly the organization seemed unstable and likely to fold when you left. However, it survived and, maybe, thrived, so better management and/or good luck has kept it viable.

Think back to when you left. What was your motivator for leaving? Does it still apply?

  3. Would this employer be a good, or a better, fit for you now?  

Many things may have changed since you worked there, depending on how long ago you left. Perhaps things have improved, if you left because you didn’t like something.

Do some checking to find out what has happened since you left. You have many options for collecting information today. Reach out to former colleagues. Check out LinkedIn. Do some Googling. Learn what you can.

Learn if the organization has changed, particularly changed in how they handle the things that you didn’t like when you worked there before. Be sure to understand if things have changed enough that you would enjoy working there now.

Ask questions of any friends who still work there and also in job interviews to see how the organization works.

Becoming a Boomerang

The first place to start for most professions is LinkedIn.

  1. Look for LinkedIn connections who work (or have worked) for this employer.  

Search LinkedIn by typing the company name in the top search box and then selecting the “People” option:

  • Are any “current” employees first level contacts for you?
  • Are any “former” employees first level contacts?

Start by reaching out to current employees to see what is going on, particularly related to the employee referral program,

Also, inquire about other changes since you left — new products or services, new organizational structure, new management, new locations, etc. Is it a better place for you to work than in the past?

Contact former employees who appear to have left recently to understand why they left. See if you can discover what — if anything — is happening inside the organization that caused them to leave. Maybe they just received an offer they couldn’t turn down, or maybe a reorganization is happening because revenue or profits have dropped or something else has happened.

  2. Then, research the employer on LinkedIn.  

Again, search LinkedIn by typing the company name in that top search box, and checking out the search results (for “People” and “Jobs”).

These pages may provide very useful information:

  • If LinkedIn shows one (or more) Company pages, click on the links to see what information the employer has published on LinkedIn.
  • Look for “Groups” associated with the employer’s name, hopefully including “corporate alumni” (former employees) as well as current employers, products or services, etc.
  • Lastly, check the “Jobs” links which will go to current job postings on LinkedIn for that employer. Scan the jobs listed to see which jobs are being filled, and, in large organizations, which part of the organization is hiring. When you click on a job, you will see the description (or a link to it) and you will also see the people you are connected to on LinkedIn who still work there.

Collect information on the current (or recent) organizational atmosphere, direction, and success (or failures) before you consider returning.

  3. Reach out to friends who are still employees or friends of current employees.  

Employers favorite way to hire is the employee referral program (“ERP”), and that often still applies to to boomerang candidates. So, reach out to a current employee, and ask them these questions:

  • How happy are they to be employed by this company now?
  • Is the employer interested in re-hiring former employees?
  • Does the ERP apply to employees who refer former employees? (This information may be on the company website. Check there first to see what you can find.)

Being referred by more than one employee can be an awkward situation when an ERP is involved (who gets rewarded by the employer?), so it’s usually best to approach one person at a time rather than putting out a message inviting everyone to contact you.

The Bottom Line on Boomerang Employees

Clearly, employee referrals are the fast track, and advantages exist for becoming a boomerang employee. But, a LinkedIn Profile that makes the connection to former employment clear, in a positive way, can also be a very effective way to be found by former employers who may have new opportunities for you.

More Job Search Networking:

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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