Should You Consider Interviewing Former Employees?

As you're sitting at your computer sifting through resumes and cover letters a familiar name pops up on your screen. You recognize a former employee who wants to return and is looking to be interviewed for a position. Do you wonder whether or not you should consider it?

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If so, you're not alone. While many HR professionals once had a policy against rehiring former employees, a 2015 survey found 76 percent of them said they would currently embrace the idea of bringing back former staff members.

That being said, should you?

Pros and Cons of Rehiring Former Employees

If a former employee's resume comes across your desk, there are a few things to think about. By sticking with the familiar, you might miss out on the best talent. However, by assuming former employees are bad hires, you could also be missing out on a dynamite candidate.

Pros of Rehiring:

  • Candidate already understands the organizational culture
  • Former employees have a grasp on policies, internal systems, and procedures
  • Less expensive to rehire than onboard someone completely new

Cons of Rehiring:

  • Former employees could be a flight risk
  • Old frictions may resurface
  • Person is unable to adjust to organizational changes that have occurred in their absence

You'll want to do some investigating before you consider the hire. Job-hopping is more common than it used to be, so this shouldn't automatically be a disqualifier. Do look closely at the reasons for the for the job change.

Why Did the Employee Leave?

People who left for personal reasons relating to family or to pursue higher education and/or additional credentials could be a good reinvestment. After all, now that they are able to return to work, they chose to apply to your organization. However, you'll probably want to think twice about people who left due to conflict, unhappiness, or other negative situations.

Head over to HR and review the person's personnel folder to see what took place during the exit interview. What do former supervisors say about the person's performance? Were there personality issues or other kinds of clashes? Uncovering the reason(s) why the person left can bring good clues when deciding whether or not to rehire.

Is the Person a Good Fit Now?

Yesterday is gone, and you'll need to confidently determine if your former employee is the right hire skills-wise and if he or she is a good organizational fit today.

  • How long ago did the employee leave? Depending on the length of the gap, even if the person wasn't a good fit before, it's possible something has changed, and he or she would be a great asset now. Or, consequently, someone who used to be a great fit may no longer align with organizational values.
  • Why is he or she looking to return? Was the person laid off? Did he or she blow it at the last gig? Or, is he or she leaving a current job for other reasons? Investigate. You don't want to hire someone likely to leave again at the first sign of greener pastures.
  • How has your organization changed? Consider what roles you're looking to fill. Just because the person is familiar and used to fill a necessary role, has he or she aptly demonstrated the ability to meet your current needs?
  • How will former colleagues react? If you rehire this person, will employees roll out the welcome wagon or will they quietly cringe amongst themselves around the water cooler? Consider their perception of rehires—will they too decide to test other opportunities with the assumption they can always return or will they determine your organization is the greener pasture?

Just as employees should never burn bridges with their former employers, employers should do the same. You never know when and if former employees may bring the talents you currently need. However, rehiring someone can also lead to disaster.

Bottom line, while former employees may be easier to onboard, it's a good idea to treat them on a case-by-case basis as you would with any other hire. Evaluate and fully interview them the same way as you would with the unfamiliar names in your talent pool. By doing so, you'll bring out any unknowns you should consider in a former employee—good or bad.

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