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How to Become a Boomerang Employee

By Susan P. Joyce

How to Become a Boomerang EmployeeA “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.

Then, later, they return to work for that employer again, like a boomerang returns to the person who threw it.

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…

The Rise of Boomerang Employees

In the past (pre-2000), the majority of employers had a never-rehire policy. Once you voluntarily 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 2018 survey of employers by BountyJobs.com showed that 39% of employers 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, 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:

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 they 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?

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.

If so, is that what you really want to do, again? Or, would you end up wanting to leave again too soon?

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

Some things may have changed since you worked there, perhaps improved or perhaps not. Ask questions of any friends who still work there and also in job interviews to see how the organization works.

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.

Becoming a Boomerang

The first place to start for most professions is LinkedIn.

1. Check out your LinkedIn contacts using the “Advanced” people search:

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

Reach 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 increased.

2. Then, search on the company name in the search box at the top of most LinkedIn pages.

You’ll potentially find very useful information:

  • Look for a “company page” near the top of the search results. If there is one (or more), click on the links to see what information you can find.
  • Look for “Groups” associated with the employe name, hopefully including “corporate alumni” (former employees) as well as current employers, products or services, etc.
  • Lastly, look for “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.

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 the reward?), so it’s usually best to approach one person at a time rather than putting out a message inviting everyone to contact you.

Bottom Line

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:


About 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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.



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