Making Re-Recruitment Work For You, Best Bets on How to Boomerang Talent

By J. James O’Malley, Former Andersen National Director of Experience Recruiting,

Jim joined TalentRISE as a partner in 2012 to focus on clients’ executive leadership challenges by leveraging his passions for executive search, on-demand recruiting, workforce planning and analytics and executive coaching.

If you’re reading this, you’re already aware of the power of alumni networks. The folks that founded and administer this site deserve tons of kudos for nurturing a bond we all share from having worked at the same firm.

That’s exactly the type of strong affinity that many employers are seeking to emulate and build upon for talent acquisition purposes in today’s tight labor market. Indeed, if you are the least bit concerned about talent shortages within your industry (or within certain specializations) now is the time to start targeting high-performing employees who left your company for greener pastures. Whether called “boomerangs”, “rebounders” or “returnees”, they have already been tested, vetted, assimilated and can easily re-acclimate to your workplace, thereby reducing the ramp-up time required by other hires. No wonder, according to CareerBuilder, that four in ten organizations plan to reach out to hire former employees in the coming months.

The business case is very clear: if you need to hire the best talent, at the least cost, in the fastest manner possible, the solution might be as close at hand as your database of former employees.

However, there are several considerations to keep in mind:

Be Selective. First, no matter how many positions you need to fill urgently, avoid re-hiring employees who weren’t stellar performers in the first place. Re-hiring people who didn’t contribute - or who were simply not liked by their co-workers - can potentially be toxic to morale. It is a good practice to coordinate with HR when initially inviting transitioning employees to join alumni sites or pages and determine if they are eligible for rehire.

Give It Time. Secondly, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the info you have on past employees in your datafiles constitutes an “alumni network”. Whereas the former will help you generate a mailing list (assuming you’re collecting personal contact info) the latter involves engaging positively with past employees regularly over time to create a talent community; not just for hiring individuals who worked for your organization but also to leverage their career connections for referrals to future employees and customers. The businesses that are best at building alumni networks - including our mutual past employer - have dedicated resources to building networks and maintaining contact with alumni over time. Deloitte has even negotiated discounts for its alumni at restaurants and retailers! So, make the investment in a formal network now and tap into the incredible value these types of networks can offer - but recognize that it won’t happen overnight.

Avoid Judgement. Third, avoid thinking that employees who leave were somehow traitorous, or unfaithful. Sometimes, there’s an emotional “good riddance” backlash when people depart a workplace. Former co-workers who are inconvenienced by a departure - or superiors who feel personally affronted when a handpicked employee seeks opportunities elsewhere - are particularly guilty of this type of behavior. Let bygones be bygones unless, of course, the boomeranging individual did something unprofessional upon or after their departure. Accept the fact that employees (particularly Millennials) change jobs frequently. According to LinkedIn, those who graduated between 2006 and 2010 already average nearly 2.85 jobs.

Tap Into Learnings. Related to the point above, value the experiences past employees have gained during their hiatus away from your organization. Offering a boomerang nearly the same role, at roughly the same pay, isn’t likely to entice them to return. If you are, despite that, successful in landing that employee, keep him or her happy or you will forfeit the opportunity to learn and gain from his/her experiences outside of your company. While there is a tendency to remember past employees the way they were three to five years ago, consider how much your business and workplace have changed, advanced and developed within that same time frame and...move on!

Get Organized. Finally, think ahead by leveraging exit interviews now for information related to employee departures, if available, to mine them for potential boomerang hires. For the future, make sure you’re collecting current personal email addresses at a minimum. Ask departing employees questions about the exact reasons for their departure and gauge their receptiveness to rejoining the company as they prepare to walk out the door. You may also want to ask aspirational questions, such as “what type of career path do you envision for the next ten years?” Even if you don't have the resources to devote to a formal alumni site, set up a simple alumni group on social media platform, like FaceBook or LinkedIn.


For years, our mutual former firm Andersen (and Accenture as well) mastered the art of staying connected to ex-employees. Initially, these alumni networks were built as a means of furthering business relationships, given that many of us moved on to influential roles elsewhere as key decision makers in purchasing services from these firms. At the same time, the alumni network was - and continues to be through its current iteration - an invaluable source for good hires. Follow this example, use the advice provided above and you too can develop a reliable, dependable and inexpensive database of potential talent at your current employer.