The Boomerang Employee: Haven’t We Been Here Before?

boomerang employeeA boomerang employee is one who has left (usually quit) an organization 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.

More than 2% of all employees (nearly 3 million people!) quit their jobs in August 2016, according to the US Department of Labor. This number has been increasing for several years.

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 couldn’t return. Today, many employers are reconsidering that policy, viewing it as a bit short-sighted and, perhaps, no longer realistic. Time and a tighter job market combined with a better understanding of the benefit of having new employees who understand how things work.

A Boomerang employee “hits the ground running” because they are familiar with the organization and how it works. Now, employers often actively recruit former employees through a “corporate alumni” group on LinkedIn or Facebook because of the obvious benefits of hiring someone who doesn’t need to be trained or in a job for several months before being effective in their jobs.

Benefits of Being a Boomerang Employee

A colleague recently was rehired 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. Within a month, he received a job offer from his former employer which was essentially a promotion from his previous job with a nice increase in pay. 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 referring 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, do look into it.

Things to Consider Before Boomeranging

Before you jump at becoming a boomerang employee, 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 other employees were treated (or how customers and clients were treated) in the past, check to see if things have actually changed for the better since you left.

If nothing has changed, you probably won’t like things now unless you have 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.

How to Become a Boomerang Employee

The first place to start for most professions is LinkedIn.

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

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.

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 applies to boomerang candidates as well. So, reach out to a current employee, and ask them these questions:

  • Does the employer often re-hire former employees?
  • Does the ERP apply to employees who refer former employees?
  • How happy are they to be employed by this company now?

A referral by more than one employee at a time often creates an awkward situation, So it’s usually best to approach one person at a time rather than putting out a message inviting everyone to contact you.

The boomerang employee is more acceptable now than ever before. In today’s economy, moving on amicably from a particular employer is a common career strategy.  We’re all looking for the next best thing.

Sometimes, however, the best way to go forward is to look back.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe.




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorAbout 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. Susan is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.



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