Former employee returning to old company- Hays careers advice

Jack Dorsey and Twitter. Larry Page and Google. Steve Huffman and Reddit. What is the common denominator? All have departed their companies for pastures new, only to return to lead their former businesses at a later date.

Twenty years ago, the prospect of welcoming back former staff, even at a senior level, would have seemed alien to many businesses – even today there remains a certain stigma around ‘boomerang’ employees, as many now describe them.

A lingering sense of disloyalty, questions around why the move didn’t work out or simply concerns about the perception of an unimaginative recruitment strategy, can put many businesses off hiring returning staff.

However, here at Hays, we’ve found this to be an excellent talent pipeline to explore, and some of our best directors have returned after experiences elsewhere.

In my experience, ignoring or not even considering former employees for senior positions within your organisation is out-dated. In today’s fluid jobs market, businesses should always consider ‘going back’ to move forward, particularly when assembling a strong senior team which must be compatible with your organisation. In fact, in many cases welcoming back the right familiar face could be hugely beneficial to your organisation. Here are three key reasons why;

They can share their findings

Employees who have gone to spend time at another organisation, and have moved up within that company, will have acquired experiences and skills which can be extremely valuable to your business. For example, they may have gained first-hand experience of navigating a team through sales peaks and troughs or seeing how other companies effectively incentivise teams.

What’s more, industries across the world continue to be disrupted by external players – just look at Apple Pay’s revolutionary impact on retail banking. A fresh perspective is needed for a business to stay on the ball and be innovative in the face of disruption. An employee who returns after a spell in another industry could bring with them the fresh perspective you need to keep your company ahead of the curve. This employee can also use their pre-existing knowledge of your organisation, to adapt what they have learnt elsewhere to the nuances of your business.

You reduce risk and breed productivity

Hiring a new face is always somewhat of a gamble, and this often comes down to issues around compatibility that are difficult to assess in the recruitment process. In fact, a report by Hays Canada revealed that “fit” is the main reason that people are either let go or choose to leave a company.

You will know if the returning employee ‘fits’, and they will arrive with an existing understanding of your company culture and purpose, which reduces the risk of an unsuccessful hire. Former staff will also likely return with an understanding of the company’s processes and have also worked alongside colleagues they know and understand – their onboarding process should, in theory, be faster and smoother than a brand new candidate and they should know what is expected of them and their team. Ultimately their impact on your business will be felt far more quickly.

Business thrives on collaboration, and colleagues who recognise each other’s strengths, and importantly weaknesses, often function better as a unit. Naturally, you should be wary of alienating employees by promoting their former peer to a management position, but you should also recognise that a leader who knows their team’s capabilities well is more likely to get the best out of them.

Boomerangs positively builds your talent brand

In today’s fluid job market, all of us – from senior leaders to junior staff – are acutely aware of our own individual ‘market value’. We know that we’re likely to change companies numerous times throughout our career and so we all have an eye on our own professional development – we want to ensure we represent the best investment for any prospective employer.

Trying different experiences – whether in a new role, or even a career break – is now a core component of a professional’s development and growth, and it’s only natural that companies that support and embolden these experiences are more appealing to work for in today’s marketplace. Therefore, I believe that welcoming back former employees shows internal and external candidates that your business understands and even values staff who grasp these opportunities. So be proud to hire talented former employees, transform it into virtue in your future recruitment strategy and highlight successful boomerang case studies across your external communications.

To summarise, boomerang employees not only return to you with key skills and experiences that can provide your company with a competitive edge, they can also positively add to your culture, boost productivity (and quickly) and shape your talent brand for the future.

This isn’t to say you should throw open your doors to every former employee who is looking to return. It’s important first to objectively assess why they left in the first place and the nature of that departure as well as whether they really have the skills and fit you are looking for. Sometimes a new candidate will better suit your needs, but in my experience giving a strong returning candidate priority does pay dividends.

These days, the onus is often on employees to depart a role gracefully, maintain good relations and leave the door open to return should the opportunity arise. But we must recognise that employers also have a vital job to do here. An efficient ‘offboarding’ process, taking the time to listen to advice during exit interviews, setting up channels of communication and cultivating strong alumni networks can yield tremendous results for your business’ future talent pipeline. Closing off a potentially fruitful source of skilled, competent candidates – and a new generation of business leaders – seems absurd to me.

For more advice on how to hire the best talent, check out some of our other blogs:


Christoph began his career as an account manager at Hays in 1999, after having successfully completed his studies as an industrial engineer. First, Christoph assumed the role of Department Manager and later as Divisional and Branch Manager, before becoming Director for Employment Form Contracting in 2008.

In January 2012 Christoph was appointed to the Board and is now responsible for sales in the fields of IT, Finance and Sales & Marketing in Germany, Hays Talent Solutions, as well as our subsidiary in Denmark.